Acting when harassment occurs

Posted: October 25, 2010 by Jender in Do try this at home!, harassment, sexual harassment

I am a gay male at a well-ranked graduate program. Last year a very eminent philosopher joined our faculty. At his welcome dinner he made frequent distasteful and sexual comments about individual female graduate students in front of the entire faculty. He continued to make comments in graduate seminars and at departmental events throughout the year. When female students complained to our graduate advisor (female), they were told that he was harmless and that, given his reputation, should be tolerated. When I mentioned it to our department chair (male) he laughed it off and said that ‘someone’ should talk to him about it.

In the spring he made an offensive comment about my sexuality in the presence of a few of my students and another faculty member. I met with my dissertation advisor (male) to get advice about how I should handle it. He immediately referred me to the University’s sexual harassment office. After filing a complaint, I learned two things: (1) Even though I am not a woman, I could file a complaint about the comments he makes about women. (2) The graduate advisor and department chair would also be named in the complaint and disciplined because they are contractually bound to report sexual harassment.

Our eminent philosopher is much more careful about what he says now. Still, I was discouraged that it fell into my hands, a graduate student, to finally call him on his bs.

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