The View from Evans Hall: I had thought — mistakenly, it appears — thought that everyone had had the same thoughts and came to the same conclusion back the first semester they were a TA:
- Don’t hit on students. No matter how “pure” your intentions are and no matter how much you think you are a nice guy, they can never know whether or not you are threatening to withhold the grades, letters, and mentoring they deserve if they don’t come across. To put any young person in such a position is the act of a real asshole. And if there is any sign you are not as nice a guy as you think you are, that is it.
- A sensible administration policy would be: one complaint, and you are on notice; two complaints, and you go to talk therapy to think through your failure to empathize with young people who cannot know whether you are threatening them; three complaints — well, even if you claim that everything is misinterpreted and that they all the complaints are from psychos, that you have managed to attract three psychos who complain is a very good reason for you to find a different kind of job someplace else, no?
Michael O’ Hare says smart things:
Michael O’Hare: The Marcy Case III: “Geoffrey Marcy is resigning from the Berkeley faculty…
…The Astronomy faculty’s public statement… along with similar sentiments from the students and post-docs, obviously made it impossible for him to stay…. I take no satisfaction from this worst possible outcome. Cal has lost an important, productive scientist, careers of other scientists (especially the women Marcy abused) were damaged or ended before they began….
What went so wrong here?… Simple: there were many moments at least a decade ago when some members of the astronomy faculty, perhaps clued in by students, were aware that they were harboring a ticking bomb. That was when a chair or dean, or maybe just a peer pal, should have taken Marcy aside and drawn a diagram:
Everyone knows what you are doing. You have to stop, now, forever, because you are damaging not just these young women but all of us and yourself as well. If you don’t, here are a series of things that will happen to you, in sequence of increasing severity, and to show how serious this is, I expect you to ask for an unpaid leave from teaching next semester. That’s half your pay. Next step will be to inform the department of the reasons, and so on.
Instead, one after another of his friends and colleagues decided that it was more important to avoid an awkward moment than to (i) try to save their friend from a suicidal path (ii) protect their young colleagues. Marcy was thus given a ten-year lesson that he could get away with it…. Indeed… that club of powerful friends continued to operate in that way until it became impossible. A systematic contributor to this outcome is cultural: because there is so much of this (sexual and other harassment) going on, and we know it, students and others are increasingly enraged and act out by expecting atom-bomb sanctions for the few violations that come to light, initiating a positive-feedback cycle that suppresses appropriate and humane guidance out of fear of a disproportionate result….
The chancellor and provost are working on ‘different and better options for discipline of faculty.’ OK, but if they aren’t also working in different and better ways to acculturate, teach, and guide faculty (yes, and randy frat boys), they will leave a lot of value on the table and set us up for the next humiliating and tragic episode.