This letter is to alert the community to ongoing online harassment by a registered sex offender who targets individuals in geomorphology and related fields. This has been a problem for many years. The offender, who has an Earth Science degree and self-identifies as a geomorphologist, has spent time in prison on charges of attempted sexual assault. To our knowledge, more than 80 women have received hostile, sexually explicit, or threatening emails. Some of these emails include pornographic videos. He is also known to target senior researchers, including men, describing his scientific ideas and critiquing established concepts and well-known publications in the field. He is currently not associated with any academic, government, or private-sector institutions.
Harassment and intimidating behavior of any kind, whether it be in person or online, is not acceptable. Harassment due to sex and gender are prohibited in the U.S. Due to the online and interstate nature of this harassment, legal redress has proven difficult. The emails come from different email addresses, which makes it difficult to block accounts. Advice from campus police forces have been contradictory, in some cases advising women to delete their professional websites and contact information from the internet. This is not only difficult but has the insidious effect of further marginalizing women from the field.
Because of the pervasive nature of the harassing communications, it is imperative that all members of the geomorphology and related fields are aware of the problem and acknowledge that female graduate students, postdocs, and senior scientists are being preferentially targeted. We hope that open and public recognition will alert new women in the field who may receive these harassing emails with no warning, or who may have been receiving them and felt threatened and isolated. You are not alone in this experience. We believe you, support you, and want you to remain a part of our community. Senior scientists should recognize that their own students may be (or may become) targets of these hostile emails and recognize that this harassment can affect professional performance and personal wellbeing.
The community should work together to provide support for those who are experiencing this and other forms of harassment and to seek long-term solutions so that everyone can participate and engage fully as scientists.
If you have been affected by this online harassment we suggest taking the following steps:
- Report the incidents to your campus or local police.
- Document the harassment by saving all emails. Consider setting up a filter so that these emails bypass your inbox and go directly to a designated folder.
- Forward these emails to geomorph.harassment AT gmail.com. As we seek more permanent solutions, it is helpful to have documentation of the scope of this problem. This inbox has been set up to serve as a clearinghouse for these harassing emails. If you have received these emails and want more information about the situation, contact this address to be connected with someone. Leaders in the community have agreed to monitor this inbox.
- If you are comfortable doing so, consider responding to the harassing emails with a short statement such as, “These are inappropriate emails. Do not contact me in any way in the future.” In at least one known case, this led to a several-year hiatus in contact.
- Your campus or healthcare provider are good places for counseling and mental health and wellness support. Initiatives such as HeartMob, by the organization Hollaback!, provide additional resources for supporting targets, educating communities, and mobilizing activists and can be found online at: https://iheartmob.org/
The offender’s name and identifying information have been purposefully omitted.
Please consider signing this petition to NSF : http://bit.ly/2B3tA24 .
In light of recent publications of longstanding sexual and physical harassment and abuse in the field, we request that the NSF-directed US Antarctic Program clarify its policies for reporting harassment, investigations of allegations, and enforcements of codes of conduct. Recent events show that domineering behaviors, mainly by men in power positions (Principal Investigator, lead scientist, senior camp member, etc.) are more common when victims do not feel empowered to speak out. However, the remote and physically-challenging environment of Antarctic make this a special case, and a potentially more dangerous one.
Among changes sought by this letter and the signees below, we ask that:
- NSF remove responsibility from individual university investigatory units (Title IX, Title VII, etc.) by taking responsibility through its own investigatory office.
Many field camps are composed of investigators from several different universities, blurring the lines of who is responsible to investigate reported incidences.
Individual universities develop policies mainly based on the experiences of young students living in dormitories on a relatively safe campus; they are ill-equipped to investigate field conditions in Antarctic. Individual universities cannot be expected to develop policies for unique situations that may only apply to a miniscule proportion of employees.
- NSF outline clear procedures and jurisdiction for reporting and investigation of incidences of abuse in the field and on ships.
- NSF develop a singular and enforceable code of conduct that all scientists working under all auspices of the US Antarctic Program will read, understand, and sign.
A major focus of Title IX and Title VII guidelines is retaliation. Because retaliation can be vetted through the scientific review process over which individual universities have no authority, NSF should develop a clear set of policies that minimizes the chances for respondents to review complainants’ and witnesses’ proposals.
(login information is found on the petition site)
An open letter from women of science:
Science is foundational in a progressive society, fuels innovation, and touches the lives of every person on this planet. The anti-knowledge and anti-science sentiments expressed repeatedly during the U.S. presidential election threaten the very foundations of our society. Our work as scientists and our values as human beings are under attack. We fear that the scientific progress and momentum in tackling our biggest challenges, including staving off the worst impacts of climate change, will be severely hindered under this next U.S. administration. Our planet cannot afford to lose any time.
In this new era of anti-science and misinformation, we as women scientists re-affirm our commitment to build a more inclusive society and scientific enterprise. We reject the hateful rhetoric that was given a voice during the U.S. presidential election and which targeted minority groups, women, LBGTQIA, immigrants, and people with disabilities, and attempted to discredit the role of science in our society. Many of us feel personally threatened by this divisive and destructive rhetoric and have turned to each other for understanding, strength, and a path forward. We are members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. We are immigrants. We are people with disabilities. We are LBGTQIA. We are scientists. We are women.
Across the globe, women in science face discrimination, unequal pay, and reduced opportunities. Our work to overcome the longer-term degradation of the role science plays in society did not start with this election, but this election has re-ignited our efforts. As women scientists, we are in the position to take action to increase diversity in science and other disciplines. We resolve to continue our pursuits with renewed passion and to find innovative solutions to the problems we face in the U.S. and abroad. Together, we pledge to:
- Identify and acknowledge structural inequalities and biases that affect the potential of every person to fulfill their goals;
- Push for equality and stand up to inequality, discrimination, and aggression;
- Push to strengthen the support for traditionally under-represented groups to fully participate in and become leaders in science;
- Support the education and careers of all scientists;
- Step outside of our research disciplines to communicate our science and engage with the public;
- Use every day as an opportunity to demonstrate to young girls and women that they are welcome and needed in science;
- Set examples through mentorship and through fostering an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration, not one of divisiveness;
- Use the language of science to bridge the divides that separate societies and to enhance global diplomacy.
Today, we invite the women in science and our colleagues to declare our support to each other and to all minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LBGTQIA. Our scientific work may be global, yet we will take action in our own communities and we will work towards an inclusive society, where science and knowledge can be embraced and everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.
As women in science, as role models to young girls and women, as leaders in our communities, we accept this challenge. Join us.