Today’s post is a follow-up to a recent post by Dr. Rebecca Rogers Ackermann, a Biological Anthropologist at the University of Cape Town. You can read the original post by Dr. Ackermann, detailing her personal experience with harassment in anthropology, here.
Since the recent news story broke about sexual misconduct in my discipline, I have been in many conversations with colleagues and students about both this specific case and the issue of sexual misconduct and gender bias more generally. In one extended email exchange with my colleagues – some of whom are collaborators with the recently accused – we were discussing the best way to move forward with collaborations with someone who has a demonstrated history of sexual misconduct. All agreed that they would not begin new collaborations with such a person. But the question of what to do with current collaborations – ones where the work is in progress, or the research is completed but remains to be disseminated – raised a diversity of opinions. The primary concern raised by some was a need to keep the science separate from the behaviour, and resist the slippery slope that might result from mixing the two (e.g. do you take action for more minor transgressions or disagreements, or for other misdemeanours?). In this light, one possible route forward has been outlined in a recent blog post by Bernard Wood. Our conversation, and that blog post, resulted in me writing the email that I have copied below. I have left it in its original form, only making minor edits for clarification and to protect people’s identities. I hope this helps to stimulate further discussion going forward (see also this post by anthropologist Katie Hinde). This isn’t a settled matter, and we all need to keep talking about it.