Monday, October 19, 2015
I guess I shouldn't be so puzzled . . .
by the ability of serial sexual abusers and harassers to get away with it over many years. I have personally seen little of it at my own workplaces. Once a woman I supervised came to me with a complaint about a co-worker, but he was a low status employee and our executive director dealt with the guy quickly and decisively. We also had an executive who behaved inappropriately toward women but they fired him, mostly because of more general incompetence, I think.
I've been in academia full time for 10 years now, and part-time for 10 years before that, and I have to say that tales like that of Geoffrey Marcy and Colin McGinn came as a bit of a surprise. (Here's PZ on Mcginn, and we are talking about a world historical creep here.) So astronomer John Johnson, who had the opportunity to hear stories from many of his female colleagues, helps by explaining the enormous power senior academics have over junior colleagues, and the elements of human nature that make us reluctant to tell others when we have been conned or betrayed. There's a shame that goes along with it, we feel as though it's our own fault. Psychos like McGinn and Marcy know that, and they also know who the deans value more if it does come down to a she said/he said.
It seems this behavior is actually very widespread. If you read the comments on Professor Johnson's post on the Women in Astronomy blog, you'll get the impression that it's the norm in astronomy departments. I don't think I'm so obtuse that it's going on all around me in the School of Public Health, but I am certainly unaware of it. I don't think it's nuts to think that we have a somewhat different culture -- we aren't nearly so male dominated, there are lots of women in top faculty positions in public health. But I'm not so sure what's going on at the medical school . . .