TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sexual Harassment At Annual Academic Meetings

Following up on my previous post:  Inside Higher Ed, Sexual Harassment at the Annual Meeting:

Even in the era of Me Too, many academics report that annual meetings of disciplinary associations are environments where rude and/or harassing behavior is all too common. Disciplinary meetings feature large power imbalances — young scholars seeking jobs and senior scholars doing interviews. Many of those interviews take place in decidedly unprofessional locations such as hotel rooms. And some academics see these meetings as a chance to drink to excess and to encourage a (legally and ethically questionable) philosophy of "what happens at the annual meeting, stays at the annual meeting."

The American Historical Association has released a summary of a survey it conducted of those who have attended its annual meeting over any of the last five years. The association found significant minorities of its members reported that they had experienced demeaning or insulting behavior. And a small minority (but one that the association summary says is still of concern) experienced harassment of various types.

American Historical Association, Results of the 2018 AHA Survey on Sexual Harassment:

The survey posed a number of substantive questions about experiences of sexism members had encountered at AHA annual meetings in the past five years. Nearly 28 percent of the 1,656 respondents report being put down or condescended to at an AHA conference at least once. Almost 15 percent had heard sexist comments uttered in their presence; 10 percent had been the object of behavior that made them uncomfortable, such as leering, staring, or ogling.

A second set of questions queried members about behaviors that amounted specifically to sexual harassment. Seventy-seven respondents—5 percent of the total—had received unwanted attempts to establish a romantic sexual relationship at least once. Slightly more than 1.25 percent had felt bribed to engage in sexual behavior with some sort of reward or special treatment; nearly 1 percent reported being threatened with retaliation for not being “sexually cooperative”; and fully 5 percent had experienced being touched in a way that made them uncomfortable. Even though relatively few respondents recounted such offensive behaviors, the Association regards these reports as revealing unacceptable and unprofessional conduct unworthy of members of the historical profession.

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