STATEMENT from the WOMEN'S CAUCUS FOR POLITICAL SCIENCE and #MeTooPoliSci
We believe and support Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We write as colleagues, mentors, mentees, and friends. We write to express deep care for and belief in Vanessa, and with three clear aims in mind.
First, we write as colleagues who want to attest to the strength of Dr. Tyson’s character and integrity, so that those who do not know her but are listening to her account will give it the weight and consideration it deserves. Vanessa is warm, funny, and brilliant. She is known throughout the discipline for her willingness to stand up on behalf of the vulnerable, including early-career women, LGBTQ scholars, and scholars of color, and she has spent many years advocating for survivors of sexual violence. Vanessa is known by her students and mentees for her generosity of spirit, honesty, and care. She is genuinely interested in the lives of her students and colleagues, and for decades has demonstrated the strength of her character through her interactions with those around her—especially with her junior colleagues. These interactions include meaningfully engaging the work of junior scholars presenting early versions of their dissertations, reaching out to invite junior scholars into larger scholarly communities, looking out for the professional success of junior scholars just starting their careers, and reinforcing to junior women that they belong here.
Second, we write as researchers to attest to the ethos based on which Vanessa has lived out every day of her work. As scholars, our work lives and dies by our honesty and our faithfulness to the details of the world around us. Vanessa has spent many years of her life documenting the world around her, including sensitive and difficult topics like racial and ethnic politics in Congress. Researchers of Vanessa’s caliber do not acquire the trust of politicians--from both parties--by being political opportunists, and they do not acquire the trust of academics--a prickly and critical bunch--needed to secure a book contract with a top press by dramatizing their evidence. Dr. Tyson is, in other words, someone whose day job is to bring the receipts.
Finally, we write as political scientists to remind those listening that the status quo favors power and privilege. In addition to being political scientists, many of us are also scholars of the politics of race, gender, and sexuality, and as such, we recognize the all-too-familiar tropes that are being deployed to try to shame, silence, and delegitimize Dr. Tyson. Terms like “inconsistencies” and “the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation” alongside claims that “she was very interested in me” and “into it” attempt to construct her as both unreliable and as a jilted lover. Claims that she brought these allegations “at a time of maximum media attention” paint her story as a quest for the limelight rather than as a quest for justice.
As scholars we also know that decades of empirical evidence make clear that problems with reporting sexual violence are ones of under-reporting, not of fabrication, and that rates of reporting are particularly low for women of color. This evidence makes clear as well that people who report sexual assault stand to gain nothing and, in fact, risk a great deal. Vanessa has fought hard to carve out a career as a woman of color in academia. She has been incredibly successful, not only in terms of her external successes--as a tenured faculty member and the author of an important book--but more importantly, on her own terms. She has served as a mentor to many junior scholars and made a name for herself as what Representative Shirley Chisholm described so evocatively as an “unbought and unbossed” person. Such a woman would not risk her career and reputation for anything less than a grave injustice. We therefore trust her when she says that a grave injustice has been committed.
We hold our government responsible and accountable for the misdeeds of its elected representatives. We ask that there be a thorough investigation into the matter. Above all, we ask that others--journalists, citizens, and members of both parties--stand in solidarity with Dr. Tyson. In the words of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, we “come to ask you to help to win this fight. If we win it, this hardest of all fights, then, to be sure, in the future it is going to be made easier for women all over the world to win their fight when their time comes.”
We invite graduate students, faculty and instructors, and independent scholars in the field of Political Science and other academic fields to endorse the statement above.