Liberal Academia About to Melt Down Over Harassment Allegations

Universities across the country are responding to new reports of sexual misconduct as surveys mention several prominent institutions by name.

UC Berkeley, Indiana University, and Georgia Institute of Technology, were among the schools repeatedly named in a spreadsheet of anonymous reports alleging sexual harassment.

“Sexual Harassment in the Academy: A Crowdsource Survey” was first launched about a month and a half ago. Already, it contains over 2,000 testimonies of sexual harassment in academia. Alleged harassers go unnamed and posts are anonymous, but schools are often identified.

Universities and academic departments, therefore, must decide what to do about accusations against faculty.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Sexual Harassment In the Academy,” launched Nov. 30 by former anthropology professor Karen Kelsky, now contains more than 2,000 anonymous anecdotes that describe a wide range of alleged harassment at universities. The document is publicly available on her blog, and participants can add their entries by completing a survey. Those making the claims do so unnamed, and alleged harassers remain anonymous, though schools and academic departments are sometimes identified.

Schools named in the spreadsheet, including Indiana University and Georgia Institute of Technology, said they’re troubled by the allegations but need more details to consider any investigation, such as when the alleged incidents occurred and the names of those involved.

The University of California, Berkeley, was named more than two dozen times. Spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said the school is “saddened and unsettled” by the allegations but would need to know the accusers’ identities to determine possible next steps […] 

Inspired by the #MeToo movement and a wave of public allegations of harassment in other industries, Dr. Kelsky created a survey form in late November asking academics to detail their harassment experiences, including any response from the school if a complaint was made, and what impact they say the alleged harassment had on their careers and mental health.

Kelsky’s survey grew rapidly into a huge collection of reports of harassment, abuse, and rape.

One testimony published on the survey says that a Berkeley professor, James O’Brien, assaulted an MIT Ph.D. student at a computer-graphics conference in Singapore.

Colleges identified in the survey face mounting pressure to identify harassers and take action against sexual misconduct in academia.

The Wall Street Journal continues:

The moves come as the U.S. Department of Education overhauls its enforcement of Title IX, a federal statute prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis of sex. It has rescinded Obama -era guidelines on how to handle sexual-assault cases and issued interim recommendations, including allowing colleges to apply a higher standard of proof when determining guilt.

Scott Schneider, a Tulane professor and attorney who heads the higher-education practice group at Fisher Phillips, said schools must proceed carefully, even as other industries rush to respond to harassment allegations, in part because of faculty tenure protections.

“We want to maintain a climate that is certainly free from sexual harassment and sex discrimination,” said Mr. Schneider, whose firm represents schools on a range of legal issues. “We also should value, as an institution, some modicum of due process.”

Are universities’ “higher standard of proof” an appropriate response to harassment and abuse claims, or are they simply rejecting several claims of sexual abuse in order to protect themselves from the growing #MeToo movement?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below.