The only grey area is the elephant in the room, Part II


I was sexually harassed on multiple occasions, physically and verbally, when I was a teenager working in the food service industry, but at that point I had no idea what HR was, or even that making a complaint to a supervisor was an option. I had to laugh it off and go on with my day.

My previous post regarding harassment as a graduate student? Somehow, I also expected to have to deal with sexual harassment as a young female academic, whether it came from a student, or tenured, untouchable, senior faculty.

I did not expect to have to witness it at Harvard University, and watch it be entirely mishandled, with a fully-functioning Title IX office, not to mention a very robust HR department.

But I did.

I will not provide details on the situation, but a male co-worker in one department sexually harassed a female co-worker in my department. She ignored the first time. He did it again. She went to supervisors, HR, central admin, etc. After several months, they ruled in her favor. She let me and all my co-workers know what had happened.

And no action was taken.

We waited. Nothing.

She filed and refiled complaints, went to the Title IX office, etc. Nothing happened. Emails were not returned. No one would respond.

Our offices moved, and he had to walk through our space to get to his office.

Nothing happened. She avoided the break room, she only went into spaces where there were other people to ensure they would not be alone in the same space.

Finally, the harasser left his department. I thought it was because disciplinary action had been taken. It was not. He got another job.

They ruled in her favor on the complaint, and zero action was taken by anyone at any level of administration, including the Title IX office. And how that the offender is gone, it’s apparently not an issue anymore. Or seemingly, it never was.

Zero tolerance? I have zero confidence.


2 thoughts on “The only grey area is the elephant in the room, Part II

  1. Renee

    Unfortunately you’re not alone and it is terrible. Granted, I work at a MUCH smaller business but I have a legal obligation to respond to allegations of sexual harassment immediately as a Human Resources professional. If I do not respond I can be found personally liable for my connection to the situation. I have assisted a few SH Investigations. The action of investigating by talking to those involved to better understand what has happened is critical. It makes my stomach cringe to know that you had to go to that many people for anyone to feel it important to speak with the student let alone the reprehensible reaction when all was finished by the professor. We CAN and SHOULD do better. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Complicity | snark-aeology

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