Warning: This article concerns sexual assault.
Three entries in an anonymous survey titled “Sexual Harassment in the Academy” reference UC San Diego professors, alleging explicit sexual misconduct.
The survey was compiled by Karen Kelsky, former Anthropology professor and founder of The Professor Is In, an advice website for people in academia. Since December 2017, more than 2,000 survivors have catalogued experiences of abuse in academia. The survey is a record of specific incidents and institutions, characterized by the nature of abuse, means of support networks, institutional responses, and when the incident occurred.
“The History Department was notified of said professor’s behavior in 2016 and refused to do anything about it,” a January 2018 survey entry said about a UCSD Middle Eastern Studies professor. “My co-advisor, who was aware of the situation on some level, blamed me for the situation.”
The Middle Eastern Studies Professor was investigated by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). The respondent also stated that they found another victim of the same professor, but OPHD did not look into the allegations. According to the response, they were eventually pushed out of the History program because no action was taken against the professor that harassed them.
In a December 2017 response detailing an incident with a thesis advisor, this respondent reported that their advisor made sexual comments and gestures in meetings and talked about them at his home. He continued these comments and gestures until his wife stepped in, which led the advisor to become hostile, but the respondent was initially discouraged from filing a complaint. They said that once they did, the department did not believe the advisor’s misconduct was severe enough to warrant investigation.
A third survey response by an anonymous respondent who worked at a UCSD research lab in 2004 stated: “I told no one at the time, for fear I would lose my job, my health insurance, and prospects for future jobs.”
Scholars within academic programs who are dependent on references and recommendations for career advancement struggle with delayed graduation or dropping out of academic programs due to mental trauma and university nonresponse.
In an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kelsky said that she wants the anonymous survey to empower victims to come forward with their stories because sharing their stories may help the healing process.
“Sexual harassment is a means of keeping women ‘in their place,’ punishing them for having the temerity to seek to enter what men wish to believe are their own special places of privilege,” Kelsey wrote.
The UC system is no stranger to sexual misconduct. An article released by The Daily Californian in March found that the UC system spent over $3.7 million on sexual harassment settlements over the last three years. In February 2017, they found that there were 124 cases of sexual misconduct by UC staff between 2013 and 2016.
Last December, Former Regent Norman Pattiz resigned amid allegations of misconduct after he was recorded asking a colleague if he could hold her breasts. More recently, in April, world-renowned Salk Institute researcher Inder Verma was put on leave following allegations spanning decades.
“In my personal experience, the discourse on sexual harassment is a farce,” said a UCSD survey respondent in December 2017. “In reality, students are absolutely powerless, and have to choose between either putting up with the behavior or making a career choice, or changing research topics.”
This article was written by Ethan Coston, with assistance in reporting from Kathleen Lee. Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him at @Ethan4Books. Kathleen Lee is a Contributing Writer at The Triton. You can follow her at @Katleenlee.