I have received the following letter from Texas A&M anthropologist Sharon Gursky's attorney, concerning the allegations contained in a recent blog post in which she was included. I stand by my reporting, which is based on multiple witnesses and ample documentation. I have included Exhibit 1, the settlement letter they want me to sign; the other exhibits, which I have not included here, consist of the blog posts, Facebook posts, and Tweets regarding the allegations.
The university "investigation" referred to in the letter was another in a series of whitewashes with which the TAMU administration dispensed of a number of complaints from students, and has no more validity than any of the others. What Gursky may not realize, but her lawyer certainly will, is that a lawsuit is a two-sided battle in which I would have the right to engage in legal discovery. That means that I would be able to subpoena all documents related to this matter, including ones I may not currently have possession of; and I would be able to subpoena witnesses for depositions, including other faculty members, administrators, and everyone at TAMU or elsewhere with knowledge of the facts. (Just by the way, I would conduct legal discovery of the entire situation in the department, as described in the original blog post, to help establish in my defense that the allegations against Gursky arose in the course of a legitimate journalistic investigation into a pattern and practice of abuse across the anthropology department.)
The other thing that Gursky's attorney might tell her is that, as a freelance writer, I would be free to publicize every detail of any lawsuit that she might file, including the additional information that would result from legal discovery. That's because I would not employ any attorney who counseled me to be quiet, as is the case in most lawsuits that involve major media outlets with their own attorneys (I explain the background to my decision to proceed in this way in a recent piece in the Columbia Journalism Review.)
The end result would be that the well founded allegations against Gursky would receive many times more attention than they are generating now, before a much broader audience.
It's bad enough that Gursky and other anthropology faculty at the university have bullied and harassed students in the department, but even worse that they continue to try to intimidate those students and the reporter to whom they have turned as a last resort. In fact, this threatened lawsuit is much more than a futile attempt to silence a #MeTooSTEM reporter; it's a pernicious attempt to intimidate the current and former students who were caused to suffer from Gursky's bullying and unethical behavior, and who are suffering still. That cannot be allowed to stand.
Added note, Oct 15: In his threatening letter to me, Gursky's attorney states, in reference to my sources, that "we are well aware of who they are..." This is unlikely to be the case, given how many sources there are for my statements about Gursky, but including this particular phrase seems to be an attempt to intimidate both them and me, and a prelude to possible retaliation. I have thus reported this threat of a lawsuit to TAMU's Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations and asked them to begin an inquiry. As is the ethical obligation of all reporters, I will under absolutely no circumstances reveal the identity of my sources without their express permission.
Update: It's been brought to my attention that David R. Warner, the attorney hired by Sharon Gursky to threaten me and thus also threaten the students who blew the whistle on her, was put on probation last year by the Arizona bar for multiple counts of fraud.
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