The advisor female students don't want

1 minute read

Kate Clancy has thankfully continued her series of posts about sexual harassment and fieldwork, and I want to direct the current post to the attention of everyone in academic anthropology: “Retrograde Reactions: Lady in the Field on the Aftermath of Sexual Misconduct”. The entire story is chilling, but I wanted to emphasize the following, in which the student’s graduate advisor capitulates to a colleague, “F.”, who wants to sweep another colleague’s harassment under the rug:

My graduate advisor agreed with me that F.s reactions were retrograde. He valued the collaboration with F., however, and pointed out that my taking formal action would effectively terminate that collaboration. As a student dependent on my advisor for research funds, supervision, and credentialing, I chose not to pursue formal action.

Sadly, there are many students who cannot count on their graduate advisors to stick up for them in matters of university policy. Some supervisors of graduate students are cowards who allow themselves to be bullied by prominent researchers who can deny them access to field sites.

Sexual harassment is uniquely malevolent but it is not an isolated pattern of behavior. Senior researchers create circumstances where harassment is a likely outcome when they bully their subordinates, harangue other scholars at conferences, and use access to field sites or materials as a reward for scientific agreement.

I warn my talented undergraduates about situations like these and steer them toward graduate programs with adequate protection for students. Moreover, when field situations are unsafe for students, we should not reward them with grant renewals. Graduate advisors must not tolerate harassment of their students, and should know that the community is more powerful than the bullies.