I first went to former dean Stephen Kosslyn and Senior Vice Provost for Diversity, Judith Singer, in 2010. I provided a detailed account of the systemic gender discrimination in the department. I continued to speak out after students came to me with complaints of sexual harassment in 2012-2013. Judge Leo Sorokin ruled in Harvard’s favor, overlooking the abundance of evidence my legal team produced —– all of which remains sealed at Harvard’s request. How many lives were damaged and careers derailed because the Harvard administration did not stop this rampant behavior? Harvard continues to treat this as a “PR problem,” and seems to be primarily worried about tarnishing the brand. This is not a PR problem: this is about a climate in which sexual harassment was normalized; a climate in which the perpetrators were protected by the cowards and the complicit; a climate in which the fear of retaliation made even the decent people duck their heads and shut their mouths. #TheMissingWomen
My spirits are lifted by reading the expressions of gratitude for those professors who mentored us, encouraged us, and saw in us future colleagues with whom they would work. Isn’t it a wonderful balm to reflect on their decency midst the horrendous events at Harvard? To praise their names out loud and let them know the difference they made and make is so necessary.
Now to imagine the inverse. Let’s suppose, for those of us who identify as female, that the male professor who singled us out, praised our work, encouraged us, had ulterior motives. How devastating would that have been?
One of my academic heroes is Arturo Escobar, the brilliant and kind man so many of us admire. Oh his classes at UCSC were an intellectual feast! His mind, his breadth of insights, his humor and his mentoring: it was heady stuff to be in his classes. I suppose he could have parlayed our admiration into something unsavory: He did not. Not. Did I say not? Not.
I remember one office hour session with Arturo. Important backdrop: I worked my way (waiting tables) through college from Cabrillo Community College to my BA at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and on to my MPH and PhD at the University of California at Berkeley. I was not raised to believe I would pursue graduate studies: my mother always hoped I would marry well.
I had taken a couple of courses with Arturo Escobar, and my mind was on fire. All neurons on high alert! Also huge shout out to Sonia Alvarez, whom I admire to the moon —but the topic here is female student/male faculty mentorship. Back to the narrative thread.
So I met with Arturo during office hours, and at one point wondered out loud how I could possibly be happy being a secretary after the ideas I had been exposed to in his classes. He smiled before telling me that, of course, I would go to graduate school. He probably does not remember that conversation–it would be one among hundreds during which he mentored and encouraged his students. But I remember: it was the first time in my life that someone had mentioned graduate school to me. It shifted the horizon of my expectations, which in turned changed the trajectory of my life.
I did go on to graduate school and Arturo wrote a letter of recommendation for me. I have no doubt that his stature in the field influenced the admission committee in my favor. Thank you, Arturo, for your brilliance, inspiration and sheer goodness.
And now for a counter-factual moment. What if all the support he gave me had been nothing more than grooming me, nothing more that raising my hopes to satisfy his belief — as too many professors seem to believe—that sexual access to students was part of his compensation package? Had that been the case I know it would have ended my studies. I, a waitress working her way through college, would have lost all faith in myself. I was already the “odd one out,” a bit older than my classmates and prone to doubting myself. Had the professor I admired so much been a sexual predator, I would have left academia. After all, as a waitress I was exposed to enough harassment each time I went on my shift.
To those female students who had a serial harasser in your way: you needed an Arturo Escobar, you did not have one. And my heart truly breaks for you. It is so wrong. #TheMissingWomen
This past week has been “triggering” for many, exhausting for many more. I appreciate all who have reached out, and also know that working on the topics of sexual harassment and assault can wear us down. I believe the term is “weathering.” Call it a tempest, please. I have been inundated with messages, and want to reach out to each of you and support you. I also know I cannot. Boundaries and limits. While those of us who work on these issues — campus-based and beyond— struggle to respond, there are many more professors who are writing peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and monographs: they are probably white, cisgendered, middle classed, able-bodied males, and someone else is caring for their children or elders. Someone else cooks their meals and cleans their homes. For the rest of us: take time, take care. It may be a fleeting moment: a flash of sunshine; a canine familiar licking our ear; a loved one giving us a hug; a former student reaching out to let us know we made a difference. There are many ways to measure our days and our contributions. A resource below.
Say their names. The perpetrators. The cowards. The complicit. And these women whose names we should embrace and shout out loud. Give them support. Harvard will bring all its money and power to bear to grind them down.
Harvard issues its decision on Gary Urton and the charges of sexual misconduct. He was found guilty. Oh, if they only knew it all. I think they have chosen not to. I suggest reading Becky Cooper’s book, We Keep the Dead Close, for more information about this man.
Dear members of the Anthropology Department, Dumbarton Oaks, and Peabody Museum colleagues,
I am writing to inform you of upcoming changes within the Department of Anthropology that will occur as a result of disciplinary actions being taken regarding Dr. Gary Urton. As these changes directly impact the members of the Department, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Peabody Museum, I describe them here, as well as the findings that motivated them.
The Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) recently completed a thorough and careful review of formal allegations made against Dr. Urton and concluded that he engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct and abused power with individuals over whom he had professional responsibility. Additionally, he engaged in persistent sexual harassment of a member of the community, interfering with that individual’s ability to engage in FAS educational programs and activities. Moreover, ODR found that Dr. Urton provided materially misleading information in the course of its investigation, conduct that had the potential of subverting the integrity of the University’s investigatory processes. The ODR review documented behavior that was in violation of FAS policies on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and unprofessional conduct. In short, Dr. Urton exhibited a pattern of behavior that betrayed the trust of our community and violated our fundamental institutional values.
Given the gravity of these findings, the following sanctions have been levied against Dr. Urton:
As of June 10, 2021, Dr. Urton has been stripped of his emeritus appointment.
All rights and privileges customarily conferred by the FAS on faculty who hold emeritus appointments, as listed in the FAS Appointment and Promotion Handbook, have been revoked, including:
- He may not hold the title of emeritus Professor or Research Professor
- He may not teach any undergraduate students or GSAS students
- He may not advise any GSAS graduate students
- He will not have any Library privileges
- He will not have a Harvard email address or access to IT services through the FAS
- He will not have any office space within the FAS
- He will not be allowed to raise funds through the FAS, nor will he have any access to any research funding through the FAS
- He will not have access to any administrative support
- He will not be allowed to attend FAS Faculty Meetings as a guest or in any other capacity
- And he will not receive any FAS mailings to the community.
Dr. Urton is no longer welcome on any part of the FAS campus or to attend any FAS-sponsored events held off campus. In addition, the President has agreed to place the same sanction on the entire Harvard campus and on all Harvard-sponsored events.
The sanctions described above are proportionate to the severity of the behavior observed and seek to uphold and further our shared community standards and the safe, fair, and respectful environment necessary to promote academic excellence. I remind all members of our community that if you witness or experience sexual or gender-based harassment, there are many resources available, including the FAS Title IX Coordinators, the University Office for Gender Equity, Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services, the Harvard Chaplains, and the Employee Assistance Program.
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences