|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:
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.
- 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.
- 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 (http://www.archbase.com/
fayum/). 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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?
- 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.”
- These important questions were not addressed by the IFR representatives in the meeting.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- The same comments and questions asked above of De Leon on this topic, also apply here to Wendrich.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/
- 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.
- 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?
- Comment: Thank you Richard! Many who attended the meeting agree here that Wendrich’s retort to Lesure’s heartfelt comment was absolutely appalling.
- 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?
- Comment: see above regarding IFR, UCSB, and the new Title IX regulations.
- 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.
- See comment above regarding Connecticut College.
- See the many comments above regarding damages caused to the community by continuing to keep silent.
- See the many comments above.