Academia’s ‘Shitty Men’ List Has Around 2,000 Entries Detailing Sexual Misconduct at Universities

An anonymous survey launched in the wake of the #MeToo
movement, inviting survivors of sexual harassment and assault
to catalogue their experiences of abuse in academia, has
collected more than 2,000 entries since November 30.

The Wall Street Journal
reported
on
the list
, which is similar to the “Shitty Media Men” list
outing allegedly predatory journalists. The survey, called
“Sexual Harassment in the Academy,” was created by former
anthropology professor Karen Kelsky. Rather than explicitly
naming abusers, as the Media Men list does, however, the survey
focuses on specific incidents and institutions. It asks a
series of questions about the nature of the abuse, when it
occurred, what recourse was taken (if any), how the institution
responded, and more.

“My hope is that this survey will allow victims to find a safe
way to anonymously report their experience of sexual
harassment,” Kelsky
wrote
on her website, which hosts the survey. “My goal is
for the academy as a whole to begin to grasp the true scope and
scale of this problem in academic settings. I hope it provides
aggregate information in the form of personal stories of abuse
and its career outcomes for victims (which, as a cultural
anthropologist I consider the most potent form of data), paving
the way for more frank conversations and more effective
interventions.” The entries describe incidences of
nonconsensual touching, groping, and rape.

One woman who posted on the list, Samantha Ainsley, dropped out
of her MIT computer science PhD program after a leading
professor in her field, Dr. James O’Brien, assaulted her during
a night out with peers from a conference in Singapore. From the
WSJ:

He put his hand on her back, she says, then: “He leaned in
and put his hand on my thigh, up between my legs, up my
skirt, and said, ‘I didn’t listen to a damn word you said
because I was too busy imagining what was under your dress.’

She says the professor later invited her to his hotel room.
She declined. He demanded a good-night kiss, which she also
declined, she says. When she told Dr. O’Brien the next day
that she had felt uncomfortable, Ms. Ainsley says, he rolled
his eyes and invited her to a conference in Barbados
scheduled for later that winter.

O’Brien’s attorney Lyn Agre told the WSJ that he
“emphatically denies” the allegations and that he “never tried
to force himself on Ms. Ainsley in any way.

The survey, like the Media Men list, is another creative
work-around for survivors who haven’t been able to seek justice
or come forward in a culture that continues to silence them.
Universities like Indiana, Georgia Tech, and Berkeley—which is
named in more than dozen incidents—say they can’t pursue
investigations without more details, including the accusers’
identities. Presumably, now that this document is public,
perhaps accusers will have a better shot at being taken
seriously when they do reach out to colleges.

The number of responses make it clear that sexual harassment is
an ongoing, pervasive issue schools must address, otherwise
victims (most of whom are women) will continue to suffer and
leave academia. “I think plausible deniability has been
eviscerated,” said Kelsky.

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