AAA statement on sexual harassment in field projects

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Following up on Saturday’s post, “AAPA hears about ongoing abuse of students at field sites”, the American Anthropological Association has issued a statement: “Zero tolerance for sexual harassment”.

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is shocked and dismayed to learn about the results of a recent survey reported at the April 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Knoxville, TN. The AAA has zero tolerance for sexual harassment in academic, professional, fieldwork or any other settings where our members work. While the AAA does not have adjudicatory authority over these matters, our Statement on Ethics: Code of Professional Responsibility sets out our clear expectation that anthropologists have a responsibility to maintain respectful relationships with others. In mentoring students, interacting with colleagues, working with clients, acting as a reviewer or evaluator, or supervising staff, anthropologists should comport themselves in ways that promote an equitable, supportive and sustainable workplace environment.
We deplore the reported incidents of sexual harassment, and expect employers and institutions of higher education to enforce the law as well as their specific anti-harassment policies for implementing the law. While sexual harassment is an issue that affects men and women alike, women bear the greatest burden of these incidents by far. The AAA has a long-term commitment to monitoring the status of women in anthropology through the Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology, renamed in 2011 the Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology. We encourage harassment victims who do not feel that adequate protections are available through their employer or home institution to contact the Associations Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology confidentially for advice.

I appreciate how rapidly the AAA has acted to make this statement. It would be wonderful to see how pervasive these problems are in other subfields including archaeology and cultural anthropology.

Field sites are workplaces, although many are not supervised or sponsored by American universities. Naturally students at a field site run by their university should be protected by the university’s policies on harassment and other workplace crimes, yet that responsibility has not been met in many cases, where student reports have been ignored. For field sites with inadequate policies or protections, I think it is especially important for the field of anthropology to take action to promote appropriate protocols and protections.