Sexual Harassment/Assault in Academia – EVERY WEEK

For the past four months, I have been compiling sexual harassment/assault cases in academia – harassment or assault on students or staff that is carried out by professors, administrators, or entire departments. It took several months for me to track down and compile old cases. Today, the number of documented cases sits at 364…come back in a few weeks and I promise the number will have increased.

Now, I simply maintain the compilation by searching for new cases once a week. I would go crazy if I immersed myself in this every day, so I simply take a few moments on Mondays to check out what the internet has to offer. Once a week I search for combinations of “sexual harassment”, “sexual assault”, “professor”, “dean”, and similar terms. What surprises me the most is that EVERY week I find at least one case of sexual harassment/assault in academia. At least one professor, dean, or president who makes inappropriate comments, touches students or colleagues, asks for sexual favors in exchange for grades, assaults students or colleagues. Or, I find a lawsuit that was filed in the past week – a case of sexual harassment/assault that is still pending. EVERY week.

This morning? This morning I again had something new to add to the post. I found four typical examples of typical sexual harassment and typical sexual assault:

How anyone can look at this list and not recognize that academia has a problem is beyond me. Sexual harassment and assault by professors/deans/provosts/presidents are not flukes. Please don’t tell me they are. Do something about it, academia. Do something.

Sexual Harassment in Academia – International Edition

Last updated 8/17/2016

Update 8/17/16: I will add high profile international cases as I become aware of them.

I have identified over 425 cases of faculty and administrators engaging in sexual harassment at U.S. universities. In creating this list, I have come across troubling references to cases occurring outside of the U.S. To be clear that sexual harassment on the part of professors or administrators is not just an “American” thing…here is a short list of cases. Note that this is a very small sample simply because only a handful of these cases are reported in the English language media and the details of many stories are difficult to verify.

2014: Brajendra Sutradhar, Mathematics, Memorial University. 20 DAY SUSPENSION, RETIRED.

2016: David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, History, Brock University. NOT “ASSIGNED TO CLASS AND IS NOT ON CAMPUS”.


2014: Wu Chunming, Xiamen University. FIRED.

2015: UNNAMED, Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University. FIRED.

2015: Rajat Kumar Mohanty, Linguistics, English and Foreign Languages University. JAILED.

2015: Mario Schneider, Political Science, Hebrew University. BARRED FROM CAMPUS FOR 18 MONTHS/PAID COMPENSATION TO STUDENT.

2015: ELEVEN LECTURERS!, Hebrew University. OUTCOME UNKNOWN.,7340,L-4663660,00.html


1994: Toru Yano, Southeast Asian Studies. Kyoto University. RESIGNED/WENT INTO SECLUSION IN BUDDHIST TEMPLE.

2002: UNNAMED, Ehime University. FIRED.

2015: UNNAMED, Okinawa Prefecture College of Performing Arts. FIRED.

2015: Kang Suk-jin, Mathematics, Seoul National University. JAILED.



2012: UNNAMED, Mathematics, University of Zurich. FINED.



Edited on 3/12/16 to add a SEVENTH UC-Berkeley case.

The internet is abuzz with the latest sexual harassment case to hit UC-Berkeley, that of Sujit Choudhry, Dean of Law School. This comes on the heals of Geoff Marcy’s resignation – that case captured attention because of Marcy’s research prowess and his long history of sexually harassing women with whom he worked. In addition, it is unclear how UC-Berkeley dealt with sexual harassment complaints made about Marcy over a decade or more.

The suggestion has been made that maybe now UC-Berkeley will “get it right” and will truly deal with sexual harassment on campus. But will they? Below is a list of SIX sexual harassment cases involving Berkeley (taken from the longer list of national cases)- these are just the ones reported outside of the campus. Notice that two Deans of the Law School resigned under sexual harassment complaints – one in 2002 and the most recent case. Another case of sexual harassment by a faculty member stretches back to 1980. I don’t believe Berkeley is unique in dealing with individual transgressors through resignation or internal punishment rather than addressing larger systemic issues. In fact – I made a list for Yale below, just to illustrate the point that institutions can have multiple cases of sexual harassment that make the news and yet still not know how to effectively stop the harassment from happening in the first place.

Institutions need to stop addressing sexual harassment as it occurs, and need to start addressing it as a symptom of an institutional problem. A culture that permits sexual harassment, tells victims to deal with it so they don’t hurt their careers, works to protect the harasser from negative impacts – this is what needs to change.

University of California-Berkeley

  1. 1980: Elbaki Hermassi, University of California-Berkeley. SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR ONE QUARTER.
  2. 1991: Michel Strickmann, University of California-Berkeley. FIRED.
  3. 2002: John P. Dwyer, Dean of Law School, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED.
  4. 2012: Diane Leite, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University of California-Berkeley. REASSIGNED TO NEW POSITION.
  5. 2014: Graham Fleming, Vice Chancellor for Research, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED.
  6. 2016: Sujit Choudhry, Dean of Law School, University of California–Berkeley. 10-PERCENT REDUCTION IN SALARY FOR ONE-YEAR, LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DEANSHIP, BACK ON FACULTY.
  7. 2015: Geoff Marcy, University of California-Berkeley. RESIGNED, NOW EMERITUS FACULTY.


  1. 1992: Stephen Kellert, Yale. DISCIPLINED (DETAILS UNKNOWN).
  2. 1993: Name UnKnown, Yale University. RESIGNED.
  3. 1996: Jay Jorgenson, Yale. REPRIMANDED.
  4. 2007: Joseph Schlessinger, Yale. LAWSUIT SETTLED. and
  5. 2013: John Coleman Darnell, Yale. ONE YEAR SUSPENSION.
  6. 2015: Michael Simons, Yale. 18-MONTH SUSPENSION, THEN RESIGNED.
  7. 2015: Rex L. Mahnensmith, Yale. RESIGNED.

Sexual Harassment in Academia – Not Just Words

I have been compiling documented cases of sexual harassment in academia. So far, I’ve unearthed 160 cases, including 3 departments and 19 administrators. Earlier, I wrote a post about a few things I learned while compiling this list. I have a few things to add:

1. SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT UNIVERSITIES IS OFTEN PHYSICAL. While some of the documented cases involve inappropriate language, the vast majority involve a university employee engaging in inappropriate physical behaviors – from kissing to groping, to assault, to rape, and even to murder. Read through the list – a number of faculty accused of sexual harassment committed criminal acts. Sexual harassment is not a technicality – it’s often a real, physical violation.

2. MANY INVESTIGATIONS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT END WHEN THE ACCUSED RESIGNS. Of the 160 cases I have identified, a whopping 58 of the accused sexual harassers resigned from their faculty or administrative positions. That’s over 36%!  These resignations often occurred just before the institution concluded a sexual harassment investigation, meaning that many of these cases were simply closed WITHOUT ANY RECORD OF THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAVING OCCURRED! This allows faculty to get jobs elsewhere, such as this guy who resigned twice from two different jobs.

3. SOME UNIVERSITIES REASSIGN OR EVEN RE-HIRE SEXUAL HARASSERS. Several universities have re-hired faculty who resigned previously because of sexual harassment, or simply reassign them to new positions or find other ways to continue to pay them. How serious are these schools at combating sexual harassment in academia if known harassers are allowed to continue working? Not surprisingly, there are multiple cases of known harassers doing it again at the same place, such as this physics professor or this music professor.

4. UNIVERSITIES NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMMITTED BY EMPLOYEES. Compiling this list of 160 cases of sexual harassment committed by departments, administrators, and faculty was hard work. I had to be creative in order to find many of these cases – simply searching for sexual harassment at universities yielded only the most high profile cases. I had to dig around by discipline or geographic location. Even then, many cases only cropped up when I found a cryptic reference and then tracked down specifics of each case. Universities don’t want us to know what is happening on their campuses- sexual harassment is embarrassing and potentially expensive (an example). Hiding sexual harassment is a societal problem, however, since sexual harassers can simply move on to other schools (such as this biology professor or this anthropology professor). Being transparent about sexual harassment – from the initial stages of an investigation to its final conclusion – would help everyone.

I am still a little shocked that I found so many documented cases of faculty/administrator sexual harassment. We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, since most sexual harassment goes unreported. I also suspect many sexual harassment investigations are hidden behind confidentiality and privacy concerns. It doesn’t have to be this way. Universities can and should do better.


What I learned from a week of slogging through the underbelly of sexual harassment in academia

Related Post: not-a-fluke-that-case-of-sexual-harassment-is-not-an-isolated-incident/ and sexual-harassment-in-academia-not-just-words/

A week ago I decided to fight back when yet another report of sexual harassment in academia surfaced (and another report cropped up in the intervening few days). Fed up with suggestions that sexual harassment was the problem of a single discipline, I decided to compile every case of sexual harassment in academia that I could find. After a day of searching, I had identified 36 such cases. I kept looking – using weird combinations of “sexual harassment” and various disciplines and states – and after a week had identified 143 cases of sexual harassment in academia where a finding of fact was made, there was a legal settlement, or the accused resigned quickly. This number does not include cases still being resolved or cases without evidence or findings. This is a REAL number. I am sure the number of documented cases of sexual harassment in academia will continue to rise – I update the post as a new case comes across my desk.

I discovered a few interesting things along the way:

1. SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN ACADEMIA IS NOTHING NEW. There are articles that stretch back to the 1980s discussing the sexual harassment problem on U.S. college and university campuses.

2. SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS NOT A DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC PROBLEM. First, no single discipline has a “problem” with sexual harassment. I was able to identify more cases in English/Humanities/Creative Writing than in any other field, but I suspect the sample is biased since I could only report what I could find. Three of the cases that most recently captured the attention of the media revolved around astronomy, but I identified 143 cases in a wide range of disciplines just by looking for them. Sexual harassment occurs in every discipline.

Second, I encountered a surprising number of news stories that reported on a specific discipline and its sexual harassment problem. For examples, there are articles asking about sexual harassment in:

Clearly, we can’t be satisfied claiming that sexual harassment is occurring only in music, or english, or philosophy, or astronomy. Sexual harassment occurs in academia. We need to deal with it.

3. SEXUAL HARASSERS OFTEN LEAVE ONE SCHOOL ONLY TO MOVE ON TO SOMEWHERE ELSE. If you scan the list of cases, you will find any number of people who simply moved to a new school. In some of these cases, the harasser engaged in sexually harassing behavior again, much like Jason Lieb is accused of doing. My favorite cases are: 1) the two administrators who resigned over sexual harassment and were re-hired as special advisers to the president of the school, 2) the professor who resigned twice from two different schools for two different cases of sexual harassment, 3) the professor who was finally fired after two suspensions for sexual harassment, and 4) the university who asked a professor to resign over sexual improprieties and then rehired a decade later.

A recent conversation in the forum of the Chronicle of Higher Education illustrates why harassers moving to new schools is and will continue to be a problem. In this case, a graduate student was sanctioned by a Dean for sexually harassing another student. Many faculty on the forum indicated that they would not mention the sanction or would decline to write a letter of recommendation. Shouldn’t we be writing letters that tell the truth about our students and colleagues?

Given the ease with which sexual harassers are able to move from one institution to another, Representative Speier seems to be on to something when she proposes that records of faculty sexual harassment should follow faculty from one institution to the next.

4. SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASES TAKE A RIDICULOUSLY LONG TIME TO RESOLVE. I applaud anyone brave enough to report their sexual harassment, take the case through university channels, and/or sue through a court of law.  It took seven years for a case that started in the mid-80s to get through the courts and nine years for this case in the 90s. I’m sure cases being brought now will take just as long. Is this really acceptable?

5. SEXUAL HARASSMENT CAN BE CARRIED OUT BY UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS OR ENTIRE DEPARTMENTS. Very recently (2014), a department in Colorado was found to be supportive of a sexually harassing environment. This isn’t new – here is a case from the 1980s and another from the 2000s. Our university Presidents can engage in sexual harassment, as can our Deans. Sometimes, the people and spaces that are supposed to protect us simply can’t or won’t.

We know from research that students and faculty experience high rates of sexual harassment in academic settings (for example, in fieldwork). We know from this list that sexual harassment in academia happens, happens often, and happens across disciplines. I hope my colleagues are paying attention to the recent news surrounding sexual harassment in academia. I hope even more that we as academics begin to recognize sexual harassment as a longstanding and entrenched problem for which we are all responsible. I felt helpless in the face of recent news reports, and I wanted to combat the notion that these stories are somehow atypical. Bringing the real scale of the problem to light is perhaps the only thing we can do if we are ever going to make academia SAFE for each other and our students.

My Experiences With Sexism in Science

I think I have finally had it. I am sick of women being told to “put up with” sexist behavior because to speak up would be career suicide. I am sick of the defenders of academics who prey on students. I am sick of seemingly smart people spouting stereotypes that portray women as somehow different and less capable than men, from the President of Harvard’s 2005 comments that women are innately less capable in science to a Nobel prize winner’s 2015 comments that, among other things, women and men should be segregated. And, if being a woman in science is bad enough – the situation is even worse for people of color who are actively discouraged from careers in STEM. Most importantly, I am sick of people claiming that we are in a post-sexist, or post-racist, society when we clearly are not post anything. Many people simply do not know what women (or people of color, or people with disabilities, or any people who are different from the perceived majority) experience in their daily lives, including at work.

I have decided to speak my experience as a woman in science. I doubt I remember every gendered and sexist moment in my life, but here are some highlights from my career. I won’t bore you with the everyday sexism I experience out in the world – these are things that happened to me while I was out in the field WORKING, at conferences while I was WORKING, or in a university building while I was WORKING. From inappropriate comments to outright groping, here are three examples each from grad school, pre-tenure, and post-tenure life. Trust me, tenure does not make you immune:

As a Graduate Student:

1. The male graduate student who told me I only passed my oral exams because I am a woman.

2. The senior scholar who propositioned me in the field, verbally and physically.

3. The student evaluations that discussed my smile, body, and attractiveness rather than my teaching ability.

As a Pre-Tenure Faculty Member:

1. The senior female faculty member who asked me if I was going to quit my job when I told her I was pregnant.

2. The senior female faculty member who told me women shouldn’t have children until after tenure. She looked a little shocked when I reminded her that I had a toddler.

3. The junior faculty member who openly ogled my chest and talked about my “Magic Planets”. (Look up Magic Planet – it’s a real thing, and not at all related to my chest).

As a Post-Tenure Faculty Member:

1. The senior faculty member who asked me about my sex life and encouraged me to have a good one. Perhaps with him.

2. The department chair who told me funding was easy for me to get because I am a woman and work in an easy field.

3. The senior emeritus faculty who…this is a hard one to put delicately…Came up behind me at an on-campus retirement party, dropped his knees, and pushed himself up against me several times. Trust me – I had NO idea how to react, and recovering from that violation took me about 6 months.

That’s my reality of sexism in science. I can’t possibly be alone.


SCIENCE magazine retracted the June 1, 2015 ASK ALICE column because of the incredibly bad advice given to a young postdoc facing sexual harassment from her adviser. You can read the original column here, and SCIENCE’s retraction statement here.

I just sent a letter to the SCIENCE Career Editor. I hope SCIENCE recognizes that this young postdoc still needs help with her very real problem. My letter:

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