Maybe I was too hard on Harvard professors yesterday. Maybe 38 prestigious Harvard professors signed a letter to protect one of their own from a finding that he’d been a sexual harasser, but today 73 of them signed a letter protesting the first letter.
We, the undersigned, write in strong opposition to the open letter signed by 38 Harvard faculty calling into question the sanctions against Professor John Comaroff. We are dismayed that these faculty members would openly align themselves against students who have lodged complaints about a tenured professor.
Without full knowledge of the facts of the Title IX and Professional Conduct investigations, the signatories have endorsed details provided by Professor Comaroff’s legal team, which has taken advantage of the confidentiality of these processes to publicize its view of the case.
Furthermore, some of the signatories to the original letter are having second thoughts.
All of these professors earned their tenure and built their reputations on their ability to critique evidence and make sound judgements based on careful thought.
But the greatest disappointment here is the failure to protect their students. https://t.co/w16YYHostG pic.twitter.com/RXrYEXln8L
— Kevin M. Levin (@KevinLevin) February 9, 2022
Whoopsiedoodle! Maybe they should have thought about it before reflexively signing on to defend their colleague.
And then, oh boy, 3 former students have filed a federal lawsuit against Harvard University for its failure to protect them. Maybe Harvard administrators should have considered the implications for their students if they didn’t slap down the bad boys in their midst.
Three Harvard University graduate students said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the Ivy League school for years ignored complaints about sexual harassment by a renowned professor and allowed him to intimidate students by threatening to hinder their careers.
“The message sent by Harvard’s actions alleged in the complaint is clear: students should shut up. It is the price to pay for a degree,” Russell Kornblith of Sanford Heisler Sharp, the women’s law firm, said in a statement.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston alleges that one of the students, Lilia Kilburn, was subjected to repeated forcible kissing and groping as early as 2017 by anthropology and African and African American studies professor John Comaroff.
On another occasion in 2017, when she met with Comaroff to discuss her plans to study in an African country, he repeatedly said she could be subjected to violence in Africa because she was in a same-sex relationship, the lawsuit said.
Whew. I suspect there are a bunch of Harvard administrators who are now realizing they’ve waddled into a colossal clusterfuck of their own creation. Good. Maybe they’ll learn something and change. Maybe other universities around the country will see Harvard as a dreadful example, a warning that this could happen to them, too.
David Gerard says
Tell those 38 signatories they can have their names removed, if they have a hard disk inspection.
This is patronizing, because she can evaluate risks for herself, but doesn’t sound, on the surface, that sleazy.
Seems either not that relevant, compared to the sexual assault, either poorly explained.
Was that a way to hint that she should be dating him instead?
I fear they will just learn to hush it better.
Snarki, child of Loki says
hush it better?
“make sure that any legal exposure lands on the peons”, more like.
PZ Myers says
Warning students of the risks they face in fieldwork is good. Using that information to selectively deter women from doing fieldwork, which is essential for a career in anthropology, is not.
According to the local news story, it was less that he warned her about fieldwork and more that he “graphically and bizarrely imagined” what people would do to her in conversations about it. https://www.wcvb.com/article/graduate-students-sue-harvard-alleging-sexual-harassment-retaliation-by-anthropology-professor-john-comaroff/39013569
PZ Myers says
20 of the original 38 signatories have now asked for their names to be removed, thereby impressing us all with their caution and foresight.
Oh shit! The new news on this topic makes it all so much worse. HIPPA violations are serious business.
PZ Myers says
It’s now up to 34 of the 38 signatories have retracted their names.
PZ @ 9
The best and the brightest eh? Morons.
SC (Salty Current) says
PZ @ #9, what a debacle.
Blake Stacey says
From the filing, pages 19–20:
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that is not how a professional warning about the dangers of fieldwork should go.