Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Peter Rathjen: Serial sexual predator, pedophile protector, and manifestation of all that is rotten at the University of Adelaide?

Peter Rathjen is a well known biochemist and molecular biologist, and, most recently, was a Vice-Chancellor and president of the University of Adelaide in Australia. Earlier this month, however, he was forced to step down when he became the subject of a misconduct investigation by South Australia's Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC.)

ICAC investigations are normally top secret, with serious penalties for journalists or individuals who divulge confidential information. Although the inquiry has been widely reported in the Australian press, as far as I know only The Australian has provided a reason for it: That Rathjen had engaged in "a personal relationship with a staff member." (Depending on where you access this article, it may be behind a paywall.)

(Just 24 hours earlier, the university's Chancellor, Kevin Scarce, resigned his position. While the reasons are still unclear, there are no allegations of misconduct being reported as of yet.)

Although I have talked to sources at the university, I cannot claim to know more than that at the moment, as information concerning the matter has been closely guarded. I do, however, know something about Rathjen's long history of alleged misconduct, which includes chronic and widely known sexual harassment at the University of Adelaide during his earlier tenure there as a professor and department chair; a misconduct case at a major Australian university which found him guilty of sexual assault against a student; and, while Vice-Chancellor at the University of Tasmania, his alleged protection of the notorious pedophile Nicolaas Bester, who re-offended while a PhD student at UTAS.

Rathjen first came on my radar last year when I was reporting on the case of Alan Cooper, formerly chief of Adelaide's ancient DNA center, who has since been fired for misconduct. A number of women who had been at the university during Rathjen's earlier tenure there (1990-2006) approached me, concerned that Rathjen would be making the final decision about Cooper's fate. At that time, I was told by multiple sources, Rathjen had developed a well known reputation as a sexual harasser. The sources included individuals who had directly experienced this behavior.

The Alan Cooper case revealed that misconduct, including bullying and sexual harassment, had been tolerated at the University of Adelaide for many years. Thus, while complaints against Cooper were made to the university administration beginning in 2006, the first full year that he was in charge of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), administrators ignored them until last year, when survivors of the abuse finally began to go public. Media coverage in the Australian press, along with major scientific journals such as Science and Nature, made it impossible for Adelaide officials to continue covering up for Cooper, despite the major prestige that ACAD had brought to the university.

(Cooper is currently appealing his firing, and a hearing on the matter is expected around July. University staff have been interviewing and re-interviewing many of the original complainants to get their case ready.)

Faye McCallum

Bullying and nepotism in the School of Education, abuse of staff at the Adelaide Dental School.

Soon after I began reporting on Alan Cooper, sources within the university began to approach me with allegations of misconduct in other schools and departments. The first such case concerned the head of the School of Education, Faye McCallum. Again, multiple sources testified to an atmosphere of bullying and harassment in the school; in August 2018, the National Tertiary Education Union NTEU), which represents employees in Australian higher education, was forced to write to Jennie Shaw, executive dean in the faculty of arts, because no action against the numerous complaints of bullying, overwork, abuse, and questionable staff appointments had been taken despite numerous complaints. Unfortunately, on May 15, Shaw announced that McCallum had been given a two-year extension of her appointment as head of the School of Education. That fight goes on.

Meanwhile, very similar complaints have arisen in the world-class Adelaide Dental School, which over the last few years has seen its autonomy eroded by the edicts of university administrators. Earlier this year, NTEU conducted a confidential survey which included questions about health and safety, bullying, and confidence in senior school and faculty management. About 80% of staff gave negative responses, according to an April 6, 2020 letter from Cheryl Baldwin--division industrial organizer for the NTEU's South Australia division--to Benjamin Kile, executive dean of Adelaide's Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. I have considerable documentation of the alleged abuses and will be reporting on them in more detail soon.

Grace Tame

Peter Rathjen: Sexual assault, protecting a pedophile, ---?

As I mentioned above, during Rathjen's tenure at a major Australian university, he was found guilty of sexual assault against a student. As this is a very sensitive matter, kept strictly secret, I am not identifying the university in question to protect sources. I hope to be able to say more soon, but there is no doubt about the truth of the matter. Australian academic culture, like the academic culture of most countries, is rife with retaliation and threats of retaliation. The level of fear about speaking out is quite high, especially as Australian science is still largely ruled by an old boys' club in which women (and many men) are the subject of constant intimidation.

This brings us to the case of Nicolaas Bester, one of Australia's most notorious pedophiles. Bester was convicted of grooming and sexually assaulted a 15 year old girl, Grace Tame, while a teacher at St. Michael's Collegiate School in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2011, Bester was sentenced to two years and ten months in jail for his crimes. But due to archaic Tasmanian laws (also enforced in Australia's Northern Territory) that purport to protect victims but actually mask the identity of abusers, Tame had to wait nine years before she could speak out about what happened to her. With the help of journalist and anti-sexual assault advocate Nina Funnell, Tame scored a historic win in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, winning the right to identify herself and name her abuser.

(Funnell wrote a number of articles about the Bester case, including one in which Bester claimed to have been the real victim.)

Bester later entered a graduate program in chemistry at the University of Tasmania (UTAS.). And in 2016, while a PhD student there, Bester was sentenced again to four months in jail for remarks he made on social media about his abuse of Grace Tame, including calling his abuse of her "awesome" and "enviable." A judge ruled that this behavior amounted to the production of child exploitation material online, which seems a reasonable decision at the very least.

Enter Peter Rathjen again. After Bester served his new jail sentence, he returned to the University of Tasmania campus, where Rathjen was Vice-Chancellor, to continue his PhD work, unimpeded by any action from the university administration. That failure to protect students led, in spring of 2017, to a petition campaign calling upon the university to ban him. The campaign was led by the UTAS Women's Collective, and ultimately gathered more than 1600 signatures. "Myself and many others are incredibly disappointed with the University of Tasmania for not removing Nicolaas Bester from campus," said Heidi La Paglia, a member of the collective who started the petition.

The university refused to take any action. According to my sources, Rathjen was instrumental in the decision to allow Bester to finish his graduate work. But both he and Bester had their supporters. Chief among them was the well known Australian barrister Greg Barns, an advocate for prison reform and staunch defender of Julian Assange. In a Twitter exchange with me after he saw my social media posts on Rathjen and the Bester case--in which he accused me of engaging in a "sleazy trial by media campaign"--Barns praised the former UTAS Vice-Chancellor, saying that "Rathjen behaved impeccably and in accordance with the rule of law and fairness."

To sum up simply: It appears that Peter Rathjen has been involved in sexual misconduct, both as an abuser and an enabler, for most of his career. There may be some irony in the fact that his career will probably end in Adelaide, where his reputation as a serial sexual predator first began.

There will be more to say about this soon, and I will post updates here.

Monday, May 11, 2020

On not being reappointed: A farewell message to my university department at City College of New York

Some weeks ago, I was informed by my department at City College of New York, that I would not be reappointed to teach my Introduction to Journalism class. Today I had the opportunity to address a "farewell" all of my fellow faculty and staff members. Here it is below:

It has been a great pleasure and honor for me this past academic year to teach Introduction to Journalism and work with [dept chair Jerry [Carlson] and acting journalism program director Barbara Nevins Taylor.

I hope you don't mind my saying a few parting words, as I have not been reappointed to teach again in the fall due to projected budget and enrollment cutbacks (although the enrollment is not at all sure at this point.)

This is despite my receiving the highest course evaluations last semester than in my entire teaching career (a career which spans Boston University and New York University, where I taught before coming to City.)

PSC-CUNY, and its president Barbara Bowen, are on record opposing any and all layoffs of adjunct faculty and other staff. Although the pandemic provides a "good excuse" to the CUNY administration and to Albany to make life for our working class students even more difficult than it already is, I want to make a plea to all of you to not let this happen without a fight--a serious fight.

Over the past academic year I have attended most of the MCA department meetings, which was easy for me to do since my Thursday class down the hall ended just before they began. I have been witness to the frustration of the full-time faculty that few to none of our reasonable requests were being addressed seriously by the administration, long before this pandemic became yet one more rationale for ignoring or refusing them.

Now, more than ever, the fate and working conditions of full-time and part-time faculty, along with students and staff, are bound up together. That means the conditions are better than ever for a common fight against cutbacks and layoffs. We are already in a situation where working class students get a raw deal while private universities with huge endowments and the pick of the relatively well off students sail on merrily; and those universities will no doubt survive this crisis relatively intact.

To tell our working class students that they must bear the brunt of yet another wave of cutbacks is unconscionable. We have too easily accepted the "there's no money" excuses we are handed every academic year, while tax rates for millionaires and billionaires are ever more generous, and Albany seems to find money for the projects it deems of highest priority to politicians and their donors.

Can we not, for once, just take this lying down? If you are not a member of the union, please join, and push its leadership to be as militant as possible in opposing cutbacks. Don't tell students, oh, there's nothing you can do about it, because that would be a betrayal of young men and women who have made great sacrifices to get the education I know we all want to give them. And, quite frankly, it is not true. There is plenty we could do about if we had the will and the determination to fight not just for our own jobs and working conditions, but for the students whose welfare and future is our chosen mission.

With best wishes to all,

Stay safe and well,


cc. Pam Stemberg [PSC-CUNY campus chair]

Michael Balter
Writer/reporter (anthropology, #MeToo, mental health, environment)
Adjunct Lecturer (Journalism),
   City College of New York
Paris correspondent, Science 1991-2016
Adjunct Professor of Journalism "emeritus,"
   New York University and Boston University

"Lying is done with words and also with silence." --Adrienne Rich

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Field school directors ask why umbrella archaeology group has failed to respond to serious allegations related to sexual assault, coverups, bullying and retaliatory firings [Updated May 12: A letter from Ran Boytner giving his response to the allegations, and my rebuttal of yet more lies]

Willeke Wendrich
Last month, I reported on a series of very serious allegations concerning the executive director of the Institute for Field Research, Ran Boytner. The IFR is a sort of umbrella organization that sponsors archaeological field schools all around the world, charging students significant amounts of money for living, working, and excavating at sites across the globe. The allegations included a case of sexual assault by Boytner against a field school student; covering up sexual assault allegations against other archaeologists serving as field school directors; lying to colleagues about what he knew about such allegations; bullying and sexually harassing staff members at the IFR's offices in Los Angeles; and firing staff members in retaliation for whistleblowing.

As I pointed out in the original report, some IFR board members, including the immediate former chair of the organization's board of governors, UCLA Cotsen Institute director Willeke Wendrich, have actively worked to cover up this alleged misconduct by Boytner, including lying to me and others about what they knew not only about Boytner's history--but also about a field school director who had been found guilty herself of retaliating against students (Danielle Kurin of UC Santa Barbara.)

The allegations have been greatly disturbing to many field school directors who work under the IFR umbrella, both out of concern for the students they are responsible for, and for their own reputations. Within the past few days, a group of IFR field school directors wrote to the IFR board, as well as their fellow field school directors, to express their concerns. With thanks to the sources who provided me with the text of the email, I am reproducing it here:

Dear IFR field school directors-

You are cc'd and bcc'd on this email because your contact information appears under your respective field school faculty on the IFR website. This may be relevant to all those affiliated with your program, so we encourage you to share this with any instructors who are not listed there.

First and foremost, we sincerely hope that you and your families are healthy and safe wherever you are in the world. Since our collective attention is now focused on other pressing issues, perhaps not all of you are aware of the recent public allegations made against certain IFR staff, board members and field school directors. You can read those here:

These extremely serious allegations seem to be substantiated by official records and corroborating testimonies from multiple sources. Many of us trusted Michael Balter’s reporting in the past, including those IFR board members who took a firm public stance against the SAA mishandling of the Yesner case.

It has been over a month since these allegations were published, but so far not a single statement from the IFR. Several of us are already receiving anxious emails and phone calls from colleagues, administrators, students and their parents. And many of us feel that coronavirus, universities' closure and the IFR summer program cancellation cannot justify this prolonged silence, especially since the IFR keeps announcing to the world that they (i.e.- we) are already working on preparing the 2021 cycle and are asking students to defer their fees to reserve seats on our programs.

Cc’d here are three of our fellow IFR field school directors who are also members of the IFR board of directors. Dr. Willeke Wendrich, Dr. Jason De Leon, and Dr. Emily Lindsey: we implore you to reply directly to with an update on this situation. To protect the privacy of our colleagues, we will then share these updates with all those bcc’d here (unless opted out- see below.)

Primarily, we will appreciate if you can inform us if there has been an internal/external investigation and, if so, what were the conclusions. At the very least, the IFR owes its field school directors a clarification as to the validity of these serious allegations, and why do you think we should continue our affiliation with the organization.

This is not just about yours and the IFR’s reputation. It is also about ours. Our names, faces, and contact information are posted on the website for all to see, so your continuing silence on these allegations may only implicate others by association and further hold us responsible for any future harm that may befall students who come to our programs. Beyond academic reputation, informing your stakeholders of any safety concern is obviously the responsible thing to do.

We believe that all those cc'd and bcc'd here hold great respect to the IFR and the support it has provided our projects over the years. We share the hope that the IFR will emerge from these challenging times a much better organization. But now, at least several of us strongly feel that it will be highly unethical to continue our commitment until these issues are clarified and dealt with. Without a formal response we also won’t be able to recommend the IFR to our students nor would we continue to refer colleagues to its services.

Anyone bcc’d here who wishes to be removed from this list, please hit reply with the word “Remove” in the subject line.

Respectfully submitted-

Your fellow field school directors.

Although the IFR board has been in touch with field school directors about the cancellation of this year's season due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has not yet responded to this email. I should also point out that I have repeatedly asked Ran Boytner, Willeke Wendrich, and others affiliated with IFR to respond to these allegations, but they have declined to do so.

I will update this blog post as soon as it is merited by further developments.

Update May 5, 2020: Ran Boytner has just been removed from the IFR's staff page. The other staff members were furloughed last month and removed from the site then. Interesting, his name has also been removed from the "Our Story" page, where he was previously named as a founder of the organization. Seems quite possible Boytner has now been fired. Updates as they become available.

Update May 7, 2020: While IFR field school directors are still waiting for the institute's board to explain why executive director and co-founder Ran Boytner is no longer listed on the IFR Web page (he has been erased from its online memory, it appears, even from the "Our Story" page), former board of governors chair (and current board member) Willeke Wendrich has taken the moral high road on education secretary Betsy DeVos's terrible changes to Title IX procedures. Wendrich, who is also the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, issued a statement yesterday decrying the changes, which in the guise of protecting the rights of the accused put victims of abuse in peril of being retraumatized via cross examination by their abusers.

Wendrich's "Director's Message" includes the following very apt passage:

Archaeology has a checkered past in which the perceived freedom of being in a remote field camp, far away from the normal social standards, in 24/7 proximity, has led to life-long friendships as well as egregious abuse. As a discipline we are slowly coming to terms with the shadow sides of that history and the long shadows it throws into the present. We do so by being explicit, by naming the gains and the problems of our situation in academia and in the field, and by offering open ears and arms to those who either have suffered sexual violence, or those who ‘merely’ have an uneasy feeling that something is not right in a certain relationship, second guessing themselves until it is too late.

To many IFR field school directors and other archaeologists, Wendrich's statement, while true to the spirit of the #MeToo movement in the sciences, smacks of serious hypocrisy given IFR's failure to be transparent about the allegations against its executive director. As a group of field school directors wrote me today:

While we fully agree with the spirit of the statement, we also find this to be extremely hypocritical and self-righteous that she finds the time and words to react to UCLA's Chancellors, but not to the IFR community when it comes to its "shadowy history" of sexual assault and harassment. Many of us are still waiting for a formal statement that we can take back to OUR respective administrations, colleagues, and students. This is outrageous.

As it stands now, we feel that Wendrich's words equally apply to the allegations and coverups within her own organization.

It is well past time for the IFR board to come clean with its field directors, its students, and other interested parties about any investigations it is conducting into Boytner's conduct and the findings--including just why he has been "disappeared" from the Web site. As always, I will report any updates in this matter.

Update May 11: Ran Boytner speaks.

Below is an email that Boytner sent to a large number of recipients. It is full of lies and distortions, but I will respond to it in detail tomorrow in a new post. Interesting, Boytner doees not address the question of why his name has been completely removed from the IFR Web page and whether or not he is still the executive director of the organization. Since he states clearly that he is speaking for himself and not the IFR board of governors, it remains very puzzling that the board has been entirely silent on the matter (Boytner's statement at the end of this letter that the board has been in touch with all the field directors is another lie.)

From: Ran Boytner <>
Date: Mon, May 11, 2020 at 2:07 PM  
Subject: Cyberbullying and the IFR

In the past couple of months, the IFR have been the subject of a cyberbullying and disinformation campaign. In a classic disinformation campaign, attacks are based on partial truths, spins and lies. The story is manipulated, self-cited and then presented as new facts. It is time to inform the community and provide facts on this serious matter. Please note that this comes from my personal email and therefore, represent my position only. I intend to first address the accusations and then discuss the credibility of the attackers. This email is a bit long but I am trying to address the main issues raised.

The IFR had been accused of covering up accusations against Danielle Kurin. A blogger suggested that Willeke Wendrich, Kevin Vaughn and myself should have known about accusations and Title IX investigation against her. Here are the facts: Ten days before the field school directed by Kurin in Peru for summer 2016 was to begin, UCLA legal department contacted the IFR and asked for the program to be canceled. Health and safety issues were cited as reason and no other information was provided. UCLA went out of its way to support the students, and together with the IFR, students were either placed at other field schools or received full refunds. These included all airfare costs. There was no threat of legal action as the above refund policy was implemented immediately.

The blogger then accused the IFR for a cover up of Kurin’s transactions, although he does not explain why so many people engaged is such activity and what was their gain (there are 19 members at the IFR Board of Governors and Academic Board). He wrote that Wendrich “must have known” and therefore did know but did not share. Kevin Vaughn – then UCLA Extension Associate Dean and the then IFR academic partner – also must have known. And I knew just because, well, because I am a bad person and bad people know bad things. Here are the facts: As the blogger contacted the IFR about our relationships with Kurin, Wendrich was appointed to act as the IFR spokesperson. She then issued a number of statements over the course of a week to the blogger. The blogger did not line the statements and became rude and aggressive. On March 12 at 4:17pm, Wendrich sent an email to the blogger, writing she is no longer interested in interacting with him. By 4:28pm of that day, the blogger twitted: “I now have reason to believe that the chair of @IFRArchaeology's board of governors, Willeke Wendrich of UCLA, is lying about what IFR knew and when it knew it. This means the top leadership of the organization is involved in a #MeToo coverup.” What new information became available to the blogger in the 11 minutes between the email and the twit is unclear and unstated.

Whether Kevin Vaughn knew about the investigation is irrelevant. Vaughn worked at the time for UCLA and his duties were to his employer, not IFR. The investigation was confidential, and Vaughn was bound by both law and ethics to keep it as such – until told otherwise. To discuss a confidential investigation with anyone outside UCLA would have exposed Vaughn to serious legal ramification. The blogger suggest that Vaughn should have spread rumors and inform the IFR Board of the investigation that way. Making decisions by rumors is not an advisable way for any organization to take decisions.
There is no explanation why I should have known about the investigation, why I wanted to cover up or what I gained from such behavior. I am, therefore, unable to provide any rational explanation to the blogger’s accusation.

During summer 2017, the IFR sent two archaeologists to visit with Kurin’s field school at two separate occasions. Their reports and the evaluations of over 35 students were highly positive and the IFR Board decided to continue and to work with Kurin. By 2018, events at the Peru-Wari program caused the IFR to stop working with Kurin and her team.
The blogger accused the IFR in general, and myself specifically, of racism. In 2014/15, the IFR enrollment system came under attack from hackers with Nigerian email addresses. Security systems put in place flagged those attacks and each application was checked manually for authenticity and then removed from the system. The fact that these group of hackers came with Nigerian email addresses does not mean that they were unique or special because they came from Africa. In fact, hacking attacks on the IFR are ongoing and as the IFR Executive Director, I invested heavily in cyber security systems. I think that I am strongly anti-hackers – whether from Africa or anywhere else.

The Blogger accused me of sexual harassment while at the IFR. In early 2015, I had a difficult exchange of words with an IFR employee. To ensure fairness, I asked the IFR Board to conduct an investigation. Three board members were appointed (two female and one male) and engaged with all IFR employees and an HR specialist. On March 3, 2015, the committee wrote to me: “You asked that we form an ad hoc committee to conduct this investigation and take such action as deemed prudent……The committee’s investigation and subsequent deliberation lead us to the following conclusions: (1) No claim of harassment or discrimination has been made against you as the Executive Director or against the IFR; (2) The committee found no evidence of harassment or discrimination having occurred”. There was no whistle blower complaint, nor was there any harassment or inappropriate behavior. That employee was later let go. But not because of the event mentioned above. As the chart below shows, enrollment for the IFR 2016 summer programs was declining. Because the IFR funds its own operation from student fees, it was necessary to cut staff members. Given there were only two people working for the IFR at the time (one more person was an outside contractor), that employee was laid off.

The blogger discussed a 2009 Title IX investigation against me while I was at UCLA. Due to legal restriction, I am unable to discuss the details. I wish I would have been released from this obligation, but such a release was not granted. So all I can do is refer to the blogger’s text. The blogger wrote that I was accused of serious violations and sexual assault and harassment. He also wrote that none was substantiated, and that UCLA investigation found I did not violate university policy. Again, I wish I could comment beyond this, but I cannot. All I can say is that UCLA investigation was as thorough and conducted by a professional.
It is important to note that the IFR was the first ever organization to create and enforce a sexual harassment and discrimination policy for field work. Unlike any organization I know of, the IFR sends senior staff or board members to investigate such complains in the field – usually within 24 hours of the time such complaint is made. The IFR has a long record of discussing harassment and discrimination issues during orientation with students, during site visits with faculty and establishing a hotline for anyone to contact the organization with complaints. To make sure the policy is enforced, mandatory student evaluations includes several questions asking about that issue. All of the above were my initiatives so I believe the facts demonstrate I care deeply about the issue.

The blogger accused me of bullying staff members. Since inception, the IFR grew – on average – 22% each year. That means that the only constant at the IFR was change. Change is difficult for any employee to manage but it is especially true with nonprofits, where funding is limited and everyone are asked to multi task and work hard. A Wall Street Journal article published today discuss this and similar issues (see attached). A good read that provides some interesting context. By early 2019, the IFR hired a consulting firm to help manage HR and employee expectations and major improvements were made and implemented since.

The blogger accused me of greed. As I mentioned to anyone I met, the IFR model is designed to create an alternative funding stream for scholars to conduct research. Furthermore, it is designed to establish strong and positive incentives for scholars to excel in both research and teaching. No more field schools as labor camps but places of real teaching and real engagement with students and the public. By 2019, the IFR became the fourth largest funder of academic archaeology research in the US (behind NSF, NEH and National Geographic). For that aggressive growth, I am very proud as I think both scholars and student benefited tremendously. Did I benefit personally? IFR tax records are public document. Anyone can check those and evaluate for themselves. After 10 year of work at the IFR, my annual salary was only slightly over an entry level Assistant Professor salary, and with significantly less benefits. But don’t take my word for it. Check it for yourself (for your convenience, Part VII Section A list my salary).

It is time to discuss the accuser himself. Michael Balter calls himself a blogger and a journalist, advocating against harassment and bullying. As demonstrated above, he cares little about facts, checking the record or doing any footwork – as any decent journalist must do. Balter calls for a financial audit of the IFR but never read the IFR annual tax filing – all public record available online. Balter calls for a Registrar of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) investigation into my ethical behavior, but is not a member himself and did not bring any charges – as required by RPA Code of Conduct – against me. I attempted to file a complaint against Balter under Section 2.2(i) for that conduct (“falsely or maliciously attempt to injure the reputation of another archaeologist”) but cannot do that until he becomes a member. Maybe most important is the fact that Balter himself is a serious bully. During the 2019 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Albuquerque (NW), Balter was eject from the meeting by the SAA board for bullying behavior. I have been a member of the SAA for almost 30 years and never heard of such ejection in the past. I am not sure Balter is allowed back to the SAA but given his cyberbullying activity, I venture to guess that he may not be allowed to come back.

The only thing Balter craves is attention. I think it is best to give him none.
There have been anonymous emails from people suggesting they are field school directors, parents or students making a range of demands. It is difficult to address anonymous complaints that are vague, quote the blogger as a reliable source and provide no additional details. Given that the board spoke with all field school directors and none indicate they have specific concerns, it is difficult to believe any of these anonymous emails are authentic.


Ran Boytner

Update May 12: Boytner's response features lies of commission and lies of omission.

I've given a lot of thought overnight about how best to respond to Boytner's email, reproduced above, which purports to be a response to the many allegations against him. I do want to point out that I asked Boytner many times to respond to the accusations before publishing my original blog post about them, but he never responded (neither did other members of the board when asked to comment on the Boytner allegations specifically.)

I want to spare readers a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal to his lies, other than to say that I stand by all statements made in the original post.

I will, however, comment very briefly on some of the assertions he makes above:

--Both Boytner and Vaughn did know, in 2016, about the Title IX findings against Danielle Kurin. That is supported by both documents and witness evidence. Later, in 2018, when Boytner and IFR allowed Kurin to hold her field school in Peru under IFR sponsorship, Boytner lied to colleagues and told them that Kurin had been exonerated by the UC Santa Barbara Title IX process. He knew was a lie when he said it (and it contradicts his insistence that he had no way of knowing that there was a Title IX case in the first place.)

--I refer readers back to the original post for the details of Boytner's racism. Note that his explanation above is completely at odd with those multiply sourced facts. Even Willeke Wendrich had to ask why a student from Ethiopia she knew (not Nigeria) was denied a field school slot.

--Boytner is essentially accusing former members of staff of lying about the sexual harassment and bullying they suffered while under his supervision. Again, there are multiple witnesses to these detailed allegations, as outlined in the original post.

--The evidence concerning Boytner's sexual harassment case at UCLA is clear, well documented, and the subject of a number of direct witnesses. The fact that UCLA gave him a pass is not surprising for that pre #MeToo era and is irrelevant to the actual facts.

--Boytner's statement about the events at the 2019 SAA meeting really give the game away. It is widely acknowledged in the archaeology community that the SAA leadership failed to protect victims of a sexual predator (David Yesner, formerly of the U of Alaska) who was present at the meeting, and whom I escorted out of the building. In essence, Boytner sympathizes with the sexual predator and refers to him as a victim of my "bullying."

--Finally, Boytner states that the IFR board of governors has spoken with all the field directors. That is not true. I won't call it a lie right now, because perhaps someone on the board has told him that. If so, it raises the question of exactly what the board is doing and why it will not clarify Boytner's status with the organization (the removal of his name completely from the IFR Web site suggests he is no longer employed by the institute, but that's for the board to say.)

I will continue to report on these matters as new updates are available. My thanks to the many honest colleagues who have helped with this investigation despite risks to their careers.

Update: I am bringing up, from the Comments section below, the posting of one colleague on the Danielle Kurin matter. This is consistent with what others have told me, and provides further evidence that Boytner is lying now, and was lying in 2016 and in 2018, about what he knew about the Title IX investigation of Kurin. The question remains why Boytner was so keen to have Kurin's field school go ahead in 2018 despite what he knew; at that field school, Kurin's partner sexually assaulted one and possibly two female students. I have long wondered if the IFR board's silence has been dictated by lawyers who want to protect the institute from lawsuits.

I can confirm, albeit anonymously for now, that Boytner told me in 2016 that Kurin’s case at UCSB was related to an ongoing Title IX investigation. He also later claimed that she was exonerated of all charges. The IFR board should have dealt with this a long time ago, before it got out of hand. For various reasons I cannot go on record at this time, but will definitely cooperate fully with any formal investigation launched into this matter.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Chief of international archaeology field schools has long history of alleged sexual misconduct, bullying, and racism. [[Updated March 30, 2020]]

IFR executive director Ran Boytner
Archaeologist Ran Boytner is the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for Field Research, based in Los Angeles. The IFR was established in 2011 by Boytner, who previously served as the Director for International Research at UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

Boytner came onto my radar earlier this month, when I published two reports on serious misconduct by University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin and her partner, Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque. The first report dealt with misconduct at Kurin's 2015 archaeological field school in Peru, and the 2016 Title IX findings against both her and Gomez for retaliation and sexual harassment, respectively.

The second report concerned Kurin's 2018 field school, also in Peru, where Gomez ended up sexually assaulting two female students. The 2018 field school was sponsored by IFR, which conducted an investigation after students complained about the misconduct there. After the investigation, IFR severed its relationship with Kurin. On the face of it, that seemed to shed a good light on IFR's seriousness about misconduct at its field schools. But as it turned out, the only reason Kurin was able to conduct the 2018 field school at all was because Boytner had covered up--and later, blatantly lied--about what he knew about the 2016 Title IX findings. Joining Boytner in the coverup was then UCLA Extension dean Kevin Vaughn, now a dean at UC Riverside and an IFR board member.

As I pointed out in that second report, Vaughn and Boytner were informed right after the June 14, 2016 Title IX findings came down from UCSB that Kurin and Gomez had been found guilty--and they immediately cancelled a Kurin field school in Peru that IFR had sponsored, just about 10 days before it was supposed to begin. The field school students were told only that "health and safety" issues had come up that required the cancellation; some of them were already in Peru, and all of their lives were disrupted seriously.

As I prepared the report about the 2018 field school, I wondered why Boytner had lied about what had happened. Boytner told a number of colleagues that Kurin and Gomez had been cleared by the UCSB investigation, a blatant lie. I could understand that Boytner and the IFR board (or at least those board members who were in the know) might want to protect the institute from legal action from the assaulted 2018 students, who had been courageous in asserting their rights to a safe field school experience. I did not have to wonder for long. Shortly after the second report, sources began to approach me to fill me on Boytner's long history of misconduct.

Here are the results of the latest turn in this investigation. As always, I have relied only on direct witnesses to events or to authenticated documentation, never on rumor or second hand information. To protect sources, many of whom are fearful of retaliation from Boytner and his allies--including some members of the IFR board--I have been circumspect about where the information below came from. But I think readers will quickly see how credible it is.

An accusation of sexual harassment at Boytner's field school in Peru. Did UCLA let him off?

On July 24, 2009, Michael Clark, an equal opportunity consultant in UCLA's Staff Affirmative Action Office, wrote to Boytner to inform him that a student from the University of Southern California (USC) had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. The allegations, Clark wrote, were that "while in Peru, you engaged in inappropriate and offensive sexual behavior towards her." (Other documents in my possession indicate that the alleged misconduct took place between June 22 and July 3, 2009.) Already, while still in Peru and before the formal complaint had been filed, Boytner had been put on "investigatory leave" from his position and required by UCLA to return to the United States, according to UCLA documents in my possession.

The student's accusations were outlined in a three page document that was provided to Boytner. There were 15 specific allegations. (I am not identifying the student to protect her privacy.) Some of the key charges were:

--That Boytner had extensively photographed the student, many times more than any other field school participant, including several photos of her mounting and dismounting a horse. Some of the photos were allegedly taken directly up the student's skirt.

--That Boytner had taken the student aside telling her that he wanted to talk to her, whereupon he told her that he "had fallen in love" with her and "could not keep quiet about it any longer."

--That Boytner told the student that he didn't "give a shit" about the fact that he was married and that he thought the feelings might be mutual.

--That Boytner told the student he had "an understanding" with his wife and that he did not believe in monogamy.

--That when the student reminded Boytner he had been her professor for a class she had taken at USC, he told her that they were "just a man and woman with desires."

--That Boytner told her he had never felt this way about another student, but that she was "so mature and strong" and that he had never met someone as young as her who was so strong.

--That the student continued to remind Boytner that he was an authority figure and in control of the situation.

--That Boytner took her hand and "creepily started to pet it," whereupon the student got up and left.

--That the next morning, on the pretext of telling her she was not wearing her walkie-talkie properly, he "grabbed her 'ass' and groped her," despite her protests.

--That Boytner repeatedly tried to get her alone after that, despite her resistance.

--That the student reported the conduct to others involved in the UCLA program and was quickly transferred to another field school near Cuzco, Peru.

In conclusion, the student wrote in her complaint that an "acceptable resolution" would be an apology from Boytner, and that while she did not want him to be fired for the offenses, "I also do not believe that he should be allowed back in the field with female students who are unaware of his prior inappropriate behavior."

On November 22, 2009, Charles Stanish, then director of the Cotsen Institute, wrote to Boytner to discuss the findings of the Staff Affirmative Action Office's investigation. This letter (which came from sources other than Stanish himself) confirms the "inappropriate" behavior. Remarkably, however, UCLA did not find Boytner guilty of sexual harassment, which normally would have required his immediate termination.

The office "found that you did not violate the University's policy, but that you engaged in inappropriate conduct in your interaction with" the student, Stanish wrote, adding that "This incident is very disturbing." Stanish pointed out that while Boytner's formal position was director of international programs, he also had an appointment as a Research Associate which sometimes involved teaching students (such as the class at USC.) "Consequently the students perceive you as a professor, and that perception places an extra burden on you to maintain a professional relationship with the students..."

After citing the relevant provisions of the faculty code of conduct, Stanish went on:

"By your own admission, you discussed matters of a very personal nature with Ms. ___________, and told her that you loved her. Although you were found not to have violated the sexual harassment policy related to your appointment as Director, I agree with the findings that your behavior was entirely inappropriate and must not be repeated." Stanish concluded by telling Boytner that he could not act as an instructor in the program "for the indefinite future, and you are not to have contact with undergraduate students without a third party present." Boytner was also instructed to attend sexual harassment training "at the earliest opportunity."

Contacted for comment on these events, Stanish told me that he was instructed by UCLA at the time to keep the matter confidential, and that "university policy demanded that I not say anything." Nevertheless, Stanish says, "I did not do anything wrong."

Nevertheless, rumors have continued to swirl about this episode in the archaeology community over the years, in part because the student told other participants at the 2009 field school parts of what she alleges happened, including the allegation that Boytner had told her that he was in love with her (which he later admitted, according to Stanish's letter.)

Moreover, sources reliably inform me that the student eventually sued both Boytner and UCLA, but the suit was settled quietly for an undisclosed amount of money. Several witnesses associated with the case were required to sign nondisclosure agreements. Either just before or after the settlement--the timing is not entirely clear--Boytner was obliged to leave UCLA. The story at the time was that there was a funding issue with the field programs, although some sources insist that Boytner was fired.

A couple of editorial comments here. First, I think many would agree that had this misconduct occurred today, in the so-called "#MeToo era," Boytner would have been found guilty of sexual harassment. It does not even seem like a borderline case of any kind. Second, if he was not guilty of sexual harassment, then why did the university require that he take sexual harassment training?

The facts of the case could, indeed, support the feeling of many with knowledge of these events that UCLA covered them up at the time. Whatever the case, Boytner would go on to found the IFR, which put him in the position of damaging many students and staff both directly and indirectly.

Boytner at IFR: Sexual harassment, bullying, racism, and attempts to debunk misconduct research.

The following is based on a large number of sources who have worked with Boytner over the years in various ways, including former IFR employees. As brave as these sources are, archaeology is a small world, and most of them fear retaliation.

All of the sources, however, described a routine pattern of blatant sexism on Boytner's part. He would comment openly and critically on the role of women in archaeology, telling female archaeologists repeatedly that they had to choose between having a family and having a career. Boytner also habitually tried to corner women into discussing sexual subjects, a behavior that was described to me by a number of colleagues. He also routinely bullied employees,  often yelling and screaming at them if he thought they were not doing their jobs properly, or even if something went wrong that they could not reasonably be responsible for, sources say.

I spoke at length with a woman I shall call IFR Employee No. 1. She worked at IFR during 2014 and part of 2015. One hot day, Employee No. 1 was wearing a sleeveless shirt with a shawl around her shoulders. She says Boytner asked her why she was wearing the shawl, to which she responded that she was just trying to be professional. "He demanded that I take my shawl off," the employee recalls. Boytner then started talking about the "open relationship" he and his wife had. "He asked me about my partner and did we have an open relationship."

Employee No. 1 says that she was "desperate for this job" and tried to keep her distance from Boytner, to no avail--the harassment, along with severe bullying, continued. Finally the employee made a complaint to Willeke Wendrich, current director of the Cotsen Institute and chair of the IFR board of governors (Wendrich's behavior is a subject of my second report on the Danielle Kurin matters.) Employee No. 1 and other sources say that Wendrich attempted to "mediate" between her and Boytner, despite clear evidence of abuse. Wendrich suggested that the employees have a "safe word"--which they could use if Boytner went too far--and that was agreed to. The safe word was "motorcyle," the sources say, and in one case it actually had to be employed. Again, to no avail.

In the end, Boytner fired Employee No. 1, as he had done with other staff members during the years who would no longer put up with his abuse.

Former employees also described Boytner's reaction when, in 2014, a group of anthropologists published a pivotal study demonstrating an alarming degree of sexual misconduct at field schools. The Study of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE), which appeared in the scientific journal PLOS ONE in July of that year, found that 64% of survey respondents had experienced sexual harassment, and that over 20% had been subjected to sexual assault. But according to Employee No. 1 and other witnesses, Boytner did not believe these results. He told everyone that he was going to disprove them, and assigned Employee No. 1 to design a new survey that could be used in the IFR field schools. But Boytner, unhappy with the survey questions, made changes which several sources told me seriously biased the questionnaire. After he consulted an expert on the methodology who tried to set him straight, sources say, he dropped the whole idea.

Finally, there is the issue of Boytner's blatant racism. Former IFR employees say that Boytner routinely rejected students from Africa. "Why would someone from Africa want to go to a field school?" he would ask. One source says that Boytner seemed to be concerned, in part, that African applicants were really hackers trying to get into IFR's servers. As with many aspects of Boytner's misconduct, Wendrich was aware of the discrimination as well: When an Ethiopian student she had discussed the field schools with was rejected, she wanted to know why.

The consequences of Boytner's behavior, over many years, has been in some cases severe in its effects on other people. He sexually harassed a female student at his field school in 2009 (despite UCLA's determination, there is no question that his behavior as described would today be found in violation of Title IX); he harassed and bullied IFR employees and fired them without just cause; his lies about the Title IX charges against Kurin and Gomez allowed the couple to host a 2018 field school at which students were sexually assaulted, causing trauma they are still suffering from; and he has actively engaged in sexist and racist behavior according to numerous sources.

Wendrich, and possibly some other IFR board members as well, have been aware of this behavior for a long time. Boytner did not respond to several requests for comment on these accusations, and Wendrich--who sources tell me has been aware of Boytner's misconduct going all the way back to the 2009 sexual harassment case--has declined to comment as well.

But it seems that a reckoning by IFR board members about the suitability of their executive director to continue in his job--one that affects the well being of hundreds of students each year--is long, long overdue.

Update March 25, 2020: There's been a lot of discussion of these revelations on Instagram and other private chat venues. Some of the comments are not very complimentary to IFR. Some examples:

"I did an IFR field school and the leader was highly abusive. This does not surprise me in the least."

"I was in Peru. There wasn't any sexual misconduct, but the lead was verbally abusive to the point where some of the students would cry in their bunks." 

"Any time one of us got injured or felt unwell, the lead would tell us to suck it up 'because it's a major pain to get to a hospital from here.'"

"To add insult to injury, nobody learned anything because we were treated as grunt labor rather than students. One of the worst experiences of my life."

I also hear that some of the IFR field schools have been excellent, so it obviously depends on the director a great deal. But the quality control is clearly poor. Sources say that both Boytner and IFR board chair Willeke Wendrich have limited sympathy about complaints. And former employees have talked to me at length about Boytner's obsession with how much money IFR is making through its running of the field schools. "We want to make a million dollars!" he reportedly said, repeatedly.

Update March 30, 2020:  IFR has now cancelled its summer field schools, a sensible move announced on its Web site. This may buy its governing board some time to deal with the serious accusations against its executive director, and to repair the damage that his long-known, serious abuses of students and staff has done to the institute's reputation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

UC Santa Barbara kept misconduct findings against an archaeological couple--a sexual predator and his enabler--secret from students, faculty, and the scientific community, allowing further episodes of misconduct (including sexual assault) and new victims. Did a leading archaeological institute fail to do due diligence as well? [Updated April 8: New Title IX complaints against Kurin]

Sexual predator? Enmanuel Gomez Choque
Last month, I posted a report concerning two archaeologists, Danielle Kurin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Enmanuel Gomez Choque, a Peruvian archaeologist based in Andahuaylas, Peru. Based on documents I had received from UCSB, and corroborating evidence from witnesses, I was able to determine that this couple had been found guilty in June 2016 of Title IX offenses by the university.

Kurin was found guilty of retaliating against students who had filed Title IX complaints against her partner (and later husband), Gomez, in connection with sexual harassment that took place during a 2015 archaeological field school directed by Kurin in Peru. Gomez was found guilty of the sexual harassment charges. In addition, I talked to victims of serious sexual assault at the hands of Gomez who were not part of this particular Title IX case.

I also reported that UCSB had kept the matter almost entirely secret, even though Kurin was put on three years' administrative leave as a sanction for the misconduct. As a result, very few faculty in the university's anthropology department, where Kurin is based, knew why she was on administrative leave, including the fact that it involved Title IX charges. Those who did know were sworn to secrecy by the university.

Within 24 hours after my February 28 report, a number of students and teaching assistants who had participated in Kurin's 2018 field school in Peru contacted me to describe misconduct which took place during that season--including, again, sexual assault and harassment by Gomez. They also detailed the efforts by Kurin to cover up these events, including telling the students blatant lies about the past history of misconduct. Some of these students have bravely decided to go on the record, despite Kurin's long history of retaliation against anyone who has reported misconduct involving her and Gomez.

My updated reporting also raises troubling questions about the role of the sponsor of Kurin's 2018 field season, the Los Angeles-based Institute for Field Research (IFR.) IFR officials knew, prior to sponsoring the 2018 field school, that Kurin had been on administrative leave beginning in 2016. Those officials claim, however, that they did not know why, and after reviewing positive evaluations from students who attended her 2017 field school, decided to underwrite the following year's season. My reporting, however, suggests that they did know, or should have known, raising troubling questions about whether IFR did all it could to protect students. As for UCSB, the facts leave little doubt that protecting students was not the university's highest priority.

What follows is based on interviews with direct witnesses and participants in these events. As always in my reporting, I do not rely on rumors or second hand information. Where I speculate or editorialize, I have made that entirely clear. (Gomez's defenses against the 2016 charges were outlined in the previous post; Kurin has not responded to multiple requests for comment.)

Sexual predator's enabler? Danielle Kurin

Secrecy at UC Santa Barbara and misjudgments (or outright negligence?) by IFR created still more victims.

Kurin and Gomez were found guilty of Title IX offenses in June 2016. Kurin had been put on administrative leave a few months earlier, and that was extended until last year after the findings against her. There is no indication that Gomez, who is based in Peru, was sanctioned in any way, and he remained on the UCSB anthropology department's bioarchaeology Web site until shortly after I began this investigation last year. He then disappeared, although I have retained a printout of the page.

I've communicated with a number of members of Kurin's department. They tell me that the anthropology faculty were kept in the dark about the reasons for Kurin's administrative leave, including the fact that it was due to Title IX charges. When anyone would ask, they would simply be told that it was something being handled by the UCSB administration and not the department; on occasion there would be a mention that "lawyers were involved," as one colleague put it. (Kurin did sue the university, unsuccessfully, for denying her a promotion.)

That something might be amiss did, however, come to the attention of IFR officials in 2016. Willeke Wendrich, director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and chair of IFR's board of governors, tells me:

"In summer 2015 UCSB offered a field school (nothing to do with IFR). In 2016 Kurin requested that the field school would be offered through IFR. At that time UCLA extension was the school of record providing academic credit for IFR field schools. Ten days before the 2016 field school was supposed to start, UCLA extension cancelled the field school, with no reason given."

It would be fair to surmise, from the timing of events (Kurin's Peru field school normally began in July) that UCLA extension cancelled the field school because it had been informed about the June 2016 Title IX findings by the UCSB administration, or by someone in the UCSB anthropology department. I do not claim to know. Wendrich continues:

"In preparation of IFR's 2017 field school season we asked UCLA and UCSB to give some information on what the reason of the 2016 cancellation was to determine whether IFR would offer the Peru field school. We only received information that this was an 'administrative leave'. We decided after a long discussion to offer the field school (without UCLA extension credit, which was withheld by UCLA for reasons they would not share). During that year two IFR academics visited the site to check on the quality of the living circumstances and the education, as we do with all our field schools from time to time. The reports were good. In 2018 the field school was, therefore, offered again."

As it turned out, the students at the 2018 ended up reporting allegations of serious misconduct by both Gomez and Kurin to IFR, which eventually launched an investigation. After some months, that investigation led to IFR severing its ties with Kurin. As Wendrich describes events:

"Then, in the last week of the 2018 field school, we received word that there was a problem at the Peru field school. This was the first time allegations of improper conduct at the Peru field school came on our radar and it was the reason to terminate this field school indefinitely and discontinue IFR's relationship with the [Principal Investigator, ie, Kurin.]"

I asked Wendrich if the "adminstrative leave," and the fact that neither UCSB nor UCLA would tell IFR the reasons for it, should not have been a red flag for the institute's sponsorship of Kurin's field school. Wendrich replied that the Peru field school was very popular with students, there was a lot of disappointment when the 2016 season was cancelled, and that two IFR representatives had visited the field school in 2017 with no indications of problems. "If we had known that 'administrative leave' in this case represented a Title IX complaint and sanction our decisions would have been different," Wendrich told me, "but it's always easy to decide what should have been done in hind sight."

There are several problems with this stance, and it's true that some of them might have the benefit of hindsight. Some might argue that no matter how good the reviews of Kurin's field school, they should not have sponsored it without knowing why Kurin was on administrative leave. By 2018, reports of misconduct in field situations was very well known, thanks to a widely distributed study by a team of anthropologists and reporting by myself and other journalists. Wendrich and other officials and board members of IFR would certainly have been aware of this evidence. Also, if they had insisted on knowing the reasons, and been provided the details of the Title IX findings, they would have known that Kurin's habit was to retaliate against students who reported misconduct. Indeed, after she and Gomez were charged with misconduct, Kurin made a big plea to her current and former students to produce statements defending her. It is quite possible that participants in the 2016 and 2017 field schools would have put a positive face on things. But in fact, as I relate below, in 2017 a student was again harassed by Gomez, even though she did not report it at the time.

Yet there is an even more important reason to question this excuse by IFR. My reporting indicates that IFR did almost certainly did know about the 2016 Title IX allegations. Sources tell me that IFR board member Kevin Vaughn, an Andean archaeologist and dean at the University of California, Riverside, was tipped off about the accusations at the time (he was then a dean at UCLA Extension.) It stretches credulity that he would not have told other IFR board members and officials, including IFR executive director Ran Boytner. Unfortunately, Vaughn has not responded to multiple messages asking him to confirm or deny whether he was told about Kurin and Gomez and who in IFR he might have relayed the information to. Nor has Wendrich responded to multiple queries about this.

I can only speculate about why IFR officials are now denying that they knew what my sources tell me they did know. "Bullshit," says one UCSB faculty member, when told of IFR's denials. One possibility is fear of legal action from the students who were victimized during the 2018 field school. As I relate below, IFR's investigation of the 2018 events took an extended period of time, suggesting that lawyers might have been involved.

Whatever the case, it seems clear that UCSB, UCLA, and IFR let the students down badly, and put them in a position where a sexual predator was free to prey again.

But now, in the light of this background, let's have the students tell their stories.

The 2018 field school at Wari, Peru: Multiple incidents of sexual harassment and assault by Gomez.

In the course of this investigation, I have heard from women who were harassed or assaulted by Gomez going all the way back to 2011, and very often in the same way (see the previous report for some of those details from 2015.) Those students (or former students) who wish to remain anonymous I have identified by numbers.

Student No. 1: "Hi Michael, I've thought a lot about reaching out after I saw your article about Danielle Kurin and Manuel Gomez. I was on their project in Andahuaylas in 2011 and Manuel forcibly kissed me in a club on that trip. There were also several witnesses, whose names I've blurred [on a contemporaneous messenger thread she attached] since I don't know how they feel about being involved."

Student No. 2: This student describes going to a club with Gomez and a group of students during the field school in 2017 (the year after the Title IX findings.) "We were dancing in a group when Enmanuel came over and started dancing with me, pretty close up onto me. I thought he was showing me how to dance a particular dance, but he was way too close and touchy...I felt uncomfortable and asked another woman from the program if I could dance with her because he kept pushing himself at me....The rest of the program I felt very uncomfortable being alone with Enmanuel and and tried to avoid being alone with him as much as possible."

These are just some examples of the kind of behavior which I have tracked between 2011 and 2018, thanks to witnesses who nevertheless fear retaliation by Kurin and want to keep their identities as hidden as possible. But during the 2018 field school, now two years after the Title IX findings, things seem to have hit a new level of misconduct, and some students finally took a stand.

Taylor Johnston is a student at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. She told me that early in the 2018 field school, which began in June of that year, she had a lot of contact with Gomez. "Manuel was always around me and trying to get me alone," she recalls. At first she thought it was because she speaks Spanish well, and Gomez speaks English very poorly. About 10 days into the field season, Johnston says, Gomez took a group of students to an archaeological site called Tukri. "None of us brought alcohol," Johnston says, but "Manuel was pushing that we needed to go into town and buy beer. He was pushing all of us to drink." Johnston says that Gomez told them it was disrespectful to refuse, just as he did during the 2015 field season.

Johnston says that they were accompanied by another academic from a university in Peru, and that both of them behaved towards her in ways that were "totally inappropriate," including "grabbing my ass." After they returned to Andahuaylas, Johnston says, Gomez would drunkenly try to get into the house where the students were staying, banging on the door and asking for her early in the morning. After that she began to distance herself from Gomez, she says.

Johnston also told me about a day trip the group took to some nearly ponds, where the students went bathing despite the cold of the Peruvian winter (which is summer in the Northern Hemisphere.) In an incident reminiscent of one described by the 2015 students, Johnston says she was wearing a sweater over her bathing suit to keep warm. "Take off your sweater, I want to see your body in your bathing suit," Johnston recalls Gomez saying.

After Johnston began to keep her distance from Gomez, she and other witnesses say, Gomez began to take an interest in another young researcher I will call Student No. 3. On the night of July 13/14, shortly before the end of the field season, the students and Gomez went out to a club (Kurin normally did not join these outings.) According to several witnesses, Gomez began plying the students with drinks, especially Student No. 3. "He was bringing us shots every twenty minutes," Johnston says. "He kept pushing them on [Student No. 3.] He was with her all night at the club, dancing with her." Suddenly, around 1:30 am, the students realized that Gomez and Student No. 3 were no longer there. They began a frantic search for her, calling Gomez's cell phone and leaving messages but getting no answer.

At 5:30 am, Gomez returned to the field house with Student No. 3 in a taxi.

When Student No. 3 saw my initial report from last month, she contacted me directly.

Hello Mr. Balter,
I saw your article on the bio anthropology Facebook news page. I’m saddened and dismayed to learn Daniel[le] Kurin still works at UCSB.  I attended the 2018 Wari field school and was personally assaulted by Manuel. Two days before leaving on a night out Manuel fed me drinks all night and then forcefully kissed me. There’s time missing from that night where I was with him alone and other members from the field school could not find me. This is very painful for me to write and think about, but I cannot fathom not saying something. Daniel[le] victim blamed me for the situation saying I was a consenting adult. Manuel came to the field house later in the night once I had returned, banging on the door demanding to see me and the other students sort of hid me away in a room. The whole situation was very traumatic and I wish I had pressed charges, however this all happened two days before we were leaving and I wanted to get away as soon as possible. I’m hoping the more people speak out the higher the chances of her not working with students are.
Thank you for bringing attention to this.

In a followup email, Student No. 3 added:

Hi Michael,
I can tell you a bit more, but there really is a lot of time missing.  We started at a karaoke bar and after that I tried to go home. I remember Manuel saying no no we are staying out and putting me in a cab with him. I believe we went to a different night club after that but I’m not really sure. It goes pretty blank after that. The last thing I remember is being put into a cab by Manuel and him telling me “not to tell anyone” and when I got back to the field house everyone was panicking and scared about where I had been. If I’m being honest with you, there’s no doubt in my mind non- consensual acts happened. I had bruises and aches the next morning but the fact is that I do not remember more than the kiss and then being put in the cab by Manuel.

In a final email, Student No. 3 told me:  "I've prevented myself from attending other field schools because I felt so jarred from the experience with the two of them."

The students confront Kurin, who gaslights them and blatantly lies about past events.

A number of students involved in this episode talked to me about it, including the ones already named. They say that after Student No. 3 got back into the house, Gomez, very drunk, continued to try to get at her. Gomez was confronted by a male student, Ruben Garcia Diaz, who almost got into a fight with the Peruvian as the group tried to get him to leave. (Garcia Diaz was a former student at the University of Puerto Rico, who graduated in 2013 with a BA in anthropology. He told me that had to quit archaeology after he injured himself doing paid archaeological field work to pay his bills for the Peru trip.)

Finally Kurin heard the noise and came into the student house (Gomez and Kurin lived together in a home nearby that belonged to Gomez's family.) There was an angry exchange between Kurin and the students, which one of them surreptitiously recorded, in which she blamed the students for what had happened, arguing that Student No. 3 was a "consenting adult" and had to take equal responsibility for what happened. Finally it was agreed that they entire group would meet later that afternoon.

During that meeting, the students say, Kurin kept her cell phone in her hand, and claimed that her sister, a lawyer, was on the other end of the line. Johnston then began recording the session on her iPhone as well, not trying to hide it from Kurin; the session was also surreptitiously recorded by another student, creating two digital files, both of which I have listened to.

During this meeting, Kurin made a number of notable and contradictory statements:

--Kurin at first apologized, and announced that Gomez had been banned from the archaeological project, even though she had not heard all the evidence. "I am taking your side," she told the students. (This statement would turn out not to be true, as sources say that the couple were still working and living together in Peru as of late last year.)

--Kurin implored the students to reflect upon their positive experiences, and asked them what more she could have done. "He is being punished," Kurin said. "He is banned from the project, forever! What do you want me to do, cut off his dick?"

--When the students told Kurin that they heard rumors about previous incidents of misconduct, she blatantly lied and said that this was "defamation" and not true. Later she said that any allegations had been "investigated and resolved." (As we know, in June 2016 both Kurin and Gomez were found guilty of Title IX charges.) The vehemence of Kurin's denials on the recording are remarkable, given their untruth.

Nicole Fiorino, the curator at the Sitka Historical Society & Museum in Sitka, Alaska, was also present at this meeting. "I can tell you about the fear everyone experienced that night," she told me, "and I can tell you about the aftermath and how Danielle tried to sweep it all under the rug. I can speak to how she blamed the entire event on us and on the victim [Student No. 3]. I can tell you how she screamed at us... she and Enmanuel are predators and I need to make sure she never has the opportunity to hurt more people." (Nearly all of the students who have described their experiences to me at field schools run by Kurin over a number of years have remarked on what they viewed as her extreme mental instability.)

That same afternoon, some of the students, led by Garcia Diaz, began composing a letter of complaint to send to IFR executive director Ran Boytner. Garcia Diaz believes they sent the letter to Boytner the following day, which would have been July 15, 2018. "We were afraid of Danielle retaliating, "he told me, "so we sat down for hours listening to [the] recording and taking notes to send them to IFR." But while Boytner quickly acknowledged the communication, IFR did not interview any of the students for more than two months, leaving them frustrated and feeling ignored. Nevertheless, the institute did appoint a committee of inquiry, made up of board members Willeke Wendrich of UCLA, Julie Stein of the University of Washington, and Fred Limp of the University of Arkansas.

Finally, on September 20, 25, and 27, 2018, the committee interviewed three of the students who were witnesses to Gomez's behavior with Student No. 3 at the club. They declined to interview Garcia Diaz, who was a witness to the aftermath and Kurin's handling of the situation, on the grounds that he had not been at the club. Why it took them so long to interview the witnesses is not clear. But on October 17, Boytner wrote to the students to tell them the findings:

We have completed our investigation into complaints of alleged inappropriate behavior during the night of July 13-14 at the Peru-Wari field school. Our investigation was conducted promptly, thoroughly and confidentially, as is our practice.  In our investigation we did substantiate that inappropriate behavior occurred. Such conduct violates IFR policy and standards of conduct.
The IFR will no longer work with Dr. Danielle Kurin, the director of the field school.    
At this point, we consider the investigation closed.
Ran Boytner
Executive Director

On March 4, as part of our email exchange, Willeke Wendrich told me the following:

"...we took a very public stance when we terminated the field school and ended all collaboration with Kurin and Gomez. Other than that, we have a duty towards our students to keep their information and privacy protected."

I then asked Wendrich where that public stance had been taken, and, if it had been published somewhere, if she could send me a link or copy of it. I asked her that because no one I have talked to had ever seen or heard of the "public stance."

At that point, Wendrich lost her temper, and responded:

"I've addressed your barrage of questions promptly, in spite of my overstuffed schedule. Let's agree that I will read any piece you want to publish to check on factual inaccuracies and leave it at that."

We did have one more email exchange, in which Wendrich reiterated IFR's anti-misconduct policy. On receiving that I again asked her if she could clarify her statement about the public stance. Again, she did not respond.

So where does this leave us? I've discussed the issues in some detail in the earlier report, so I will not repeat them all here. Suffice it to say that we have public university, UCSB, which for reasons of its own has kept its own faculty and the archaeology community in the dark about serious misconduct by one of its faculty members and her partner--thus leading to more victimization of students who were not warned about the earlier abuses. (Recall that neither UCSB nor UCLA extension would tell IFR why Kurin was on administrative leave; other than providing me with the Title IX documents under the California Public Records Act, which they were required to do by law, UCSB has refused to make any other comment about this situation.)

We also have the IFR, whose failure to raise serious questions about Kurin's administrative leave contributed as well to the continuing abuses. In other words, we have institutional failures all around; or, should I say, institutional negligence, because prioritizing the safety of the students would have led to very different decisions about how all this should have been handled.

Kurin is now up for tenure. But her days at UCSB may be numbered. Last month, she was scheduled to speak at the Stanford Archaeology Center about her work in Peru; but when faculty there learned about the 2016 Title IX findings and read my report, they cancelled the talk. Then, earlier this month, a student who was planning to work with Kurin on her PhD starting this fall changed her mind after being warned by anthropology department faculty and after reading my original story. That is good, but this student's time, and possibly her dreams, have been wasted.

Now there are no excuses, because there are few remaining secrets. All of UCSB's attempts to guard Kurin's reputation, and protect its own, have evaporated into thin air--thanks to a number of brave young researchers, who, frustrated by the failure of the community they are part of to protect them, turned in desperation to a reporter willing to help them tell their stories.

Important update, March 12, 2020: Did IFR officials lie when they said they did not know that Kurin and Gomez were subject to a Title IX proceeding at UCSB?

Before I posted this updated story, I did a few social media posts in which I suggested that IFR officials knew about the 2016 Title IX allegations. I received the following email from IFR board chair Willeke Wendrich, questioning my journalistic ethics:

I am thoroughly disappointed with your lack of journalistic ethics. You are publishing falsehoods. IFR was not aware of any title IX investigations and accusations prior to the 2018 field school. I made this very clear in our email conversation.

As we know from the above report, board member Kevin Vaughn did know about this (at the time he was UCLA Extension's Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.)

The email below, sent to the students who had signed up for the 2016 field school and citing "a health and safety issue," was sent on June 16, 2016, TWO DAYS after the Title IX findings were secretly published.

The only remaining question is whether Ran Boytner lied to Wendrich about the reasons for the cancellation, or whether Wendrich lied to me. Meanwhile I have submitted a California Public Records Act request to UCLA for all correspondence between Kevin Vaughn and Ran Boytner about the cancellation of the field school.

Further update March 12: I am now starting to hear from archaeologists who tell me that Ran Boytner told them that Danielle Kurin had been cleared by the UCSB Title IX proceeding. That was a flat lie, and, as indicated above, Boytner had to have known it was.

Late update March 12: Based on new information, I now have reason to believe that the chair of IFR's board of governors, Willeke Wendrich of UCLA, is lying about what IFR knew about the 2016 Title IX findings, along with Ran Boytner who has lied repeatedly to colleagues about it.

Update March 24: New Title IX complaint against Danielle Kurin. One of my sources from the UCSB anthropology department has recently disclosed making an anonymous report to the UC Santa Barbara Title IX office, citing the details I reported about the 2018 IFR field school as information sufficient to require mandated reporting. The fact that reporting misconduct is mandated by law and university policy makes it very likely that other UCSB anthropology department members have done so as well.

Update April 8: Despite the pandemic, UC Santa Barbara is now interviewing witnesses in multiple new Title IX cases against Danielle Kurin.