|SAA president Joe Watkins|
Those following events at the recent Society for American Archaeology meeting in Albuquerque know that SAA officers have put out a number of statements about when they knew that former University of Alaska, Anchorage archaeologist and sexual predator was present at the conference. These statements have been largely false, as has been pointed out numerous archaeologists and other observers on social media and to the officers directly. In short, SAA officials insist that they had no actionable information before Friday April 12, when in fact I had fully briefed their communications director in the morning of Thursday April 11. The result of this was more than 24 additional hours of distress and suffering by Yesner's victims (three of whom were at the meeting), and probably more than that, since Yesner was spotted at the meeting even after SAA claims that he had been banned.
Yesterday SAA president Joe Watkins, who has a positive reputation in the field and who many view as a "change agent" in SAA and archaeology in general, agreed to a Skype call today so that I could correct the record about what happened. I highly suspect that Joe has been given misinformation by SAA staff, and I wanted to talk to him about that very serious matter.
This morning, however, Joe rescinded his agreement to talk to me, saying that he wanted to give priority to victims and other SAA people. I could agree with this in principle if it did not leave standing the false information that SAA is still spreading on its Web site and perhaps more privately--and that the outreach that Joe and SAA executive director Oona Schmid have done to the victims has been miserably inadequate and in some cases nonexistent.
I suspect that SAA is privileging the jobs of its staff over the welfare of victims, specifically communications director Amy Rutledge and Oona Schmid, who are widely seen in the archaeology community as having badly mishandled this situation--especially since SAA's outgoing president made a big deal during the meeting's opening session about the new sexual harassment guidelines for SAA meetings, printed prominently in the front of the program book. The possibility that Amy Rutledge in particular misled her colleagues about what happened needs to be looked into by the SAA board, in my opinion and that of other colleagues.
Here is the followup email I sent to Joe once it became clear that he was no longer willing to talk to me. I have redacted the names of certain individuals to protect their privacy, but Joe knows who they are.
[Sent the morning of April 22]
Joe, I continue to be concerned that you have received inaccurate information about the course of events on Thursday April 11 and the background to them. So I am going to lay them out here, for the record.