Friday, June 12, 2020

A UCLA Town Hall on #MeToo and related issues in archaeology leaves more questions than it answers--but confirms that an accused harasser and bully is out of a job. [Updated June 25]

Last year the IFR ran 57 archaeology field schools with 380 students from all over the world
Out of the picture: Former IFR exec dir Ran Boytner

Those who have been following this blog over the past several months know that I have been reporting on a complicated series of related incidents of misconduct and coverups involving the University of California, Santa Barbara; UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; and the Institute for Field Research. The dramatis personae have included UCSB archaeologist Danielle Kurin, found guilty in a Title IX proceeding in 2016 of retaliating against students who complained about sexual harassment by her partner, Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque; the UCSB administration, which kept the truth from the university's anthropology department and allowed Kurin to come back to teaching and research; Ran Boytner, former executive director of the IFR, who knew about Kurin's misconduct but allowed her to run an IFR field school in 2018, where two female students were sexually assaulted by Gomez; Boytner's own long history of sexual misconduct, bullying, and retaliation; the IFR governing board and most notably its current chair, Cotsen Institute director Willeke Wendrich; and most recently, the UCSB Title IX office, which has now ruled that a sexual assault complaint filed by a student at the 2018 IFR field school must be closed because it did not take place in the US (thus jumping the gun on a Trump administration Title IX rule change that does not take effect until August 14.)

As I said, this is a very complicated story with lots of moving parts, but readers who have not followed up until now can catch up by clicking on the four links above, which include all of my reporting so far on these subjects.

It turns out that among members of the archaeological and scientific communities reading my blog posts were graduate students at UCLA's Cotsen Institute. On May 29, 19 of the grad students (representing just under half of the total students enrolled at the Cotsen), sent a letter to the Cotsen faculty. This letter led to a Zoom Town Hall which took place yesterday, June 11, details of which I will relate below. The letter is two pages long, but let me excerpt some relevant parts:

Dear Cotsen Faculty,

In recent weeks, it has come to the attention of the graduate student body of the Cotsen
Institute that the board and director of the Institute for Field Research (IFR) - both intimately
connected to the Cotsen itself - have come under serious scrutiny by the archaeological
community. The disturbing allegations against Danielle Kurin, current Assistant Professor in
the Anthropology Department at UCSB and IFR Academic Board member from 2016-2018,
and Ran Boytner, Executive Director of the IFR and former employee of the Cotsen
Institute, are very troubling and merit discussion within the Cotsen community. We hope
that in writing this letter, students of the Cotsen can gain clarity on this matter and
reassurance that future incidents of this nature will be addressed in a fair and transparent

Both of the individuals named above have been connected to the Cotsen Institute in some
capacity during this academic year. Kurin was invited to speak at the Cotsen Pizza Talk
Series this Spring quarter. Upon learning about the charges against her, students took
action to disinvite her. In the past, Boytner has also been permitted to enter undergraduate
classes at UCLA to recruit students for IFR field schools and has attended numerous talks
given at the Cotsen. Will Boytner be permitted to enter classes at UCLA or to attend Cotsen
talks, either virtually or in person, in the future? As students enrolled in the Cotsen
Archaeology and Conservation programs, we are concerned for the reputation of our
institution as well as our safety within the Institute and in the field.

The letter goes on to list four main allegations, sourcing them with links to my blog posts, and asks the faculty to "respond in full" to them. The letter concludes, "we hope that the entire Cotsen community--faculty, students, and staff--can engage in a dialogue to determine how we can all feel safe and supported in any environment that we work in."

The Town Hall meeting.

Although the Zoom meeting was invitation only, two individuals who participated provided me with, in one case, very detailed notes, and in the second case, a full video recording of the meeting. While I occasionally paraphrase what was said, the exact quotes I provide below are based on careful transcription and so I do not expect them to be challenged.

The format of this meeting was as follows: Richard Lesure, a MesoAmerican archaeologist in the UCLA anthropology department, acted as moderator. Most of the questions from students, submitted either ahead of time or in the chat box, were responded to by Wendrich. In addition, Jason de Leon, another UCLA anthropologist and member of the IFR's academic boarrd, made a number of comments.

The meeting was also attended by a bevy of guests from the UCLA administration: Natalie Ann Landau, the university Ombudsperson, who took an active role; Andrea Kasko, chair of the Graduate Council; Darnell Hunt, Dean of Social Sciences; David Schaberg, Dean of Humanities; and Mohammed Cato, director of UCLA's Title IX office.

During the meeting, a number of outright lies were told about this reporter by Willeke Wendrich and Jason de Leon, which I will deal with at the end of this report. But first, I will hit the highlights of what was discussed.

The meeting began at 2:06 pm Pacific Coast time, June 11. The first 40 minutes or so covered the history of the IFR, its structure, its relationship with UCLA and other institutions under whose academic wing it had operated (field school students receive academic credit for attending, although they pay their fees directly to IFR), as well as the formal sexual harassment policies and procedures that IFR has adopted.

Finally, at 2:40 pm, Wendrich was asked the question that had never publicly been answered all these months: "Does Ran Boytner currently work for IFR at all?" Wendrich responded, "No," thus providing the first official acknowledgement that he had in fact been fired, after running IFR since its inception in 2011. (This was already obvious, as his name had been removed from the IFR Web site many weeks before, without explanation.)

This was followed by questions about Kurin's own tenure on the IFR board in 2017 and 2018, and the fact that she had even volunteered to be on IFR's sexual harassment committee. As I previously reported, and as Wendrich acknowledged during the meeting, IFR "severed all ties" with Kurin after Gomez committed sexual assaults at the 2018 field school.

There was then a lot of discussion of the allegations in my blog posts, which Lesure pointed out was the "catalyst" for the letter from the grad students that led to the meeting. Willeke and de Leon denied my charges that at least some members of the IFR board knew about Kurin's history before the 2018 field school. Wendrich in particular branded my claims "ridiculous." (I stand by my reporting on that; see last section.) Wendrich and de Leon talked about their actions when misconduct were made against Kurin by students at the 2018 field school, and the investigation they undertook which led to the severance of ties between IFR and Kurin (covered in my blog posts.)

One clear feature of the statements made about Boytner was an obvious attempt to distance the governing and academic boards from the actions of the organization's long-time executive director. De Leon, for example, said that Boytner took no "public stance" about the charges against Kurin and "didn't take [it] seriously at the time."

Wendrich added that "there are things we cannot talk about" but that "there was a breach of trust between the IFR board of governors and Boytner, so we terminated our relationship with the founding director, Ran Boytner is no longer executive director. These are personnel matters, we are opening ourselves up to litigation if I say more."

Wendrich was also asked about the allegations in my reports that Boytner had sexually harassed and bullied staff members. "I cannot go into detail," she responded, but said that she had tried to mediate a situation involving Boytner and a staff member. "Ran Boytner has an aggressive way of addressing people, and if you know him, you know that it's pretty innocent, but if you don't know him so well it can be conceived as being threatening...let's just say that human relations are not his forte."

Wendrich declined to comment on Boytner's own Title IX proceeding at UCLA in 2009, although de Leon claimed he was not aware of it until I reported the details. But apparently to make sure that Boytner was thrown completely under the bus, Lesure suddenly came out with the following revelations at 3:36 pm:

"Setting aside my moderator role, my only contacts with the Ombudsman office have been over Ran Boytner [who had been a student at UCLA.] He was the worst [teaching assistant] I ever had, he was bullying a female student, we worked in out back in 1996 with the Ombudsman's office. [That] helped me realize what a bully [he] was, and his pattern of bullying behavior towards me resulted in my not speaking to him for 20 years."

This comment drew a furious look from Wendrich and raised eyebrows among almost everyone else, for good reason. If UCLA faculty knew back in 1996 that Boytner was a bully, how did he end up having a career leading one of the world's most important archaeology field schools?

Soon after,  the meeting devolved into a discussion of IFR's future, which, several of its leaders pointed out, should be bright. (Although the 2020 field season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the institute hopes to begin again in 2021 with a new staff and presumably a new executive director--right now the governing board is serving that role.)

Shooting the messenger means enabling predators and bullies.

As I mentioned above, a number of lies were told about me and my reporting, in a situation where I had no ability to counter them and where the grad students and others attending might well have been tempted to believe them. Although no one likes to be lied about, including me, there is a larger issue here: By trying to discredit a reporter who is exposing misconduct, and who for the past five years has helped victims and survivors of abuse find their voices, attacking me is a subtle way of siding with the predators and enabling them. I want to be brief, but here are the main lies that were told:

1. Willeke Wendrich stated beginning at 3:07 pm that I come up with "ridiculous allegations," asked her to respond to them, and then didn't use her answers. This is a lie. As much as I could get Wendrich to say to me, I published on the blog posts. It is true, as she said, that at one point I said she was lying about what she knew; I stand on my previous reporting about why I think that.

2. Jason de Leon beginning at 3:09 pm accused me of lying or misrepresenting things. He stated, correctly, that I asked him to talk to me about the situation; I thought he might do so because he played a good role during the debacle last year when the Society for American Archaeology allowed a known sexual predator to attend the meeting in the presence of his victims. (It's disappointing that some supposed #MeToo advocates lose their commitment as soon as the allegations hit closer to home.) However, de Leon went on to say at the meeting that I had trolled him on Facebook and Twitter (false) and that I was one of the "anonymous" commenters on my own blog (a complete lie, although there are a lot of comments.)

3. Jason de Leon stated that I "tried to sell" the stories of victims "to the New Yorker behind their backs." This is one of the most egregious lies of all. It is true that I talked to The New Yorker for several months about my investigation into paleoanthropologist David Lordkipanidze of Dmanisi fame, one of the worst sexual predators out there; that was done with the knowledge and permission of the two sexual assault victims that story concerned.

Similar comments, by both de Leon and Wendrich, included accusations that I posted anonymously on my own blog (again, a lie) and that I pressured victims and survivors to talk to me and be part of my stories. In the case of the Kurin and IFR stories, that is just laughable, as nearly all of my sources were students and staff who came to me and asked for help telling their stories. This has been the case for most of my reporting, especially the past few years, as I have gained a reputation for doing this kind of journalism.

As part of the attempts to discredit my reporting--which, in essence, is an attempt to discredit the experiences of the survivors by shooting the messenger--Boytner and IFR leaders continually referred to me as "a blogger" or "the blogger," as if the way investigations are published somehow reflects on their quality and thoroughness. I dealt with this issue in a piece last year in the Columbia Journalism Review, which I recommend. Blogger or no, I use the same rigorous reporting methods I learned over more than 40 years of doing journalism, including 25 years at Science magazine.

I hope that my reporting on the failure of the institutions mentioned here, along with this inside look at the thinking that leads to these failures, will encourage young researchers and their true advocates (and not just the fair weather friends) to keep up the fight for a more equitable environment in academia and the sciences, one free of abuses of power and all the evils they bring.)

June 13: Additional thoughts on Title IX, Connecticut College, and the role of journalism

I'm very gratified at the attention that this and earlier blog posts about misconduct in archaeology have received. My update on the Danielle Kurin Title IX case has generated some 12,000 page views, since this report was posted there have been more than 9000 additional page views as of Monday the 15th (not too bad for a "rinky-dinky Website," as Jason de Leon called it during the June 11 Town Hall.)

Since the Town Hall lasted nearly two hours and covered a lot of topics, I was only able to give a fairly succinct account above. One question that did come up, however, was whether IFR was covered by Title IX. The answer, supplied by Willeke Wendrich, was no--as a private institution it was not. Wendrich did say, however, that IFR had its own internal anti-harassment policies and that it could do its own investigations, as it did in the case of Danielle Kurin's 2018 field school. However, despite Wendrich's statement that IFR publicly cut ties with Kurin afterwards, I have not been able to find any evidence of such public statements. And when I repeatedly asked Wendrich to point me to them, she did not respond. My conclusion is that this is at least partly a falsehood, and that anything IFR communicated to the archaeological community was done through the typical "whisper network" (if I am wrong, Wendrich and other IFR leaders are free to correct me in a comment on this post.)

(Re the "whisper network," to quote University of Pennsylvania PhD student Sam Seyler on Facebook:)

"The whisper network in anthropology, while designed to protect victims, continues to protect the abusers."

At other times during the meeting, Wendrich suggested that legal considerations would prevent IFR from saying much about misconduct by anyone associated with the institute; that leaves questions about whether fear of litigation would lead IFR to "pass the harasser," as it in effect did with Kurin (twice.)

However, students participating in IFR field schools receive academic credit for their work, which raises another question: Are the accrediting institutions liable under Title IX for what goes on in the field schools? As of today, universities and colleges are responsible under Title IX for abuses that take place outside the USA, although new Trump administration rules are poised to come into effect on August 14 that would restrict Title IX jurisdiction to within the US. (Those rules changes are likely to be challenged in court, and at any rate were obviously not in effect during any of the episodes described in this and my earlier blog posts.)

 At the Town Hall, beginning at 2:14 pm, Wendrich told the group that IFR had gone back and forth between being accredited by UCLA Extension and Connecticut College, a private liberal arts school in New London. Wendrich said that Ran Boytner preferred UCLA Extension because he "thought it was better marketing." But Wendrich says she was "not happy" with that and since 2018 IFR has been back with Connecticut College.

Why Connecticut College? I have not had a chance to look into this, but perhaps someone out there reading this blog knows the answer, or could suggest hypotheses. I don't want to speculate, but these days the imagination can run wild... more on this later.
Breaking: I see someone has now weighed in on this in the Comments section. Take a look. In earlier posts I have suggested that a thorough, independent, outside audit of IFR's finances is long overdue.

Finally I just wanted to say one more thing about the role of journalism in ferreting out abuses in academia and other walks of life. Not in a million years would Wendrich, de Leon, or other IFR leaders admit that the reporting of a journalist had anything to do with Ran Boytner being terminated as executive director of the organization he helped to found and through which he found his personal identity (and his power to harass and bully others.) And yet the brave survivors of abuse who turned to a journalist because they could not get heard any other way would no doubt credit the power of exposure and publicity with this important result--as would any other honest observer.

I will close with my favorite quote about journalism, by the great Czech writer Milan Kundera:

"The power of the journalist is not based on the right to pose a question, but on the right to demand a response." 

Update June 14: Ran Boytner's animal cruelty?

A colleague writes:

"You can add animal abuse to the list of Ran Boytner’s transgressions. In 2015, I attended an IFR field school in Chincha Peru, and witnessed him grab a pregnant cat by the tail and sling her out the gate of our compound. Never before had I witnessed such disgusting behavior toward an animal. I did report this to [Charles] Stanish upon return to the US (Stanish had already departed Peru at the time of the incident.) He seemed disgusted, though not particularly surprised. I let it go, content that I’d never have to work alongside Boytner again, but happening across your blog post, felt compelled to speak up.

"She was a stray, but Charles Stanish had allowed her in, and she was loved by (most) of the students. Ran was of the opinion she shouldn’t be there. But that’s not how you handle an animal, especially a pregnant one. Who grabs an animal by the tail and throws it? I cried for hours. It was horrifying."

The cat that Boytner abused.

(In the minutes after I posted this, two colleagues wrote in. One was at the field school when Boytner threw the cat and corroborated that story; another pointed out that he hated animals in general.)

Update June 20, 2020: Danielle Kurin's misconduct cost UCLA Extension more than $40,000

I reported earlier that two days after the University of California, Santa Barbara concluded that Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque had sexually harassed students during a 2015 field school and that his partner Danielle Kurin had retaliated against students who reported it, IFR and UCLA Extension cancelled Kurin's 2016 field school for "health and safety" reasons. Documents just released to me by UCLA, pursuant to a California Public Records Act request, indicate that UCLA Extension paid $43,256.48 to IFR for reimbursement of expenses the students and the institute had incurred.

Some of the students were already in Peru, and all had paid the tuition for the field school and bought airline tickets. Although IFR was able to transfer some of the students to other field schools, a number asked for full refunds and many of the airline tickets were nonrefundable.

It took several dunning letters from Boytner to get UCLA Extension to pay up, however. Boytner first sent an invoice to UCLA on August 11, 2016, but by October IFR had not received the funds.

"We did all the hard work," Boytner wrote to then UCLA Extension academic dean (and now IFR board member) Kevin Vaughn and other UCLA officials on October 15, "dealing with upset students and parents over the Peru-Sondor program and shielded [university extension] from the consequences of a decision we had no part in making. It is now time for you to do the right thing and send the check to IFR as soon as possible." Boytner added that IFR was very short of funds and needed the money to meet its October payroll.

This final letter seems to have worked. The documents indicate that a check for the full amount was sent to IFR on October 24, 2016.

I have reported that Kevin Vaughn knew about the Title IX findings against Kurin and Gomez at the time they were handed down, and that Boytner also knew. Nevertheless, Boytner falsely told colleagues then and later that Kurin had been exonerated.

Update June 25: The following detailed commentary about the Town Hall has been circulating around the UCLA archaeological community and beyond. While I have not had time to fact check every detail myself, it does seem to be a valuable addition to the conversation, so I am pasting it here.

One issue I am particularly interested in from the standpoint of the defamation suit Kurin has filed against me: Kurin stated in the complaint that IFR had dissociated itself from her "without prejudice," as if they had found only her partner Gomez and not her to have committed misconduct. Ran Boytner's previous on the record statements and the statements of board members referred to below flatly contradiction that assertion, and make clear that Kurin's own misconduct was a major factor in the decision. IFR permanently severed ties with her.

In the aftermath of the June 11 Town Hall meeting, below are comments, fact-checks, and additional questions raised in response to the statements and claims made by some of the speakers. The purpose of this commentary is to encourage a more transparent and retaliation-free trialogue between the Cotsen community, UCLA, and the IFR. Feel free to share and circulate.

[11:55] Wendrich: “I used to be Chair [of the IFR] around 2013, but I stepped down when I became director of the Cotsen because I thought those two roles didn’t sit so well.”
  • Fact-check: According to her online CV, Wendrich was Chair of the IFR for five years, between 2012-2017. She became director of the Cotsen in 2016. In September 2017 she was replaced at the IFR by real estate developer Yuval Bar Zemer, whom she refers to in the meeting as “a great donor to the IFR.” According to Internet Archive and IFR public tax records, the very same month that Wendrich passed that position to Bar Zemer, he loaned (not donated) $100,000 to the IFR. This topic was covered in more detail by the commentators in Balter’s blog.

[18:33] Wendrich: “The Institute for Field Research started at UCLA, and I was not at all involved at that point.” She repeats this again later in the meeting.
  •  Fact-check: As many at the Cotsen Institute well know, Wendrich ran several seasons of her field school at Egypt through the program that Boytner established at UCLA ( She later ran the same field school through the IFR. As she further acknowledges, her husband Hans Barnard was on the committee that vetted the programs for the Cotsen. Sources reports that the two were, and may continue to be, very close friends with Boytner. It therefore surprised no one when Wendrich became a founding member of the IFR in 2011 and the first Chair of the IFR Board in 2012.

[19:03] Wendrich: “We all know that field school in the past, and even nowadays, are sometimes kind of almost student slavery. Students are put in the trench to dig, but they don’t really get any education.”
  • Comment: Several people who attended the meeting felt that Wendrich’s use of the word “slavery” in such a context was extremely insensitive, especially in this day and age.

[24:51] [31:05] Somewhat contradictory comments, between Wendrich who stated: “UCLA graduate students who go with a UCLA faculty member to the field, don’t pay for a field school”, and Hans Barnard who stated: “In some field schools we ask graduate students, or we have asked graduate students, to contribute towards housing and food and stuff.”

[25:31] Wendrich: “We don’t have any field schools run by graduate students. You have to have a PhD at least… only established scholars or scholars who don’t need to subsist on the field school funds are accepted as field school directors.”
  • Fact-check: Both Wendrich’s field school in Ethiopia and Chip’s field school in Peru were co-directed by their Cotsen graduate students, and promoted as such on the IFR website. The graduate students at Chip’s field school were often left to run the field school on their own.
  • Last year all IFR field schools that were directed or co-directed by Cotsen affiliates and former UCLA graduate students in Ethiopia, Italy, China, and India, were closely tied to Wendrich.

[22:40] Wendrich, contradicted herself when asked about the role of IFR in her Cotsen-based project “[In Ethiopia] I work with students from four different universities, and with faculty from four different Ethiopian universities. I could never afford that if I wouldn’t have this extra funding.” But then- [27:25] “I basically run my fieldwork from my endowed Chair. And in the case of the Ethiopia field school, the only reason that I run a field school, apart from thinking that it’s a really good principle to allow students to learn things in the field, is that it allows me to involve the Ethiopian students. So I could run my project without IFR, but then I couldn’t have that pedagogical part of it.”
  • Questions: Does this means that Ethiopian students are paying for the program? If so, are they paying full tuition? If not, why do you need the IFR to involve them? Can’t students from the host country participate even if it is not a US-based field school?

[28:55] Wendrich: “Ran Boytner had a salary paid from the income from those field schools. So he was kind of a freelancer at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.”
  • Fact-check: Ran Boytner was a Research Associate at the Cotsen Institute since 1998. Starting in 2007, Boytner became an employee at the Cotsen with the official title of “Director for International Research.” This position came with an office, resources and supports, access to students and volunteers, and a fixed annual salary with full UCLA benefits (some report an annual pay of at least $60,000 in 2010.)

[35:27] Wendrich: “There was an [IFR] office… in March we had to give that up”.
  • The IFR address was updated on their website only on June 11, immediately after a visitor (a student?) went to visit the posted address and reported on Balter’s blog that they found it empty. The fact that the offices had been evacuated was also not communicated to the IFR field school directors.

[35:34] Wendrich: “Very early on, we canceled all our summer 2020 field schools because it was just irresponsible to even think about sending people in the field.”
  • Fact-check: prospective IFR students, including at UCLA, report that although the IFR promised to cancel the programs when State Department Level IV travel warning will be issued, it took them a week after this issuance to declare cancellation on March 25. At this point, summer programs across campus had cancelled their programs in early to mid-March, so it was definitely not “very early on.” Reports were also logged of students who were ignored their demands for tuition refund at least 6 or 7 weeks after the cancellation date. This topic was covered by several complaints made by commentators on Balter’s blog.

[35:45] Wendrich: “The moment we canceled all the field schools, we looked at the financial situation and it was clear that we had to give up the office, which we did, lay off the personnel. And from that moment on the board of governors… stepped in in the role of the executive director and managed everything.”
  • Fact-check: All IFR staff members were removed from the IFR website in April, with the exception of Ran Boytner who was still listed there up to May 4th. According to IFR field school directors, on April 24th they received a letter from the board (backdated to April 11th), in which Boytner is also listed as a board of governors’ member. This indicates that Boytner was not laid off in April-May, but was actually promoted.

[38:04] Wendrich: “The [board] chair was Yuval Bar Zemer, a real estate developer, and a great donor to IFR.”
  • The public IFR tax records show that Bar Zemer loaned (not donated) $100,000 to the IFR in September 2017, the same month he took over the board chair position from Wendrich. The same tax records show that majority of the loan has yet to be paid. A commentator on the blog also adds this important point: “Not sure about NPO rules & regulations on having a major (and only?) financier also filling the chairperson position, but it definitely raises ethical questions as to the timing of the appointment and what interests are guiding the organization.”

[44:40] Wendrich: “Connecticut College offered to provide credit… I thought Connecticut College did an amazing job, and we had a very good relationship.”
  • As a commentator on Balter’s blog specifies: “I was involved as staff on an IFR field school in 2014. During that field school, I spoke about project finances with Anthony Graesch, who was involved with the founding of IFR and continues to serve in IFR leadership. Graesch got his PhD at UCLA, and was then a postdoc at UCLA until he became faculty at Connecticut College in 2010.
    Graesch told me at that field school that Connecticut College was chosen to manage credits for students, because the College cut a special discounted tuition rate for IFR via Graesch. I understood this to mean that IFR was able to pocket a greater amount of the fees charged to students; the students' overall fees did not appear to be lower after the switch to the College's cheaper tuition (compared to CSUN or UCLA). Students were not presented with a breakdown of how their fees were spent.”
  • Question: It was demonstrated that many of the IFR board members were or are UCLA employees and/or graduates, including Willeke Wendrich, Jason de Leon, Lynn Swartz Dodd, Anthony Graesch, Rowan Flad, Kevin Vaughn, and Chip Stanish (and maybe others.) Some of these board members coincided with Boytner at graduate school and when he served as the Director of International Research. Considering these close ties, can the board be considered an impartial and objective party when evaluating the actions of the IFR executive director?   

[49:50] Willeke: “[Danielle Kurin] was briefly a member of the board in 2017, and she volunteered for the sexual harassment committee. After IFR found out of the problem in the field school in 2018, we severed all ties with Danielle Kurin.”
  • Fact check: According to the Internet Archive (WayBack Machine), Danielle Kurin was an active IFR board member for two years and eight months, between February 2016 and October 2018. This means she was still listed as an IFR board member at least three months after the incidents at her 2018 field school. This is covered in more detail by commentators in Balter’s blog, with the added observation “Both Willeke and Jason were board members together with Kurin, so it is out of the question that they simply forgot when, and how long, she had served alongside them. Whether they will admit it or not, Kurin was serving on the IFR board and the IFR sexual harassment committee while she herself was under an active Title IX investigation.”

[57:15] Ernestine Elster asked: “I want to know if IFR publishes a financial statement at the end of each year, if indeed it is a 501-C3 organization. And who owns it?”.
  • These important questions were not addressed by the IFR representatives in the meeting.

[1:06:06-1:09:48] Wendrich and De Leon refer to Michael Balter and his blog with the following words: “ridiculous allegations”; “uses a lot of heresy, which he presents as facts”; “he is known to anonymously comment on his own blog with incendiary remarks”; “he always will provide the most negative interpretation of intentions, purposes, and objectives”; “either lying, or misrepresenting what has been said”; “aggressive and incredibly questionable tactics”; “much of what he has about the IFR is an outright lie.”
  • Comment: the IFR representatives condemn Balter’s reporting, but other than blanket statements of denial fail to present any new evidence that contradicts any or all allegations against them. Since Balter supports his allegations with official documents, students’ testimonials, employees’ testimonials, and numerous comments from the public (including one from a former IFR board member), by dismissing Balter as a liar and not even investigating whether the above represent valid concerns, the IFR board further dismisses all those victims as liars without any due diligence.
[1:09:48] De Leon: “[Balter] keeps insisting that all of us at IFR knew that Danielle Kurin had a Title IX allegation against her. We did not know that. We knew that she had been put on leave. She described that to the IFR board, to all of us, as something related to how a student had filed a complaint against her husband in the field, and she described the student as incredibly racist. And that was the extent of our knowledge of what was going on. When the field school ran again in 2018, and then for the first time IFR received notice of what had been going on, we conducted a very thorough investigation and found that, you know, that bad things had happened and that she should not be near students at all, and we immediately cut ties with her. But that was the first time that any of us on IFR board had any inkling that that stuff was going on. Had we known, and Balter had repeatedly accused IFR of covering up for Danielle Kurin, but there will be literally no reason for us to do that, because it just will make us look worse than ever… I find it very very offensive, especially as someone who was directly involved in the investigation process, that he would come out and question all of our integrity about this whole process. We reacted as quickly as we could, with the limited information we had at the time. And I will stand by that.”
  • Fact-check and question: In his blog Balter suggests that some, not necessarily all, IFR board members knew about Kurin’s and Gomez’s Title IX investigations and findings. This is also further supported by Ran Boytner’s email published on the blog, and who suggest that at least Kevin Vaughn knew. In turn, it is suggested that this, or these, board member(s) may have failed to report to the others. Would De Leon be willing to consider this as a possibility of why he was unaware of these allegations?
  • Questions: What does it say about the IFR board, almost all tenured professors with years of experience in academia, that they would readily believe that a faculty member in the UC system would be placed on a three-year administrative leave because a racist student filed a complaint against her husband? If the IFR is so thorough with its vetting of programs and scholars, how did they let such an individual become a member of the academic board, a member of the sexual harassment committee, and a director for several IFR field school without even looking into this? Aren’t they exhibiting the same dismissive attitude now, when denying the additional allegations raised by Balter? 
  • Question: Once the IFR board realized that Kurin “should not be near students at all,” did they alert students, faculty, and administrators at UCLA, UCSB, or elsewhere? Were de Leon and Wendrich aware that she was invited to give a Pizza talk at the Cotsen in the Fall?
  • What makes De Leon, or any other members of the IFR board, qualified to investigate cases of sexual harassment in the field? Do they have proper training? Would it not be it a conflict of interest to investigate a fellow board member?

[1:12:08] De Leon: “[Balter] controls his little rinky-dinky website.”
  • Comment: As someone deeply involved in the #MeToo movement and knows well that the voice of survivors, victims, and whistleblowers is often suppressed and relegated to these informal channels, describing Balter’s website as “rinky-dinky” is extremely condescending on De Leon’s part. Not everyone has a MacArthur grant funds to build a professional website and hire a team of employees and student volunteers to run it.

[1:12:20] De Leon: “Which is why I have refused to engage with him in any way, shape, or form.”
  • Comment: You also refused to engage with the IFR field school directors in any way, shape, or form, although they requested clarifications from you and other board members on multiple occasions. These PIs complained that the board silence is damaging their reputation by association, as they are getting increased pressure from their respective administrations to explain why they are still affiliated with the IFR.

[1:18:42] Wendrich: “IFR is a non-profit 501(c)(3), and it does not operate under Title IX obligations. We do have a very strict policy, and actually we are also not bound by direct relations that Title IX office at the UC system is bound by. So we can stop our collaboration with someone if we think that a line has been crossed. If we find, however, that there is a Title IX complaint of a student, for student, against someone in a field school situation, we always report that to the Title IX office of the student’s [university or college] in question.”
  • Comment and question: Wendrich’s explanation, immediately following Mr. Cato’s clarification that starting August 14 Title IX will no longer have jurisdiction on cases that happen outside the U.S., reveal that students in future IFR field schools will be even more vulnerable to harassment. How does the IFR plans to avoid cases like that of the student who was attacked in Kurin’s 2018 field school and is now being denied justice from UCSB, to repeat again? Now that UCSB has thrown the ball back to IFR’s court, will IFR help that former student?
  • Question: How does the fact that the IFR does not need to comply with Title IX conforms with the statement that those measures “were designed to protect students from those in positions that are more powerful, to protect women and men from those who are more likely to be believed.” (Willeke Wendrich, 6 May 2020, Director’s Message on CIoA website.)

[1:20:52] In reply to the graduate students’ question whether Danielle Kurin ran an IFR field school even after members of the IFR board became aware of a previous Title IX violations against Kurin, Wendrich replied “Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”
  • The same comments and questions asked above of De Leon on this topic, also apply here to Wendrich.
[1:21:13] Wendrich, when asked about the cases of sexual misconduct and retaliation against students in Kurin’s IFR field school in 2018: “This is a difficult situation, because our first concern is always the interest of the students. I can say, and that’s one of reasons that I’m really angry with Balter, because he abuses the victims by keeping after them and getting the story out of them. As Jason said, we have conducted an investigation… we interviewed all the TAs, all the people around this situation, and I can’t say anything more about that except that we immediately cut all ties with Danielle Kurin.”
  • Fact check and question: Danielle Kurin remained listed as an IFR board member until October 2018, about three months after the field school in Peru concluded. The email to the students that she is no longer affiliated with the IFR was sent on October 17. Why did it take them so long to cut ties with her?
  • Questions: Is there truth to the student’s testimonial in Balter’s blog that IFR did not interview her and others more than two months after the events? Were the IFR students satisfied with the results of the investigation? If so, why are they still communicating with Title IX offices and journalists? 
  • Questions: How does Willeke know that Balter abuses the victims? Did any of those victims complained to her? Did the IFR reach out to any of these former students who shared their story on Balter’s blog?

[1:22:30] Wendrich, when asked about taking a public stance in Danielle Kurin’s removal from the board: “You have to understand that a nonprofit like IFR will open it up to litigation if we are… too explicit about some things. There are privacy matters and we need to take those into account.”
  • Question and comment: What about the IFR obligation to inform the archaeological community about a scholar who presents a danger to students’ safety? How many other field school directors the IFR cut ties with for similar reasons, and that community is unaware of? 

[1:23:10] De Leon: “I will add that I did at one point go to Ran, once I knew about the things that happened with Danielle Kurin, I went to Ran and said, you going to have to do something about this, this is not an issue that’s going to go away, and Ran didn’t, he basically circulated that information to the rest of the board but took, made no public stance on this. So there was a conversation that we had with the DD, and was one that he didn’t take seriously at the time.”
  • Comment and question: If De Leon was so concerned at the time and saw that Boytner was not taking this seriously, why didn’t he act himself? Wendrich explained that the IFR board is responsible for the conduct of the director. Was Boytner disciplined for not taking action as advised at the time?

[1:24:05] Wendrich, when asked about Ran Boytner’s sexist, racist, and bullying behaviours in many capacities during his tenure as founding member of the IFR, including sexual harassment in the field and the workplace: “There are things that we cannot talk about. Or things that I have not heard about. Even though I’ve heard rumours that there was an investigation. Let it be said that there was a breach of trust between the board of directors, or the board of governors, and the executive director. So we terminated our relationship with founding director of the IFR. Ran Boytner is no longer the executive director. And this relates to personnel matters, and as I said we are opening ourselves up to litigation if I say more.”
  • Questions: As a board of governor member, why have you only heard a rumour about an investigation into the behaviour of the executive director? Who conducts these investigations? If the board, are they qualified and impartial?
  • Question: Similar to the Kurin case, if indeed there is truth to these serious allegations and contact with Boytner jeopardize people’s safety, shouldn’t the community deserve to know regardless of the litigation risk to the IFR?

[1:25:22] Wendrich, on why the IFR took no public stance on the allegations in Balter’s blog: “This all happened while COVID hit, while we had to cancel all the field schools, while we had to lay off the personnel, get rid of the office, empty the office. IFR board has been keenly focused on its first priority, and that is the interest of our enrolled students who can’t go to the field this summer.”
  • Fact check and comment: Balter first blog where IFR was mentioned was published on February 28. The field schools were canceled on March 25. The Town hall meeting took place on June 11. Wendrich expect us to believe that in those 16 weeks, the Board was simply too busy to make a statement regarding the serious allegations against their organization? If the interest of their enrolled students was indeed their primarily concern, clearing their name and putting their stakeholders at ease would have been a priority. Additionally many students were waiting over 6 weeks to even hear back from the IFR about their tuition refund, so obviously this was not your first priority.

[1:25:43] Wendrich “Upon the cancellation of the field schools, we have been making provisions for these students. We organized a six week online master class, so that these students, if they need credit, can get the credit to finish their studies.”
  • Fact check: There is no information on the IFR website on who gives the credits to this online master class. It is not listed on the Connecticut College class schedule for Summer 2020.

[1:26:15] Wendrich “The board is of course aware that there are these inflammatory allegations… You really don’t want to give credit to something that has so little credit.”
  • Question: Did the IFR conduct an investigation to check if there is no credit to the events and first-hand testimonials that Balter cites in his blog? If they had no doubt that none of these have credit, why wait 16 weeks before saying it?

[1:27:05] Wendrich, when asked if Ran Boytner will be allowed to participate in Cotsen events in person or remotely: “Ran Boytner is an alum of UCLA. He has not been accused of wreaking havoc at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. He is a colleague. If we have public lectures, then I have no reason to go and tell him that he is not allowed in. If someone wants to prevent from him from coming in, they have to make a complaint that will have to be decided on whether there is a reason to deny him access.”
  • Comment: On the one hand Wendrich refuses to comment on the numerous allegations against Boytner improprieties in the field and in the workplace, but on the other places the responsibility of finding “reasons” to deny him access on her concerned community. Thankfully, Mr. Cato took a firmer stance and assured the audience that there are formal channels to deny campus access to anyone who potentially poses a safety risk to the community.  

[1:32:04] Wendrich, when asked about whether she knew about IFR employees who complained about Boytner’s bullying and harassment: “I cannot go into detail. At some point, Ran Boytner asked me to come to the office, because one of the personnel members said she did not feel safe. And I had a conversation. My conclusion was that this was really a matter of personal style. Ran Boytner has an aggressive way of addressing people. And if you know him, you know that it’s pretty innocent. But if you don’t know him so well, it can be conceived as being threatening. So I mediated in that case. The board did part with him. And let say that human relations is not his forte... [1:34:31] “As far as complaints about bullying and racism, I think this is mostly based on a misunderstanding. It’s a complaint of one particular personnel member. And other than that I really cannot go into this.”
  • Fact check and question: In this email posted on Blater’s blog, Ran Boytner claimed that there was a formal investigation into this complaint with an ad-hoc committee of three board members and an HR specialist. Wendrich, on the other hand, states “At some point, Ran Boytner asked me to come to the office, because one of the personnel members said she did not feel safe. And I had a conversation. My conclusion was that this was really a matter of personal style.” Who is correct here?
  • Questions: If the IFR employee made a complaint about sexual harassment, bullying, and retaliation against Boytner, what made Wendrich qualified to investigate such critical matters? As a board member and colleague (and friend?) of Boytner, isn’t she biased? Why doesn’t she believe the employee’s story now, when she reported it on Balter’s blog?
  • Questions: Is it true that Wendrich recommended to use a “safeword” in the office? Is it true that this employee was fired 10 days after Wendrich submitted her report on the incident? 
  • Fact-check and comments: The Cotsen community is well aware of Ran Boytner’s bullying behavior towards faculty, students, staff, and employees, ever since he was affiliated with the Institute as the Director of International Research. Moderator Lesure comment pushed it back to 1996 when Boytner was a TA in his class, but there are certainly other numerous reports which Wendrich was informed about in and outside the IFR. Former IFR board member Jade d'Alpoim Guedes wrote in a comment on Blater’s blog “I also quit because of what I learned about how IFR staff were treated.”
  • By trying to dismiss this as a “misunderstanding” involving one employee, Wendrich is clearly siding with, and continuing to enable, a known bully and abuser.

[1:34:15] Wendrich, when asked whether she can comment on Boytner’s sexual harassment case at UCLA: “I can’t say anything about what happened at UCLA. Although the blog has published a lot of things about that. And if I read that then this is not sexual harassment.”
  • Comment and question: It seems that Wendrich suddenly considers here the Blog as a reliable source of information. Regarding the last sentence, if the UCLA documents that Balter quotes are authentic, then at best this is a case of a professor who, while in a remote UCLA field school in a foreign country, reveals to his student that he loves her and discusses matters of a very personal nature, all against her will. At worst he solicits sexual favors, stalks her, and grabs her. In both scenarios, the student evidently rejects his advances up to a point where she has to leave the program. One way or the other, this falls under UCLA’s definitions and policy of sexual harassment:
  • Can Wendrich clarify why she does not consider Boytner’s behavior in his field school as sexual harassment? This may clarify why she also dismissed the IFR employee’s story.
  • Wendrich also fails to comment on how Boytner was able to keep his position in the Cotsen Institute for over a year after the events, even though former director Charles Stanish prohibited him in writing to engage with undergraduate students without a third party present.

[1:35:11] De Leon: “I would just add, that the allegations against Ran Boytner, about things that have happened at UCLA, as a Board member, I was unaware of any of those things until reading that actual Blog post. I had no knowledge of any of the things that happened at UCLA until Balter published that piece about Ran Boytner. Many if not all of our Board members, except for those who cannot speak legally, were also unaware of those things.”
  • Comment: De Leon takes a contradictory stance to his earlier statements on the credibility of Balter, by actually crediting the blog for revealing to him and the other board members the allegations against Boytner. De Leon further acknowledges that there are IFR board members who due to legal restrictions, are still not able to comment about Boytner’s case from 2009.
  • Questions: If certain board members knew about Boytner’s case at UCLA (and Chip certainly knew), how do they justify aiding him in establishing, and then joining, a global organization that is responsible for thousands of students in the field?  

[1:35:45] Moderator Richard Lesure: “Maybe I should set aside my moderator role for a moment, and say that all of my contacts in 25 years at UCLA, my only contacts with the Ombuds office, have been over Ran Boytner. He was the worst TA I ever had. And he was bullying a student, a female student, and we worked it out back in 1996, it was a long time ago, we worked it out with the Ombuds office, who was incredibly helpful in making me realize what a bully Ran was. And then his pattern of bullying behavior towards me since then has resulted in me actually not speaking to him for the last 20 years. Someone needs to say a little bit of the other side of Ran Boytner.”
[1:36:50] Wendrich: “WHICH OTHER SIDE?”
  • Comment: Thank you Richard! Many who attended the meeting agree here that Wendrich’s retort to Lesure’s heartfelt comment was absolutely appalling.

[1:36:56] Wendrich: “As said. The board has severed ties.”

[1:38:00] Wendrich, when asked if Ran Boytner will be banned from campus since Charles Stanish prohibited him from interacting with undergraduate students without a third party present, and whether this letter can be shared: “I don’t think so. This falls under the Title IX case that apparently was against him.”
  • Comment: If this poses a risk to her community, can she as current director of the Cotsen Institute ask to see the letter of her predecessor? Wouldn’t the Cotsen have a copy of the file?

[1:39:37] Wendrich “IFR is actually mo… at least as strict as UCLA in its anti-harassment and discrimination policy. And there is a very strong policy in place, where the Title IX offices will be involved for students who are involved in situations like that.”
  • Comment: see above regarding IFR, UCSB, and the new Title IX regulations.

[1:42:05] Wendrich: “Of all the field schools, the 61 field schools who are offered in 2020, 60 will continue and will be offered in 2021, if everything goes well.”
  • Fact-check: A quick survey among some faculty members shows that, at this point, this is a very optimistic assessment by Wendrich that does not accurately reflect the wishes of the current IFR field school directors.
  • Comment: Wendrich spoke personally with the field school directors several weeks after the IFR promised the students that the majority of the field schools will be offered in 2021. In those conversations, she reported to some that Boytner is no affiliated with the IFR, but was very vague on the details. The PIs are still waiting for a formal statement.   

[1:42:20] Wendrich: “We are providing content for students over the summer, and make sure that if they need the credits, they can get them.”
  • See comment above regarding Connecticut College.

[1:42:41] Wendrich: “We will need to communicate something, even though I’m very hesitant to react to anything that comes out of the Balter blog.”
  • See the many comments above regarding damages caused to the community by continuing to keep silent.

[1:43:47] Wendrich: “The [IFR] model is extremely important. And that’s why I put all this work into this organization now. That is why I go through all these miserable allegations. And I can tell you, I am not a happy person… It’s a very aware and very ethical organization.”
  • See the many comments above.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad that Ran Boytner, at least, is (seemingly) out of the picture!

I checked out Balter's claims about Boytner's original departure from UCLA (see blog post:, and they seem to be true, based on some publicly available court filings I found. In fact, both Ran Boytner and Charles "Chip" Stanish are named with University of California in that case!

Balter, I think many people will look forward to further reporting on these issues, particularly as further corroborating evidence becomes available.

Anonymous said...

I attended the Cotsen town hall meeting, and thought it was just disgraceful how Willeke and Jason could just lie to all their students, department members, and UCLA officials right in the face. We are still gathering information on the many inaccuracies that were blurted but, to start with, when asked about Danielle Kurin’s involvement in the IFR board, Willeke replied “[Kurin] was briefly a member of the board in 2017, and she volunteered for the sexual harassment committee. After IFR found out of the problems in the field school in 2018, we severed all ties with Danielle Kurin.” Jason also repeated that they cut ties with her once they learned about the events at the IFR field school in July 2018.
It seems that they felt they could lie to everyone about that because they are not aware of the WayBack Machine website (, which captures webpages over the years (direct links below.) According to this, Danielle Kurin first appears as an IFR board member in FEBRUARY 2016, and then disappears from the board in OCTOBER 2018. That means she was an active IFR board member for TWO YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS, and not “briefly… in 2017” as Willeke falsely claimed. It is equally damning that she was still listed as an IFR board member at least THREE MONTHS AFTER the incidents at the 2018 field school, so they obviously did not sever ties immediately after finding out about what had happened to the students.
Both Willeke and Jason were board members together with Kurin, so it is out of the question that they simply forgot when, and how long, she had served alongside them. Whether they will admit it or not, Kurin was serving on the IFR board and the IFR sexual harassment committee while she herself was under an active Title IX investigation.
And then Jason has the audacity to say “I find it very very offensive, especially as someone who was directly involved in the investigation process, that [Balter] would come out and question all of our integrity about this whole process.” This is not about Balter going after them. These are facts that anyone can check for themselves. And it is very clear who is lying here. I am so disappointed right now in both of them that I just want to cry.

February 18, 2016 (Kurin first appearance on the IFR board)
October 19, 2018 (Kurin last appearance on the IFR board)

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to link the court filings mentioned above regarding Boytner and Stanish? I'd like to see them, and I'm sure others would too.

It's not surprising to me that Chip supported Ran even after the sexual harassment in the Peru field school. Chip dated several grad students, and even one former undergrad. All that may have been technically within the rules, but it wasn't exactly ethical.

Anonymous said...

Wendrich and De Leon are lying because they have been caught out for maladministration and they want are desperately trying to protect themselves. Disgusting! They should be fired too!! Thank you, Michael, for revealing true colors of these people.

Anonymous said...

Does Prof. Wendrich have *no* idea how many people actually loathe her and the lies and unethical behavior she has pulled on many, many students? Astonishing lack of awareness for an esteemed scholar of human behavior.

Anonymous said...

Wendrich was telling everyone in the meeting how the safety of the students is their priority. But then… adds that since IFR is a nonprofit, they: 1) do not need to comply with Title IX regulations, and 2) cannot make public statements regarding the accused (and thus alert other students) for risk of litigation. Instead, when they find that there is a Title IX complaint they investigate internally and report to the student’s Title IX office at the student’s home university. Sadly, the case of the UCSB student who was sexually assaulted in Kurin’s field school, and which UCSB now denies all responsibility since they claim it falls under IFR jurisdiction rather than theirs, clearly shows that this system is broken. The direct implication is that IFR students and staff are extremely vulnerable to abuse in the field. I hope that the post-meeting committee can address this crucial issue.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand Wendrich kept saying that she cannot tell us anything about Boytner’s sexual harassment case at UCLA, but when asked if he will be allowed to come to the Cotsen events, her reply is “Ran Boytner is an alum of UCLA. He has not been accused of wreaking havoc at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. He is a colleague. If we have public lectures, then I have no reason to go and tell him that he is not allowed in. If someone wants to prevent from him from coming in, they have to make a complaint that will have to be decided on whether there is a reason to deny him access.”
Do you seriously expect your community to feel safe with these type of circular statements?

Anonymous said...

It is up to the staff, students and the community now to make sure they do something drastic to get rid of rotten leaders like Wendrich and de Leon, and make academia great again.

Anonymous said...

This is negligence and failure in duty of care from Wendrich. History will judge her but, administrators like her should not get into those roles.

Anonymous said...

I was involved as staff on an IFR field school in 2014. During that field school, I spoke about project finances with Anthony Graesch, who was involved with the founding of IFR and continues to serve in IFR leadership. Graesch got his PhD at UCLA, and was then a postdoc at UCLA until he became faculty at Connecticut College in 2010.

Graesch told me at that field school that Connecticut College was chosen to manage credits for students, because the College cut a special discounted tuition rate for IFR via Graesch. I understood this to mean that IFR was able to pocket a greater amount of the fees charged to students; the students' overall fees did not appear to be lower after the switch to the College's cheaper tuition (compared to CSUN or UCLA). Students were not presented with a breakdown of how their fees were spent.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Balter for today’s update. As for your question why Connecticut College, around minute 30:15 (on my phone recording) Wendrich talks about the IFR board members and mentions “Anthony Gresh, also UCLA Alum, who is now at Connecticut College” and again 31:30 “Anthony Gresh, from Connecticut College, is the chair.” So a representative from Connecticut College is sitting on both boards of the IFR, and has a connection to UCLA.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, in Never-Never Land, the IFR announced today:

“Important message for students who enrolled in any of the 2020 IFR field schools: Enrollment for the Master Class in Field Research is now open. Follow this link to learn more:”

Is this also through Connecticut College? It doesn’t seem to be listed on their class schedule:

Anonymous said...

I sure hope it’s not through UCLA!

Anonymous said...

As I see it, Boytner HAS been accused of wreaking havoc at the Cotsen. What made me jump out of my seat halfway through the second part of the meeting, was when Willeke declares that the way she reads the blog, Boytner’s behavior in Peru is NOT sexual harassment. This also echoes Stanish’s words in his letter to Boytner.
If the UCLA documents that Balter quotes are authentic, then *at best* it is a case of a professor who, while in a remote UCLA field school in a foreign country, reveals to his student that he loves her and discusses matters of a very personal nature, all against her will. At worst he solicits sexual favors, stalks her, and grabs her. In both scenarios, the student evidently rejects his advances up to a point where she has to leave the program.
Either way, this reads like it falls under UCLA’s definitions and policy that I attach below. So I am hoping that Willeke can further explain why she thinks this is NOT sexual harassment, and I would also be interested to hear more from Mr. Cato of the Title IX Office.
2. Sexual Harassment: a. Sexual Harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: i. Quid Pro Quo: a person’s submission to such conduct is implicitly or explicitly made the basis for employment decisions, academic evaluation, grades or advancement, or other decisions affecting participation in a University program, activity, or service; or ii. Hostile Environment: such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it unreasonably denies, adversely limits, or interferes with a person’s participation in or benefit from the education, employment or other programs, activities or services of the University, and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find to be intimidating or offensive. b. Consideration is given to the totality of the circumstances in which the conduct occurred.

Anonymous said...

A VIMEO clip of Richard Lesure, visibly unsettled, details his experience with Boytner harrassing a student nearly 25 years ago.

Richard Lesure talks about Ran Boytner

I love how fast Wendrich gives him the stink eye and dismisses the story as irrelevant while poised before her pharaonic monumental inscription. The brazen attitude of these people is truly astounding. Wendrich, De León and their ilk operate through power groups associated with awarding institutions as well both around Los Angeles and nationally - the Getty, the Smithsonian, the NAS, the MacArthur Foundation - and refer to each other's clout in dealing with each other's problematic colleagues. That is why the PI's, faculty and staff remain anonymous because these people are notoriously loyal to each other even if they are caught wrong doing. As bullies, they will continue to do everything they can to slander anyone who questions them or their motivations. Stanish is coaching from the sidelines here.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where Wendrich has been because she and her colleagues have been required to take training in specifically these forms of behavior every few years throughout their tenure. UC demands that ALL faculty and staff complete sexual harassment prevention training as an on-line program in which one is given detailed scenarios of situations in which touching, remarks on personal appearance and so forth are analysed with tests as to whether this is appropriate behavior or not to pass. At one point they even introduced live productions of role playing as an alternative to the on-line program.

Anonymous said...

Wendrich, De Leon and their ilk are rotten to the core. It is time to trigger external bodies to investigate them. File a complaint to the regulatory bodies. Truth will come out but it will take time.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the details of Kuriin's case and was actually willing to give Willeke the benefit of the doubt, up to where she started about Boytner's bullying being a matter of personal style, and that drivel that if you know him he's pretty innocent. I've heard from enough people affiliated with the Cotsen- some of them present in that meeting- to know that the guy has a real problem. Lesure's searing comment pushed it even back in time. The fact that she decided to side with a known bully rather than the employee who complained speaks volumes.

Michael Balter said...

Re the last comment: Wendrich’s husband Hans, also at the Cotsen, is particularly good friends with Boytner. That has created a conflict of interest all along and could explain in part why his behavior has been tolerated all along—at the expense of students and staff.

Anonymous said...

To me it sounded like she wanted to have the cake and eat it too. On the one hand she's "oh he's just misunderstood", but on the other she is saying over and over that the IFR terminated him because of breach of trust (and aggression?). This confused me too at first, till she said that she is risking litigation if she says more. ‘Nuff said!

Michael Balter said...

A lot of people cite fear of litigation as an excuse for keeping quiet. Nothing new in that

Anonymous said...

I agree that there is more to it than simply Boytner holding the board legally hostage. In the Town Hall, it was patent that Jason De Leon himself was not subscribing to Willeke’s “it was a big misunderstanding” party line. At first he was quick to call Balter a liar when it had to do with matters that implicated him directly (such as previously knowing about Kurin’s Title IX), but then goes on to state that when he did find out, he requested Boytner to take action but was ignored.
However, the clincher came in the 2nd part of the meeting, when De Leon very clearly needs to get this point across:
“I would just add, that the allegations against Ran Boytner, about things that have happened at UCLA, as a Board member, I was unaware of any of these things until reading that Blog post. I had no knowledge of any of the things that happened at UCLA until Balter published that piece about Ran Boytner. Many if not all of our Board members, except for those who cannot speak legally, were also unaware of those things.”
In this instance De Leon is willing to throw Boytner under the bus and take Balter’s blog at face value, rather than question again the validity to those allegations. In addition, he clearly implies that some Board members did know, but out of legal reasons did not say anything. So while De Leon is trying to cover his own ass with another “I had no knowledge” statement, he only manages to reveal the hypocrite that he truly is.

Anonymous said...

Still on the topic of Boytner’s misconduct, when Wendrich is asked by the Cotsen graduate students to comment on his “sexist, racist, and bullying behaviours in many capacities during his tenure as the founding director of the IFR, and that those behaviours included sexual harassment in the field and in work place”
Wendrich’s replied:
“There are things that we cannot talk about, or things that I have not heard about, even though I’ve heard a rumour that there is an investigation”.
As a board of governors’ member, you “hear rumours” of an investigation into the improprieties of the director? What kind of an organization is this? And now that you are the co-chair and took over the director’s role, can you get access to that investigation report and share it with your community?

Anonymous said...

Yikes!!! Will this recording of the meeting be made available for those who are not part of UCLA? If this is the first forum they make a public statement about the removal of Boytner and changes to IFR governance, there are certainly many other stakeholders who will be most interested in learning more.

Michael Balter said...

In reference to the last comment: A good point. The Zoom meeting was invitation only, ie it was not meant to be public. It has become public thanks to sources who rightly felt the public had the right to know, and that includes field directors and any students who might be thinking about attending IFR field schools. The board has still not made any public announcement that Boytner has been terminated as executive director. Will it ever? Instead IFR leaders continue to attack those who did make it public.

Anonymous said...

Well, as someone who attended the meeting I can attest that the whole thing was one big farce. The gist of the “public stance” that Willeke and Jason had shared with the graduate students and the Cotsen community at large was basically this:

A. Balter is lying. Ergo: addressing any and all allegations is unnecessary.

B. Boytner was terminated.

C. Due to risk of litigation and privacy matters, we are not at liberty to say
anything about why Boytner was really terminated from the IFR; we are not at
liberty to say anything about Boytner’s bullying, racists and sexist conduct
with employees; we are not at liberty to say anything about Boytner’s sexual
harassment case at UCLA; we are not at liberty to deny Boytner continued
access to the Cotsen; we are not at liberty to say what happened in Kurin’s
field school in 2018; we are not at liberty to say anything about Kurin’s
ongoing Title IX cases at UCSB; and we are not at liberty to make public
statements about IFR PIs who harass students.

D. The future of the IFR looks bright.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, because this is exactly how it works in the real world. If someone accuses you of committing a crime, you simply call them a liar and then you can walk away. Wake the f#ck up!

Anonymous said...

That entire Zoom meeting was textbook DARVO, individual and institutional:
“DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim -- or the whistle blower -- into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of "falsely accused" and attacks the accuser's credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.
Institutional DARVO occurs when the DARVO is committed by an institution (or with institutional complicity) as when police charge rape victims with lying. Institutional DARVO is a pernicious form of institutional betrayal.”

Not surprised at all that Boytner took this path in his earlier statement, but I thought that de Leon and Wendrich were better than that. I guess I was wrong.

Michael Balter said...

The worst thing is that the faculty of the Cotsen Institute would gaslight their own graduate students.

Anonymous said...

That’s it, I’m transferring to Harvard. At least there they started taking out the trash.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Anonymous from June 15, 2020 for introducing the DARVO concept, which applies to other institutions and bullies that Michael has investigated. Just look at the developing cases in Adelaide ( Bullying and harassment know no bound. They are rife in academic institutions inside and outside the US, and they extend beyond archaeology, anthropology and science to health and medicine. Help colleagues in your own and other institutions to fight these global problems.

Anonymous said...

If I were a field school director, I would be very concerned about all this talk of litigation considering that the IFR continues to use their names and reputations to promote their programs after everything that has been revealed here. I would question what my own liability might be with regard to the IFR’s legal entanglements.

Anonymous said...

This is from their Facebook page. Not so much of a public stance, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, quite a few grammatical and spelling errors here and on their twitter account.

Institute for Field Research (IFR)
June 12 at 4:02 PM ·
Like you, the global pandemic caused us to stop, reflect, and adapt. The IFR’s concern for the safety of students, staff, and the communities in which we work, caused us to cancel our Summer 2020 field school season. We made other difficult decisions such as closing our office and laying off staff.
While we are still working in uncertainty with regard to the virus, we are thrilled to be able to communicate with you all again! Our next season will bring valuable, exciting experiential education and field research to aspiring archaeologists or any student who wants to experience the excitement of being in the field! We believe our programs will offer immense value to students at a time when the personal and social cost of failing to understand history and study our differences - whether in the past, present, or future - is astronomically high.
Who is working at IFR? Presently, IFR is managed by a volunteer Board of Governors, and quality control of field schools is overseen by our Academic Board IFR staff members include Wendy Perla Kurtz, Ph.D.; and two returning staff members: Ana Eyssimont; and Miriam Bar-Zemer
You can find more information regarding our Covid-19 response, board and staff inquires, and more on our website:

Anonymous said...

{Part 1/2}
What I’ve learned in this Town Hall meeting and ensuing “virtual hallway” conversations, is how the Institute for Field Research is completely ill-suited to protect students in the field. Wendrich and De Leon repeated in the meeting that the IFR has robust anti-harassment and discrimination policies. Having robust policies means absolutely nothing if you don’t have an effective system in place to enforce them. I summarize some of the key points that I’ve gathered, since I feel this discussion can be extremely relevant to any student who are thinking of applying to IFR programs in the future:

.- As it turns out, only students are required to sign the IFR policies on harassment, discrimination, and code of conduct. Faculty or staff are only asked to read and “become familiar” with those. That’s a major loophole in case the perpetrator is a faculty member or affiliated staff (such as in the case of Kurin’s field school.)
.- IFR does not contact the program instructors’ respective universities/title IX offices to check if they have any recorded violations. They do not conduct any sort of criminal background check. They do not check if PIs had sexual harassment training at their home institutions.
.- IFR claims that they conduct sexual harassment orientations. These actually consist of a few minutes in an online meeting about a month before the field school, and another one that IFR asks the PIs to conduct at the beginning of the fieldwork. The IFR, however, does not provide the PI with guidelines or training on how to conduct those orientations.
.- IFR tasks their field school directors and staff with solving policy violations in the field, BEFORE an IFR representative is brought into the picture. However, they do not provide any training to those field school directors in harassment prevention, arbitration, or resolution. The IFR does not asks to see proof that their field instructors ever had such basic training in their home institutions.
.- According to reliable sources, the 24/7 emergency hotline that IFR provides to their students in case they want to report an abuse directly, is Ran Boytner’s personal phone number (or at least was, if he was terminated.) If the allegations against him at UCLA and IFR have any validity, then this compromised any complaints students may have made to him about sexual harassment in the field.
.- When something serious happen, the IFR launches an internal investigation. By their own admission, Kurin’s case was investigated by De Leon and Wendrich, along with other board members. These board members, I suspect, are not specifically trained or qualified to investigate serious matters such as sexual harassment and assault. For example, according to Wendrich, part of the investigation process may include sending a board member to intervene in the field. Experience shows that an unprofessional intervention can cause more harm than good, especially in early hours and days when the emotional state and mental health of the victims are at their most fragile state.
.- By the nature of the IFR model, the board has both a professional and a business relationship with the PIs and their projects. Therefore, this fact alone makes them unsuited to conduct an impartial investigation if the accused is a faculty member (in Kurin’s case, she was still an IFR board member when investigated by the board. By Wendrich’s admission, her field school was one of the most popular IFR programs, which of course translates to one of the most profitable to the IFR.) This relationship undermines the IFR investigatory process at its core.
.- It was not clear from the Town Hall meeting who actually controls these investigations and their reporting. According to De Leon, once he found about Kurin’s transgressions he complained to Boytner, but Boytner did not take these concerns seriously and took no stance.
(Continued below…)

Anonymous said...

{Part 2/2- Continued from above}
.- According to Wendrich, the IFR is a non-profit 501(c)(3), which means that they are not obligated to follow Title IX regulations like with any regular university. Wendrich explained that the IFR is also not bound by direct relations with the faculty that Title IX offices at universities are bound by. That much is clear. While UCSB placed Kurin on a three-year administrative leave during and following her title IX investigation, the IFR welcomed her as a board members and let her run field schools. I found De Leon’s excuse that they all thought this prolonged administrative leave was due to a racism complaint by a student against Kurin’s husband to be either exceptionally naïve, or hiding a more sinister truth.
.- Wendrich claimed that they report every title IX violation to the office at the student’s home institution. Unfortunately, with the new title IX regulations universities will no longer be held accountable for incidents that happen outside the US. Case in point, the very unfortunate story of the student who was sexually assaulted in Kurin’s Peru field school, and which UCSB now denies all responsibility by claiming that this goes back to IFR’s jurisdiction. I am personally not a big fan of journalists, but I can completely understand why this and other students are now turning to this blog in order to tell their stories and demand justice.
.- According to Wendrich, since the IFR is a non-profit, they will not take a public stance against any accused party for risk of litigation. Putting self-preservation before the safety of the archaeological community is extremely unethical and negligent, especially when it comes to potentially dangerous faculty and staff members who continue to engage with students beyond the IFR field school.

By posting these collective concerns here, I hope that the IFR, or at least those representatives who spoke at the Cotsen Town Hall meeting, will find it important enough to fix their faulty system and ensure the safety of the students who go to their programs. Otherwise, it is up to the archaeological community to stop them before more harm befalls our students and faculty.

AIM said...

Regarding the Jun 20th update:

Did the IFR offer any explanation to UCLA Extension what the "health and safety" concerns were when they cancelled the field school? It seems to me that if Ran (and possibly the board of the IFR) knew that the field school was being cancelled due to concerns relating to Gomez and Kurin's conduct, the IFR should have been held responsible for paying the costs. It's the IFR's job to vet the field schools and the directors before making the courses available to the students.

Frankly, even if the field school was cancelled due to reasons unrelated to the Gomez/Kurin allegations, I still do not understand why UCLA (and by extension the state of California and its residents) were on the hook for $43,256.48? Based on everything I've heard about the IFR, UCLA and Connecticut College don't really play any role in vetting the field schools for safety. They seem to leave that responsibility up to the IFR. If a field school turns out to be unsafe and there is a financial fallout, the IFR should be solely liable for those. Does the IFR have some sort of disaster insurance coverage?

Anonymous said...

In regards to the June 25 update above: are there any developments following that June 11 Town Hall meeting? Or were the 19 archaeology graduate students effectively silenced by the Cotsen and UCLA administration? Seems like there are still A LOT of unanswered questions, some of major concern to the broader archaeological community.

Anonymous said...

As someone embedded in that Andean archaeological community, I can attest that if the IFR discovered in their investigation that Enmanuel Gomez Choque conducted sexual harassment and/or assault in their field school, they didn’t divulge this information to anyone. Not by taking a public stance, and I am certain that not even through whisper networks. They felt they’ve done their due-diligence by discontinuing Danielle’s field school through them.
It’s not just irresponsible. It’s criminal.

Anonymous said...

And so the truth is coming to light, bit by bit. Wouldn't be surprised if Wendrich is already embarking on a Kurin-style intimidation campaign among her students and colleagues. I hope that they will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Oh you can bet Wendrich is doing exactly that!! If she can't shut you down from her lair deep within the Fowler Museum castle at UCLA, she will send the flying monkeys after you the next time you apply for a major grant or award elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I was very distressed read the new commentary from the UCLA meeting, and want to confirm that IFR are definitely covering up for a major fuckup that placed students in danger. Here’s why: They say here that they acted promptly and investigated as soon as they heard of the sexual harassment in the field school. But a few days after that program ended, Kurin was directing another IFR field school in Peru!!! According to a student who participated in this project, there were about twenty of them. You can add to the questions above: why did you send twenty students to work with a professor who was under IFR investigation?

Michael Balter said...

On this last comment, it is true. In addition, as I reported earlier, IFR board members did not actually interview any of the students from the field school until September, and then they declined to interview all of the witnesses. I suspect they might have been talking to their lawyers in the meantime, because the institute's legal liability has always been priority number one--they have made that clear by their own statements.

Anonymous said...

As added corroboration to the above commenter’s claim, see the following links.

The Wari Field School (where harassment by Kurin’s husband took place)
Course Dates: June 16-July 15, 2018

The Sondor Field School (where Kurin is also listed as director)
Course Dates: July 21-August 18, 2018

According to Wendrich and De Leon the harassment took place on the last day of the Wari program, following which the IFR started an investigation that concluded that “bad things had happened and that [Kurin] should not be near students at all”.
I think the reason for why they let Kurin’s “popular” Sondor program run less than a week after students were abused is pretty clear ($$$), but would still like to know how Wendrich and De Leon can explain their way out of this one.

Anonymous said...

If Connecticut College was the School of Record for the 2018 Summer Field Season (
- why was UCLA Extension responsible for cancelling the class?
- why did Boytner demand (and receive) 43K from UCLA?
- what kind(s) of oversight did Connecticut College provide?

When did responsibility change? AND WHY?

Michael Balter said...

Re the last comment: UCLA Extension cancelled the 2016 field school, not the 2018 one.

Anonymous said...

As Wendrich explained in the town hall meeting, IFR switched back to Connecticut College sometimes in 2018. But what I find highly suspicious is that in 2017, when IFR was still working with UCLA Extension, the two sessions of Kurin’s field school were not receiving credit units like all other IFR field schools.
Note the disclaimer on top of the “Overview”:
“Please note that this program does not award credits units at this time. Students will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program. Students are encouraged to present the syllabus of this program to their advisers and petition their home university for awarding credit units internally. The IFR is standing by to help students with this endeavor”.

From what I can tell, this program is the only one that was not accredited by UCLA that year.
This is a major red flag. Did UCLA continue to refuse working with Kurin in 2017, while IFR continued to endorse her (she was still an IFR board member at the time)? Did UCLA explain to the IFR why they will not award the credits, and did the IFR explain to the students why they will not be awarded those credits? Did UCLA’s denial of credits was a factor in the IFR’s decision to switch to another school of record, Connecticut College, in 2018 (where yet another IFR board member was working)? These institutions have some serious explaining to do.

Anonymous said...

Very strange and excellent detective work. I wonder if Kevin Vaughn knows? Probably another reason that Vaughn is running silent and running deep.

Anonymous said...

“[USC] hides a lot of dirty laundry in some really beautiful buildings,” but at least their town hall meetings yield positive results:
“USC School of Dramatic Arts Dean David Bridel resigned Thursday after his past relationship with a student was revealed at a town hall meeting.” “I fully accept that my behavior in 2009 demonstrated a failure in judgment and evidence of irresponsibility.”
All the while at UCLA Wendrich continues to lie and gaslight colleagues, students and staff by covering up her own failures in judgment and evidence of irresponsibility. Bruins, stand up against abuses of power!

Anonymous said...

“…aren't these people supposed to govern and make things work, rather than playing damaging politics?”
(Willeke Wendrich, from her twitter account on April 8, 2011)

Ironically, this is also right about when she and Boytner created the IFR.

Anonymous said...

An interesting development at the IFR:
The IFR announced today that Dr. Julie Stein joins the Board of Governors. She was previously, and still is, listed also as a member of the Academic Board.
This vertical move may suggest that Stein is about to replace someone at the board of governors. Any thoughts or additional information from this blog readers are most welcome.

Michael Balter said...

Thanks for the news about Julie Stein. She was also a member of the ad hoc committee that investigated misconduct at Danielle Kurin's 2018 field school.

Anonymous said...

According to WayBack Machine, Stein joined the IFR Academic Board around October 2016.
This is a few months after Danielle Kurin joined the board, so the two definitely coincided until they kicked Kurin out in October 2018. And as pointed out above, she may have played a role in this decision. Stein does not seem to be connected to the UCLA-IFR core founding group (according to IFR founding documents, 9 out of 10 of the academic board members have either coincided or worked directly with Boytner while he was at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, and may still be covering for his 2009-2011 UCLA sexual harassment complaint and civil lawsuit.) This may signal a positive change at the IFR upper management.

It may be useful to point out here these online tools that can help anyone interested in conducting their own research and drawing their own conclusions regarding the connections between individuals and institutions, without the need to rely solely on the word of those who work or worked there.
1. WayBack Machine/Internet Archive provides periodical captures of web pages. To view those of the Institute for Field Research:*/
2. To view those of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology:*/
3. To view publically-available CA.GOV documents relating to the IFR, including the founding documents, see here (enter “Institute for Field Research” under Organization Name):
4. IFR tax records: (enter EIN Number: 27-5556305).
5. The Superior Court of California webpage provides information on legal cases involving UCLA, IFR, and affiliated individuals.

If anyone thinks they found anything of value that can contribute to this particular discussion, especially where it comes to abuses of power structures, providing justice to those who were harmed, and preventing future cases of harassment and bullying in the field, please share with the others on this blog (with Mr. Balter's permission, of course.)

Anonymous said...

Re the comments above- there's a developing discussion off-web about the involvement of De Leon in the IFR-UCLA 'enabling' network, posted on another page of this blog. Since this is directly pertinent to the Cotsen townhall, it’s reproduced here with permission.
Anonymous said...
I’ve been following this discussion on tight-knit and self-serving, enabling, networks from the side-lines, but now feel the need to jump in in regards to the above (now deleted) comments on Jason De Leon. De Leon is indeed an award-winning Latino scholar, whose research is innovative and topical. The comment that he’s the search committees’ dream candidate is spot on, and Michigan are still kicking themselves for losing him to UCLA.
But one also needs to understand a bit of institutional prehistory in order to contextualise where this success story is coming from, all of which can be reconstructed by anyone with a bit of online research. This will hopefully also help those who attended the disgraceful Cotsen/IFR/UCLA June 11 Town Hall meeting (that Balter previously covered), and are still confused about De Leon’s staunch defence of the IFR despite the serious allegations that organization is currently facing.
De Leon got his B.A. at UCLA in 2001, where he met many of the colleagues who would later become his fellow board members at the IFR. While pursuing his graduate degree at Penn State, he continued working with Cotsen-related projects and faculty, although at this point he’s still your run-of-the-mill Mesoamerican archaeologist. His big break comes a year after graduating, when he embarks on the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP) in 2009. The first field school is offered in 2010 through the UCLA Archaeology Field Program that Ran Boytner and Charles Stanish concocted at the Cotsen Institute, and which provided De Leon with a major funding source, public exposure and students. There he also meets other field school directors who would later join the IFR as board members. When Boytner and his program are kicked out of UCLA in late 2010 (possibly for sexual harassment, see Balter’s blog on this topic) and the IFR is created from the ashes in 2011, De Leon is appointed as a founding board member along with his UCLA buddies and fellow field school directors. As a recently appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, this is De Leon’s first seat at the ‘adults table’ and provides him with much needed networking leverage and professional service. He then continues to run his UMP field school through the IFR in 2012 and 2013, and more recently in 2020 (cancelled due to the pandemic). In 2019 he leaves Michigan back to UCLA, his alma mater.
Seen as such, there is nothing here that any other ambitious academic wouldn’t do: work hard, network and climb through the ranks. In recent years De Leon became known and respected in the community for being vocal on correcting social injustices and a champion of the #MeToo movement. He even publicly quit the SAA after the Yesner blunder, which Balter helped to expose. The twist came when whisper networks and student testimonies started to expose the dark truths about harassments, assaults and bullying cases at the IFR— the organization and people that made De Leon who he is today— that he suddenly fell all silent. He only broke his silence at the June 11 Town Hall meeting, where he shamefully deflected the blame onto Balter, thus muzzling all those victims who shared their stories in the first place. In order to save the organization, he followed the party line and recast this grave institutional negligence on specific individuals, namely Danielle Kurin. At the expense of those who now demand justice, this helped him justify to himself and others why, 20 years after, he is still willing to work and cover up for the same group of people.
And this is exactly why tight-knit and self-serving, enabling, networks are so very much real, and are so very dangerous.
July 3, 2020 11:12PM