The University of Rochester gets stomped hard for sexual harassment, deservedly

Contemptible Skidmark, Ph.D.

Back in 2017, I wrote about this awful sexual harassment case at the University of Rochester that involved in particular, one professor, T. Florian Jaeger, who was egregiously out of line with students, but also involved an entire university administration that was outrageous in how it supported Jaeger against all reason. There was a lawsuit. There was a countersuit. It dragged on for years, but now, at last, there has been a settlement, in favor of the victims.

I feel for them, having just gone through a lesser suit that dragged us through the courts for an absurdly long time, and was finally settled just recently. There seems to be no such thing as a speedy trial in these civil suits.

One big difference, though, is that the University of Rochester settled for the amount of $9.4 million. We’re still struggling to pay off our legal debt.

One similarity is that we also retained the right to tell our story, and that does make a difference. UR has really taken a major and deserved hit here, and the whole sordid story is available online. It’s horrifying reading: Jaeger was worse than I imagined, the University was complicit, and the university president did everything he could to enable Jaeger and punish his victims.

Plaintiffs were surprised at the University’s tight embrace and protection of Jaeger and the intense retaliation campaign against them. They could not figure out why UR was so determined to support a serial sexual predator who had caused misery to students and colleagues.

Over time, however, it has become clear that the University’s approach to Jaeger and Plaintiffs fits into a broader pattern of University behavior. UR is a major force in Rochester, the largest private employer in upstate New York, and used to getting its way. Its president is a powerful figure, and after 12 years in office, Seligman has restructured the University to his liking. Faculty and administrators describe him as thin skinned, “someone who always thinks he’s the smartest person in the room,” and, as his tenure has extended, increasingly imperious. He has expanded the ranks of administrators and appointed people to top positions (many times without a search process) who, according to many faculty, will no longer stand up to him or tell him when he is making a mistake.

The settlement wouldn’t have been so large if the University of Rochester hadn’t opened itself up to guilt with it’s horrible behavior.

Jaeger’s behavior created a working environment that was severe, pervasive, intimidating, hostile, and offensive to Cantlon and other female employees in the department.

Through its failures and treatment of Cantlon and others who complained about sexual harassment and discrimination as adversaries, UR contributed to and exacerbated the hostile working environment for female employees. It gave license to its employees, including DeAngelis and other faculty, to treat Cantlon and other female employees, or employees associated with this group via their complaints, with hostility and disdain.

The hostile environment based on sex created a hostile and intimidating work environment for Cantlon and interfered with her ability to do her job to the point that she began to look for other work

There’s more. A lot more. This statement by the court is satisfactorily scathing, and also explains why this decision was so important.

The false statements made by UR, Seligman and Clark seriously call into question the Plaintiffs’ fitness for their profession. As academics and research scientists, the Plaintiffs must be seen to have integrity and to be utterly trustworthy. Honest and integrity are crucial characteristics in their profession for at least the following reasons:

a. Research scientists rely heavily on grants to fund their work. An applicant’s scientific integrity, a concept inextricably tied to honesty, must be beyond question. If a grant-making body thought that a researcher was capable of making up evidence – as UR has accused the Plaintiffs of doing – the grant-making body would never support that researcher.

b. Similarly, the scientific community and publishers must be able to trust in the integrity of the researcher’s work. If the researcher’s scientific integrity or honest is questionable, publishers are unlikely to select their work for publication and institutions are unlikely to invite that researcher to give talks or present at conferences. Publishing and presenting work are both essential components of any academic career.

c. Labs need high quality Ph.D. students and post-docs to contribute to faculty members’ research. Choosing a lab is a big decision for these students and post-docs – where they work and who they work for can have a profound effect on their own careers. They are unlikely to work in the lab of someone who is considered to be dishonest or to have a history of bullying others.

d. Serving on committees or in other leadership roles in departments or throughout the University is another key part of an academic career. These opportunities are key to obtaining leadership positions and building a good reputation. Failing to do any service for one’s department or university reflects poorly on an academic’s reputation and suitability for the profession. The Plaintiffs have been accused of dishonesty, bullying, and manipulation. They have been barred from serving on committees or as ombudspersons because they are not trusted to be honest and unbiased.

As academics and research scientists, honesty and integrity are essential to Plaintiffs’ professional success. Provost Clark, President Seligman, and UR knew this when each false statement referenced was made.

Despite winning the case (strictly speaking, they settled, the UR has not admitted guilt), this was not a happy outcome. The plaintiff’s careers were hurt, they had to leave and put down roots elsewhere, it had to have been agony having this hang over their heads for so long. They sacrificed to get this result.

The University of Rochester is going to have to cough up $9.4 million dollars. On top of that, who knows how many grants they’ve lost because of this action? They’ve definitely lost much of their prestige, their cognitive science program was climbing the rankings as one of the best in the nation. If one of my students was planning to apply there, I’d strongly urge them to consider any place other than UR.

T. Florian Jaeger is still employed at the university, and wasn’t targeted by the lawsuit at all. The piece of shit sailed through the whole thing without getting stepped on.

I don’t understand that at all.

You are here

It’s amazing. This is the universal comic, it applies to everything right now.

Except spiders and cephalopods, that is. They’re looking better and better.

Why does Chris Matthews still have a job?

He’s always been this way: unpleasant, obnoxious, poorly informed, and just generally been a grating presence on the news. I don’t know what segment of the population he’s supposed to appeal to — I don’t think he’s liked by either the right or the left — and Matthews has a serious misogyny issue.

This tendency to objectify women in his orbit has bled into his treatment of female politicians and candidates. He has repeatedly lusted over women in politics on air, including remarking in 2011 that there’s “something electric” and “very attractive” about the way former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin walks and moves, and noting in 2017 that acting attorney general Sally Yates is “attractive, obviously.” But he has reserved a particular contempt for the woman who made it closest to ascending the heights of American political power, Hillary Clinton, calling her “witchy,” “anti-male,” and “She-Devil.” The Cut obtained footage of him joking in early 2016, just before a live interview with then candidate Clinton, “where’s that Bill Cosby pill,” referring to the date-rape drug. In 2005, he openly wondered whether the troops would “take the orders” from a female president; after another interview, he pinched Clinton’s cheek; and in another, he suggested that she had only had so much political success because her husband had “messed around.” This evening anchor, in addition to everything else, has repeatedly challenged whether women are legitimate politicians or could be president at all. “I was thinking how hard it is for a woman to take on a job that’s always been held by men,” he said of Clinton in 2006.

When MSNBC was constantly being labeled as a left-leaning news channel, I just had to look at Chris Matthews to wonder what they were smoking.

I guess he’s been yanked from all of MSNBC’s election coverage, at last. Now they just need to fire him.

When a righteous cause enables unrighteous behavior

I don’t even want to touch this story, but it’s a real problem. An organization to fight sexual harassment and abuse in the scientific community, MeTooStem, is facing a major crisis. One of the founders, BethAnn McLaughlin, has regularly antagonized other members to the point that they’re having huge turnover problems.

BethAnn McLaughlin, a high-profile activist against harassment and abuse in academic science, is facing calls to resign from the organization she founded, MeTooSTEM. She herself has been a bully, recent MeTooSTEM volunteers say, and has not addressed criticisms that led to previous waves of resignations from the organization.

“While I have worked very closely with BethAnn over the last year or so, I can no longer support her leadership as she displays behavior patterns our organization has vowed to fight against,” Teresa Swanson, one of three members of MeTooSTEM’s leadership team, wrote in a message to The Chronicle.

This kind of thing arises every time too much power gets invested in a single individual at the head of an organization — all people suck in one way or another, and putting them in charge without significant checks on their behavior inevitably leads to fractures. We saw that in the atheist movement, where even informally making people figureheads led to ego clashes and dissent; I think we can see it in the centralization of power in the American government, too (although I would not compare McLaughlin to Trump at all). Authority needs to be distributed.

Although this is a good suggestion, too.

One well-known advocate, Kathryn B.H. Clancy, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggested that there never was any need for a formal MeTooSTEM organization in the first place. “It’s a movement. It never needed a nonprofit or a savior,” she tweeted.

Sometimes a hierarchy is just the wrong method to use. Although other methods have their drawbacks — see Occupy, for instance — you have to have a means compatible with the end you desire.

How did @Glinner become such an ass?

I tend to have a very hostile reaction to people flinging around lawsuits over the internet. It’s gotten worse lately, I can’t imagine why.

So Graham Linehan (TERF, Gender-Critical Feminist, flaming twit, whatever) saw a video over the weekend and immediately contacted his lawyer. I think he’s a bit touchy about his ugly history.

And here’s the video. Maybe Linehan was just feeding the controversy to help popularize it?

The title is accurate. Linehan does want to eradicate trans children; among the points the video makes, backed with citations from the scientific literature, is that conversion therapy is torture that does harm, increases unhappiness, and makes the victims more likely to commit suicide. Does he plan to go to court to defend his coterie of transphobic fanatics and their distortion of reality?

US & UK are in a race to the bottom!

The US takes the lead, for now, because the UK just had to do something right. The American huckster and religious fraud, Franklin Graham, was booked to tour the UK with at least 7 planned venues. Now, though, every single venue has cancelled him, citing his anti-LGBT+ fanaticism and hate as the reason. Thumbs up for the UK!

As you might guess, Graham is now having a hissy fit, and as many American loons do, is threatening to sue.

A spokesperson told right-wing Christian outlet CBN: “Since the original venues have broken our legal contract with them, we are pursuing appropriate actions based on grounds of religious discrimination and freedom of speech.

“The Gospel always faces opposition, so we will prayerfully and boldly continue to press forward so that the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness will be proclaimed in all of the cities we have planned to visit.”

This is a guy who has preached that the gays are the enemy and should be kicked out of schools and churches, so I think God’s love is a lie. He also seems to agree that we should be selective in who we allow into our institutions, which rather defeats his case.

I think he is welcome to run his crusade with a UK tour of church basements, prayerfully.

Sex workers are humans, too

This guy, Eustachio Gallese, is a piece of work. He’s a convicted spousal abuser and violent murderer. Fortunately, he was taken off the streets; unfortunately, that was after Chantal Deschênes was killed.

In 1997, Gallese was convicted for conjugal violence. Seven years later, Gallese murdered his 32-year-old partner, Chantal Deschênes, beating her first with a hammer and then repeatedly stabbing her.

He was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years, and deemed at high risk of committing violence against a partner a year later.

But, at some point, that risk evaluation was revised to moderate and in 2016 — five years before he was due for parole — Gallese was allowed supervised outings.

This is the point where the story gets worse, if you can imagine that. The parole board decided he had “needs” that needed to be met.

He had sexual needs, his caseworker told the board. But because Gallese wasn’t deemed ready to have relationships with a woman, buying sexual services was the solution to satisfying his “sexual needs.”

It’s a solution that blatantly disregards the fact that buying sexual services is a criminal offence, as is operating a brothel.

But, more tragically, the order was approved with cruel disregard for the unsuspecting women on whom Gallese was set loose.

Hey, pay attention to the telling line, “because Gallese wasn’t deemed ready to have relationships with a woman, buying sexual services was the solution”. Because I guess sex workers don’t count as women? If I were on that board, I would have authorized buying him a fleshlight (NSFW!), a bucket of lube, and a pile of magazines, but I would not have decided that a man who wasn’t ready to deal with women, and who had brutally murdered a woman, should have access to a sex worker, unless, maybe, it was a robot sex worker. But that’s what they approved: they turned him loose on a woman who was a sex worker and the results were horrendous.

On Jan. 23 this year, Gallese turned himself in to Quebec City police and pointed them to the hotel room where they found the body of 22-year-old Marylène Lévesque. He’s since been charged with murder.

Lévesque had defensive wounds and had been stabbed, according to Le Journal de Quebec. The newspaper also reported that Lévesque had worked in a massage parlour and that Gallese was a regular customer, and had bought her gifts including a television for Christmas.

But both the Montreal Gazette and Le Soleil reported that Gallese had been banned from the brothel because he had been violent with several others who worked there.

Not only did he have a history of prior convictions, but he had a more recent history of violence at a local brothel, none of which affected the board’s decision to let him visit a sex worker. Who was incidentally a woman. Because they unconsciously dehumanized sex workers.

Sex work should be decriminalized if for no other reason than that these people are people who deserve all the protections and rights granted to other citizens.

Also, the people who authorized this release need to be fired, at the very least. Christ. Dead at 22 because a bureaucrat thought she was disposable, and had fewer rights than a convicted murderer.

Shocking demands!

How dare she!

The shocking demand is, of course, equal pay with her fellow actors. This is where feminism leads us, to a terrifying hellscape where women get paid the same as men.

Also, what’s really shocking is that there will be another Avengers movie. I thought we were done with the last one? Also with Star Wars? Do we really need another Avenger or Star War now?

Rainbows are so wicked and perverted

Kayla Kenney was expelled from a private Christian school for flaunting rainbows and sending unorthodox signals about her sexuality. Well, good for her! She should count herself lucky!

But was this really about a Christian school expelling a teenager for being gay? There’s a lawsuit pending, so the school is frantically trying to get the idea across that she was being kicked out for her naughty behavior, not for her sexual preferences.

In an interview earlier this month, Kimberly Alford said her daughter had been on probation since October for “some behavioral issues,” including cutting class and being caught with an e-cigarette. But while she said school administrators claimed “in a roundabout way” that the probation wasn’t about her daughter’s sexuality, there were signs that administrators were singling the teen out for her “perceived sexuality.”

Oh boy, he said she said. This will be an ugly one to settle in court.

However, I’m getting mixed signals from the Christians. The Christian school is trying to make the case that it was an expulsion for cutting class, but…I get email from the IFI, the Illinois Patriarchy Institute, and right now they are tying themselves in knots. On the one hand, they are accusing the Evil Mainstream Media of misrepresenting the case, arguing that the school did no wrong — she was a wicked girl who had so many disciplinary offenses that she needed to be punished. On the other hand, oh boy, this letter is a frothing mad rant about homosexuality as an offense against god.

God’s rainbow has not been weaponized—well, at least not by Christians. Homosexuals have appropriated it, perverted it, and weaponized it against Christians.

The rainbow symbolized God’s promise not to again destroy the earth by a flood, which he had just done because of the sinfulness of man. It’s a reminder of God’s covenant with man and of his grace and mercy. God loves his creation and at the same time detests much that fallen humans feel, desire, believe, think, and do. God is loving, merciful, holy, and just. And Judgment Day is coming. He has told us in his Word that he will one day judge the world—not by water but by fire—and those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, will be cast into the “lake of fire” for eternity.

That’s just the warmup. The Alford family consulted the heretic and radical inclusivist John Pavlovitz on the subject, and he declared that God loves gay people, and hoo boy, did that throw them into a rage.

Why, when theologically orthodox Christians affirm the clear words of Scripture on homosexuality or marriage, are they guilty of “claiming the moral high ground,” but when Pavlovitz cites Scripture to condemn them, he’s not guilty of “claiming the moral high ground”?

I wonder if Pavlovitz believes those who affirm biblical prohibitions of consensual adult incest, polygamy, or bestiality are guilty of “claiming the moral high ground” and of “completely lacking understanding of the empathetic heart of Jesus”?

They’re right, you know — Pavlovitz has no more authority to claim that he understands the intent of a cosmic deity than IFI does. We’re forced to rely on empathy and a common awareness of the needs of humans, no gods involved, to make that judgment, but I think it’s clear that Pavlovitz is expressing a humanist ideal gussied up with god-talk. No wonder they’re mad! They claim to be making a “righteous judgment” by condemning homosexuality as a sin.

Christians are called to judge with righteous judgment. We are not permitted to judge the eternal status of others or to judge hypocritically. But we are to judge between right and wrong action and to express those judgments. Scripture commands Christians to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” How can we avoid participating in unfruitful works of darkness if we aren’t told what those are?

Unfortunately, this leads them to conclude that “regressives” (that is, the libs) are wrong to claim that schools shouldn’t expel students for being gay, that Christians have that right.

Regressives don’t object to private schools having rules of conduct that reflect moral beliefs. Nor do they object to private schools expelling students for violating rules of conduct. Regressives object to anyone holding the moral belief that homoerotic acts and relationships are immoral. Instead of trying to create the impression that this school expelled a teen for an innocently decorated cake, why don’t regressive news sites just be honest and say a teen was expelled for intentionally violating rules based on Scripture that leftists abhor.

But wait! The school’s defense is that they were impartially expelling a girl for bad behavior, not for her sexuality. IFI started out by saying that was right, that the MSM was wrong, but by the end of their screed they were so indignant about The Gays that they completely reversed that — now it’s all about how it was righteous to expel her for homoerotic acts (that is, having a rainbow on her sweater & birthday cake) because they are justified by Scripture to punish gays.

At least they finally wound up being honest. Still ugly, though.

You see a man with spiders in his beard: shag, marry, kill?

This story was making the rounds last week, about a study that had found that women who are creeped out by bugs are less likely to be attracted to men with beards.

According to a new study, if a woman runs screaming from hair-dwelling creatures such as lice, ticks, fleas and the like, she’s likely to find men with beards much less attractive.
It’s on an unconscious level, of course. But from the viewpoint of her inner animal brain, who wants to pucker up to a mouth fringed by a thicket of hair that might contain tiny, squirmy, maggot-like creatures?

I’m taking this personally, as a bearded man with a fondness for creepy crawlies. For the record, my beard is respectably groomed and does not contain any squirmy maggots, and I find the implication offensive and unfounded. Do we go around suggesting that women grow their hair longer than men (usually) in order to provide a nesting ground for ticks and lice, or do we consider tastefully coiffed hair to be an attractive feature? Why assume that beards or any other hair repulsive?

So I read the paper, A multivariate analysis of women’s mating strategies and sexual selection on men’s facial morphology, by Tessa R. Clarkson, Morgan J. Sidari, Rosanna Sains, Meredith Alexander, Melissa Harrison, Valeriya Mefodeva, Samuel Pearson, Anthony J. Lee and Barnaby J. W. Dixson. I was even less impressed. In particular, they are trying to associate a phenomenological study of women’s reports of their preferences of a set of photographs with an evolutionary effect of sexual selection, which is a rather long reach. We know that fashions in hair styles vary wildly with time and location with a rapidity that cannot be associated with reproduction — shall we look at big hair styles from the 1980s and draw inferences about paleolithic mating preferences? Beards go in and out of fashion all the time, so a sample taken in 2019 of Western women’s taste in North European male faces (yes, they explicitly used only faces of a small ethnic subset) is only a snapshot of a narrow cultural preference in a tiny slice of time that cannot be interpreted as a significant biological factor.

Here’s the abstract.

The strength and direction of sexual selection via female choice on masculine facial traits in men is a paradox in human mate choice research. While masculinity may communicate benefits to women and offspring directly (i.e. resources) or indirectly (i.e. health), masculine men may be costly as long-term partners owing to lower paternal investment. Mating strategy theory suggests women’s preferences for masculine traits are strongest when the costs associated with masculinity are reduced. This study takes a multivariate approach to testing whether women’s mate preferences are context-dependent. Women (n = 919) rated attractiveness when considering long-term and short-term relationships for male faces varying in beardedness (clean-shaven and full beards) and facial masculinity (30% and 60% feminized, unmanipulated, 30% and 60% masculinized). Participants then completed scales measuring pathogen, sexual and moral disgust, disgust towards ectoparasites, reproductive ambition, self-perceived mate value and the facial hair in partners and fathers. In contrast to past research, we found no associations between pathogen disgust, self-perceived mate value or reproductive ambition and facial masculinity preferences. However, we found a significant positive association between moral disgust and preferences for masculine faces and bearded faces. Preferences for beards were lower among women with higher ectoparasite disgust, providing evidence for ectoparasite avoidance hypothesis. However, women reporting higher pathogen disgust gave higher attractiveness ratings for bearded faces than women reporting lower pathogen disgust, providing support for parasite-stress theories of sexual selection and mate choice. Preferences for beards were also highest among single and married women with the strongest reproductive ambition. Overall, our results reflect mixed associations between individual differences in mating strategies and women’s mate preferences for masculine facial traits.

Among the flaws are the aforementioned narrow set of sample images — sorry, you’re not going to get to choose whether you’d like a one-night stand with Idris Elba vs. a long-term relationship with Hugh Grant — but also, the study was executed using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which is going create unanalyzed biases in the respondent population. It also apparently created a far more diverse respondent population than was represented in the target images, so who knows what effect that had.

And really, the game they played was a variation on “shag, marry, kill”: would you have a quickie relationship with this face? Would you like to live with this face for months and months? Is this face totally unattractive to you? It’s the most superficial analysis possible. How many of you chose your mate because of their appearance, and nothing else, and prioritized conventional attractiveness over all other attributes? This is a meaningless study. You can’t say anything about human evolution with a study that reduces a complicated process, courtship behavior and reproduction in humans, to such a trivial scope.

Yeah, sure, you can talk all you want about Tinder and swiping left or swiping right, but that’s about transient relationships and not long-term investment in offspring.

Anyway, you want the results? Here you go.

Mean ratings (±1 s.e.m.) for attractiveness when judging short-term (a) and long-term (b) relationships for bearded (black circles) and clean-shaven (white circles). The composites were manipulated to appear 60% and 30% feminized, unmanipulated, and 30% and 60% masculinized. Note that the full rating scale ranges from 0 to 100.

Oh, wait, maybe the study isn’t so bad, since it found that bearded men are generally preferable to clean-shaven men, both for long term and short term relationships, clearly the correct result. Also women prefer the unmodified or slightly masculinized photographs, so men — be yourself, or use just a little subtle makeup.

But no…you know this result is going to vary across time and cultures. Wait a decade, and those results could flip.

This leads into the next part of the paper, which is to look at how the results vary with women’s phobias about disease and parasites and sex and morality. They even suggest a hypothesis: “The ectoparasite avoidance hypothesis proposes that ancestral humans underwent additional loss of body hair as it lessened the potential for disease-carrying ectoparasites to proliferate.” But they can’t test this hypothesis! These data are so ephemeral that you can’t use them to describe human behavior during the long period of our evolution, and further, I’d argue that it doesn’t even hold up, given that a) we don’t know much about the timing of hair loss in the human lineage, and b) they’re examining a persistent phenomenon, male facial hair. If there was selection to get rid of beards full of squirmy maggots, how come we still have them? The beards, that is, not the squirmy maggots. I’d also ask what’s special about humans, since most mammals are covered with hair; are chimpanzees uninterested in selecting mates lacking in parasites?

The authors administered a test to measure respondents attitudes about 4 dimensions of disgust and then correlated that with their measures of attractiveness. The idea was that if a woman was particularly repulsed by the sight of arthropods (“ectoparasite disgust”), then they ought to rate men with beards as less attractive, because who knows what might be lurking in that thatch?

That was sort of the result they got, that excited the popular press the most.

The associations between women’s ectoparasite, moral, pathogen and sexual disgust and their attractiveness ratings for male beardedness when judging bearded faces (red line) and clean-shaven faces (green line). Data show regression lines (±95% confidence interval). Note that the full rating scale ranges from 0 to 100.

Look at the ectoparasite avoidance and pathogen disgust graphs on the left. The attractiveness of bearded men did decline as the women subjects exhibited increasing queasiness about parasites…but I also notice that no matter how sensitive the women were, they still (on average) found bearded men more attractive than cleanshaven men. Which I interpret to mean that if I cultivated spiders in my beard, I might be slightly less attractive to more women, but I’d still be prettier than the beardless boys. I don’t see how it provides evidence that beardlessness has a selective advantage; I take it to mean that the forces behind the growth of male facial hair are more complex and diverse than can be accounted for by one simplistic hypothesis.

The moral disgust graph is complicated. Increasing moral disgust means the respondent attaches more importance to upright behavior, that they are repulsed by criminality, for instance. Those women find both bearded and clean-shaven men more attractive, and that may be a consequence of, for instance, avoiding homosexuality, to speculate a bit. Every man looks prettier when you’re afraid of falling for the wrong sex.

The sexual disgust scale is the only one that shows a preference for clean-shaven men over bearded ones at the extreme end. Sexual disgust is a measure of the importance of sexual propriety (no incest, for example) and also of the desirability of an individual for reproduction — again to speculate, maybe beards are a way of concealing biological defects, so they are less attractive.

Finally, though, these measures of attractiveness are so deeply subject to trends and fashions and wildly varying personal taste that they cannot be used to test hypotheses of human evolution. This would have been a better paper if they’d avoided making the unwarranted claims of deep biological meaningfulness…but then, it wouldn’t have been picked up by the tabloids and news agencies, now would it?