Wednesday, October 23, 2013
It appears to be sexual harassment revelations week here in the science blogosphere, so I figured I’d share a brief story.
In the year 2000, when I was a PhD student, I talked to the student counseling unit about making a formal complaint about sexual harassment by a senior member of staff.
They made it clear to me that taking this course of action would result in revocation of my student visa and deportation from
I chickened out and kept my mouth shut.
I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I was able to put my head down, write up, and finish my degree by making this choice. Since that time, I have learned of other international students at other universities who did the right thing, and were deported for reporting.
I tell myself that had I gone through with reporting, I would have been disappeared long before having the opportunity to make an official statement (way back before blogs, shipping someone halfway around the world was an effective way of shutting them up). And I thought that the incidents which I wished to report were not severe or well documented enough to bring to the police. But while this is true, here I am, 13 years later, still awake at one in the morning second-guessing myself.
The recent round of revelations has focused heavily on the perpetrators of sexual harassment. Which is good. But reporting wrongdoing is much more difficult than it should be, due to the institutional coercion that universities use to protect their reputations at the expense of their students.