Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct have no place in academia. These kinds of unethical behaviors, which often involve powerful males and their female students or junior colleagues, traumatize the victims, impede equal opportunity in academia, and impoverish the intellectual landscape of our scholarly communities.
As recent highly publicized news reports have made clear, the institutional response to cases of sexual misconduct often contributes to the problem [1-3]. Fear of negative publicity feeds bureaucratic inaction, but as these reports also illustrate, the consequences of institutional indolence can be worse. For the victims of sexual harassment or abuse, it is far worse.
Tough new policies emplaced by universities and professional organizations are welcome, but they will not lead to the needed cultural change without the commensurate commitment of individuals to provide a safe, supportive environment for women and men to learn and work together productively. An individual commitment entails disseminating a message of zero tolerance of sexual misconduct; educating faculty, staff and students about norms of workplace behavior and reporting pathways for their violation; and, most critically, publicly supporting the victims who come forward to report incidences of sexual misconduct. The reporting of misconduct by victims and bystanders should be recognized as courageous actions that are key to making our communities safer and stronger.
We, the undersigned bioanthropologists, bioarchaeologists, and other academics in solidarity, hereby make this commitment, and urge our colleagues to join us in working to eradicate all forms of sexual misconduct from our academic communities.
1. Balter, M. 2016. The sexual misconduct case that has rocked anthropology. Science. Feb 9
2. Gorayshi, A. 2015. Famous Berkeley Astronomer Violated Sexual Harassment Policies Over Many Years. Buzzfeed News.
3. Harmon, A. 2016. Chicago Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation. New York Times.