|Texas Tech Museum, site of sexist remarks by biology faculty|
(Image: Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia Commons)
I have now received word from Sean Rice, an evolutionary biologist in the department, that a number of faculty there have signed a statement they wish to make public. I will first quote Rice's explanation to me, with his permission, and then the statement in its entirely. I think it represents evidence that many faculty are taking the problems of sexism and harassment seriously--even if, as Rice explains, not everyone in the department signed it for various reasons. Whether the university administration will respond with equal seriousness to these longstanding issues remains to be seen, as its investigation is still ongoing.
Dear Mr. Balter,
Attached is a statement, by some of the faculty in Biological Sciences at Texas Tech, expressing our views about the video that you featured in your Verge article. Many of us had not seen that video until your article drew our attention to it, and we found it shocking. The University's own inquiry is ongoing, so our statement addresses only the video, which is not in dispute.
Please keep in mind that some members of the faculty, especially those without tenure, might reasonably feel uneasy about signing a statement of this sort. Others hold administrative positions that preclude them signing as individuals.
A statement concerning attitudes towards sexual harassment
Education and science are collaborative enterprises that thrive only when every participant
respects the basic human dignity of those with whom they work. We believe that respecting
the basic human dignity of our students and colleagues requires more than just protecting
them from direct harassment; it also means providing an environment in which the prospects
of harassment or discrimination are not considered to be within the range of normal behavior.
We would, ordinarily, think that this should go without saying. However, we are saying
it publicly now because of a video, recently circulating online, that gives what we feel is a
misleading and offensive impression of our department. Though the video is from a retirement party, the fact that some members of our department appear in it, and that the department's webpage linked to it, compels us to respond.
The lighthearted portrayal of sexual harassment in this video is appalling and antithetical
to our beliefs about how faculty should treat students or any other members of our community. The fact that the offensive statements were intended as jokes does not reduce their offensiveness. Jokes are meant to be funny, and the teller of a joke conveys clearly that they hold the views necessary to make it funny. The teller further conveys that they assume that their audience shares those views. Whatever the original intent of the jokes, we do not hold the view that the implication that a colleague engages in sexual harassment should be seen as anything other than an accusation or a slur. It is certainly not the stuff of lighthearted fun.
This is not an attempt to impugn the motives or reputation of any of the people appearing
in the video -- we assume that they intended only to honor a friend, and that the audience
took it this way. This is also not a statement about whether or not any university rules were
violated. We understand that the university is currently investigating events that may be
related to this video, and we have every reason to expect that this inquiry will be thorough
and fair. Regardless of the outcome of any official inquiries, however, we think it important to affirm that we respect the dignity of our students and will not subject them, or anyone else in the department, to an environment in which the idea of harassment is treated as an amusing personality quirk or as a joke.
James Carr Michael Dini Breanna Harris Lewis Held
Scott Holaday Liam Mcguire Matt Olson Reynaldo Patino
David Ray Brian Reilly Sean Rice Ken Schmidt
Dylan Schwilk Gene Wilde Zhixin Xie Kai Zhang