One thing I’ll agree with: Karl Kjer was one sick fuck. He was an entomologist at UC Davis who quietly retired “for health reasons” in 2016, and no one bothered to publicly mention what was learned in 2015.
“When I first started working with Kjer, we were going to set up a really nice imaging system for publications or just high-def microphotography [of] specimens we were going to use for his research,” the junior specialist said. “Since we did not get our imaging system first, we decided to kind of prepare for it, and so he [Kjer] asked me to order two hard drives.”
After opening files on just one of the two university-purchased hard drives stored in Kjer’s office over Winter Break, the junior specialist and volunteer found a lot of “terrible images that he recorded of quite a lot of women without them knowing.”
“There was a lot of folders of internet pornography that he downloaded, and we kind of closed the window and looked at each other like, ‘What did we just find?’” the junior specialist said. “At a later point, after we looked through it and made notes [of] when they were taken, when did he last access them — they were spanning at least all the way back from 2010, up to 2012, 2013. A lot of them said that he was still accessing them up to 2015, when I was working.”
In addition to the internet pornography stored on the hard drives, the junior specialist estimates that there were more than 10 videos Kjer had recorded himself, including a video of him installing the camera in the bathroom in his home in New Jersey. It appeared the camera was pointed at the shower and some individuals being filmed were partially clothed while others were nude — “all of them definitely did not know they were being filmed or imaged at the time.”
He had been clandestinely filming students in his bathroom, and filing the videos away in his porn collection on hard drives he purchased with grant money. That’s enough to get one fired, but not enough to bring down public shame on their heads, I guess. Gwen Pearson has some cogent comments on the university’s efforts to dismiss him on the down low.
Pearson discussed what she says is a pattern in the scientific community where a male professional will engage in inappropriate behavior, resign and quickly find another job.
“Right about the time they’re called on it, and proceedings begin, if they resign, it’s over because they’re no longer an employee and the university no longer has any sway over that,” Pearson said. “Very often what happens is […] someone will get in trouble and resign, start over at a new institution and their bad behavior doesn’t necessarily follow them from institution to institution.”
An example of this pattern, which Pearson discussed, is that of the accusations of sexual misconduct as well as research misconduct aimed at University of Kentucky Professor of Entomology James Harwood, who subsequently resigned from his position. The university decided not to pursue an investigation after Harwood’s resignation.
“I’ve seen it happen a couple of times where someone resigns and back channel talk is all — they get caught doing something they shouldn’t have done — and they get a new job,” Pearson said. “It really baffles me why, when there’s such a huge pool of talented scientists, why do we keep rehiring people who we know behave badly?”
I get it. Universities don’t want to have to deal with an ugly mess in their own back yard, so it’s in their interests to quietly shuffle the bad actor away. It’s a strategy for evading responsibility, and that’s how it persists.