Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ironies of Harassment

This story, smack in the middle of the NYT website front page, has only one surprise--not that a philosopher would engage in sexual harassment but that he would actually pay for it.  I cannot say that political philosophers in the various places I have worked were more likely to engage in sexual harassment, but in a few stops along the way, the most notable offenders were such folks in the present or recent enough past.  The irony would be that those who spent heaps of time studying normative issues, like what is justice, would act so poorly.  But again, not that surprising.

Losing tenure?  That is a surprise.  The predators (and I don't use that word lightly) have tended to get away with it or just get a slap on their wrist (and that applies to non-philosophers as well).  Of course, this guy was stupid or arrogant enough to do two things: email the target of his harassment so that there was plenty of documentation (that is not so exceptional) and then blog about it to defend himself.  Apparently, he sucked at that, causing even allies to turn away from him.

I did not know the field of philosophy was so male-dominated.  One tends to think that the humanities are more gender balanced than the sciences but philosophy seems to be a hold-out, stuck in the 19th century?

Anyhow, the good news here is that the guy is paying heavily for his sins, which is about damn time.  To be clear, there is a lot less sexual harassment than the movies tend to portray.  Most professors are not sleeping with or trying to sleep with their graduate students or their undergraduate students.  Norms have changed from fifty years ago or whenever this was accepted behavior.  However, the few retrograde folks in the academic business tend not to be punished much and the punishments are usually invisible so it often looks like the offenders pay no price at all.  So, while I would prefer not to have the myth of predatory professors reinforced, having a clear case of a guy losing his job published in a very visible way can only be a good thing.

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