Microblog Mondays: My Field’s Harvey Weinstein?

TW: Sexual assault and child abuse mentioned.

Last week I was wasting time on a jobs wiki  when I stumbled across a couple of links to articles about a sexual harassment lawsuit that had been filed by a graduate student against an EXTREMELY PROMINENT academic in my field. The lawsuit alleged not only that said famous professor had harassed her repeatedly for years, but also that the university had turned a blind eye to his behaviour, even when she had complained.

Quite recently, about a month after the original articles were published, another one came out indicating that the famous professor has stood done from all teaching, advising, and other student-related activities. The anonymous comments on the job wiki have made it clear that this professor’s reputation for sexually harassing women was well known, even outside his own university.

Assuming the allegations prove to be true, and if it was also true that “everyone knew and nobody said anything”, it sparks a number of interesting moral issues. Were you complicit if you sent high-flying female graduate students to work with this individual, knowing his history? Were you complicit if you sent high-flying male graduate students to work with this individual but warned off your female students, knowing that your male students would then reap the benefits of being associated with such an academic superstar (including very high placement rates in tenure-track positions)? Were you complicit if you knew his history and still invited this individual to your campus to give a lecture, or asked him to write a chapter for an edited volume, or to review a manuscript, or any of the myriad duties that fall on established academics when it’s “business as usual”?

Are we complicit if, going forward, the allegations are proven and we still cite this individual’s articles and books in our own research?

While reading up on this I also discovered that last year another professor in our field pleaded guilty to trading child pornography over the internet. Q. has a very famous and influential article by this individual on the syllabus for one of his courses. It seems a no-brainer to strike that off, but (as my rabbit hole of Googling quickly proved) this is a thorny issue and one that a lot of academics are now wrestling with.

Can you separate the scholarship from the scholar?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

3 Comments

Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Microblog Mondays, Soapbox

3 responses to “Microblog Mondays: My Field’s Harvey Weinstein?

  1. Does the field have to suffer for the transgressions of the researcher? The work is likely still accurate and important. I struggle with this. Part of me wants to rage-erase everything someone of this nature has done in their life, but the other part recognizes that no one is perfectly evil. No more access to trainees, no more accolades, no more salary, etc. But legacy, from a research-only perspective? I don’t know.
    We learned a lot of incredibly valuable things in medicine from deeply flawed studies and ethically outrageous events. We haven’t burned that knowledge, even if it came at the cost of a war crime. How to maintain the information without condoning the action – even harder in this case because we wouldn’t have the information without it. It is hard. I don’t know the right way forward.

  2. Oh man. That’s a hard one. I have no idea. I agree with labmonkey – it’s hard to figure out how to take the useful part of their work while not condoning their behavior. Mostly I just think it’s sad.

  3. nonsequiturchica

    I’m not sure that already-published research and studies have to be removed from everything, but this individual definitely should not have anything published again, should not get another job, etc.

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