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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Student sexually assaulted by then-husband of University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin writes to Chancellor about the university's failure to help her [Updated July 31, 2020]

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang
Last Sunday I posted about the failure of the University of California, Santa Barbara Title IX office to investigate  complaints against UCSB archaeologist Danielle Kurin. In 2018, at Kurin's archaeological field school in Peru, two students were sexually assaulted by Kurin's then-husband, Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque. One of them, whom I called Student No. 3 to protect her identity, was particularly traumatized and has not recovered from the experience. But that has not stopped her from fighting for justice for herself and other survivors of Gomez's assaults and Kurin's continual attempts to cover them up.

In the meantime, Kurin has sued me for defamation, demanding $10 million in damages, for my truthful and accurate reporting about her long history of misconduct--which includes a 2016 Title IX finding that she had retaliated against students who reported sexual harassment by Gomez at her 2015 field school (Kurin later married Gomez and only recently divorced him.)

Tonight, Student No. 3 has written to the Chancellor of UCSB, Henry T. Yang, about the university's failures to protect students. I am reproducing her letter below, with her name redacted, as she wishes to protect her identity. However, she has identified herself to Chancellor Yang, so he knows well that she is a real person and is standing by her statements.

I want to make clear that I had nothing to do with the composition of this letter, nor Student No. 3's decision to write it, even if she utilizes some of my reporting in it (without journalism, few if any would know the truth about Kurin's misconduct and the university's failure to stop it, even allowing her to put students in danger again after the events of 2015 and 2016.)

I will keep readers updated on the response Student No. 3 gets from the Chancellor and what further action, if any, the university takes in this matter.


Dear Chancellor Yang,

My name is ___________ and I was recently involved in a Title IX case involving UCSB Professor Danielle Kurin. You may know her personally, you may not. However, as Chancellor, you should be aware that she has already been involved in a 2016 Title IX case in which she was found guilty for retaliating against a student who was assaulted by her now ex-husband. Even with the cases put forth, she is up for tenure in September 2020. 

In the summer of 2018, I attended a field school in Peru headed by Professor Kurin and ran through the company IFR. The weekend before we all left Peru to return home, Danielle’s ex-husband sexually assaulted me. Danielle proceeded to handle the matter abhorrently. She  blamed me and never apologized for what happened to me under her care. I will not take the time in this letter to explain more about the incident itself. You can do the research, I am not the first woman this has happened to. 

When I came forward with my story about what happened the night I was assaulted, I had a lot of support and evidence. Surely, I thought, with a Title IX case already on her record and now this, that’s enough for some action to be taken to ensure the safety of current and future UCSB students. After weeks of waiting to hear back, I got a call explaining that no action would be taken because the incident occurred in a program not run by UCSB, although run by a UCSB professor. I was told that Kurin would face no repercussions for the part she played in my assault and the general misconduct she engaged in because of jurisdictional issues. Perhaps, your TItle IX office has prematurely decided to enact the new regulations that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos approved which excludes most cases of sexual assault that occur off-campus. Let me remind you, those do not go into effect until August 14th, and until then it is your responsibility to hold your professors accountable for their misconduct, even if it occurred off-campus. So it seems UCSB has been overhasty in using ‘jurisdiction’ as an excuse to dismiss this case because that’s all it is… an excuse. It’s an excuse not to take responsibility and an excuse to turn the other cheek because that’s easier. I am so tired of this kind of response. It’s outdated and archaic and I expected more accountability and transparency from UCSB. I am asking you, Chancellor, to stop looking for excuses not to listen to the voices of victims of sexual assault, and to reconcile what has happened. 

This experience deterred me from attending other archaeological field schools. It has left me feeling unsafe in the field that I am most passionate about. The dismissal of my case, and consequently the dismissal of my assault, has made me feel unsupported and unsafe in a university setting. Ultimately, leading me to question whether to continue onto grad school. I do not feel inclined to continue putting time and money into Institutions that do not have the students’ best interest at heart. 

Chancellor Yang, this is your call to action. Be a part of a positive change in the system that has for so long protected abusers and the powerful and privileged. 


Update July 31, 2020: For those who want to write to Chancellor Yang

Chancellor Henry Yang
Office of the Chancellor 5221 Cheadle Hall Santa Barbara, CA 93106 Mailcode: 2030 henry.yang@ucsb.edu



13 comments:

Lana S. Martin, PhD said...

I'm so sorry to read about this student's horrible experience - and the university's completely inadequate response to her coming forward. I hope Dean Yang reads this message and takes it to heart. I appreciate this person's bravery in speaking up and hope she is well.

Jaime Briceno said...

Muchas personas como yo en Latinoamerica hemos creído siempre que la justicia norteamericana no hacia distingo cuando se trata de defender derechos humanos. Creí siempre que en USA no importaba si tenias dinero o eras poderoso. Si cometías un probable delito, eras juzgado y si te encontraban culpable, eras encarcelado. En varias oportunidades he visto como artistas famosos, empresarios poderosos eran encarcelados porque abusaron de otro ser humano. Hoy me siento decepcionado que a una estudiante norteamericana le sea arrebatado el derecho a que se investigue una denuncia de abuso sexual realizado en Perú. Me siento decepcionado de las autoridades de la Universidad de Santa Barbara @ucsantabarbara que dan un pésimo ejemplo a las universidades de otras partes del mundo, especialmente a la peruana.

Unknown said...

I hope this brave young woman will overcome her reluctance to continue in field archaeology. This horrible experience is not what the field is about.

Anonymous said...

I commend the bravery of this student and hope she knows that she has the support of so many in the archaeological community.

As a former UCSB Anthro grad student, I am disgusted at the state of leadership of the Anthropology Dept and administration. Kurin should have been fired after the 2016 Title IX findings. Instead, she was given three years of paid leave and allowed to continue her field school, resulting in additional students being assaulted and harassed. UCSB's inability to act decisively and their silence has imperiled their students.

I echo those who've said that Kurin is a danger to students. She should not get tenure at UCSB and indeed should never be put in a position where she is responsible for students' welfare ever again.

The UCSB administration needs to have a moral reckoning and recognize that the safety of their students is more important than covering themselves legally. I agree with the student who states that punting on a Title IX jurisdictional loophole that hasn't even gone into effect is disgraceful.

I wish this student the best of everything in her life and future career, whether it is in Anthro or elsewhere. She has more integrity in her little finger than the whole lot of them combined. Thank you too, Michael Balter, for your excellent reporting over the past months.

Anonymous said...

I want to support the last person's comment on Michael Balter's excellent reporting and his dedication to this issue. As someone connected to the Department of Anthropology at UCSB, I am (and have been) gravely concerned. I have learned more from Balter's coverage about these assaults than from the Anthro Department even after working there for several years. Of course they knew of the sexual assaults and harassment allegations when Kurin left on paid leave back in 2016! While UCSB chooses to wipe their hands clean of the Title IX findings, the Department of Anthropology has continuously swept these under the rug as well. In so doing, they have caused great harm to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Generally, I do believe that UCSB does a good job of educating students about sexual harassment through the required online courses, as well as department-sponsored seminars and webinars. Recently, a group of graduate students put together a training program for preventing sexual harassment in the field, and a faculty member and some graduate students published papers on sexual harassment.

All of this awareness training has done absolutely nothing for the students who are affected by these issues. How can faculty members and mentors guide students to the right resources when there are these loopholes? How can we create change in the discipline when there is no open communication?

I feel bad for the students that had such an awful field and life experience. I hope that Danielle Kurin takes responsibility for her actions! I believe that with more accurate reporting and attention to this issue, some change can come about.

Monica Barnes said...

Can Anonymous (July 31, 2020 at 2:20 AM) share the training program for preventing sexual harassment in the field put together by UCSB graduate students? Can(s)he give references for the published papers on sexual harassment. I would very much like to have their insights. For something on sexual harassment I have posted on another blog see: https://harngroup.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Monica Barnes--I have these documents. Can I send them to you directly? You can contact me at ucsb805seashore@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

“This experience deterred me from attending other archaeological field schools. It has left me feeling unsafe in the field that I am most passionate about. The dismissal of my case, and consequently the dismissal of my assault, has made me feel unsupported and unsafe in a university setting. Ultimately, leading me to question whether to continue onto grad school.”
Ultimately this brave student’s plea extends beyond the individual experience. Female students elsewhere will hear about the case and how the institutions have failed to protect her and punish the culprits, and will be deterred to go into archaeology. This may be of small consequence to Chancellor Yang, but perhaps more faculty at UCSB Anthro should give a damn and pressure from within.

Anonymous said...

If it was the Chancellor's family member who had been sexually assaulted, he would not be staying quiet, would he? Time to change the organization starting from the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. Read this link.

http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/05/peter-rathjen-serial-sexual-predator.html

Anonymous said...

Such a powerful letter, I really hope it will be answered. Even if UCSB won’t acknowledge the misconduct due to some bureaucratic loophole, the victims of harassment and retaliation still know the truth. In other cases institutional failures create whisper networks to share "war stories" and warn others about predators.
https://www.ktva.com/story/40180592/title-ix-investigation-reveals-decades-of-sexual-misconduct-by-former-uaa-professor

Anonymous said...

I realize that this probably has to do with privacy issues, but I am not clear if ‘Student no. 3’ is a student at UCSB. If not, didn’t Willeke say at the Cotsen meeting that in cases of sexual harassment in their field schools the IFR contacts the student’s Title IX office? Can’t they get involve and help push the case?

Michael Balter said...

In response to the last comment:

Student No. 3 is not a student at UCSB. Wendrich and the IFR have not responded to questions about whether they contacted the Title IX office at UCSB after this sexual assault was reported to them. I would invite interested parties to contact them and ask.

Anonymous said...

IFR is currently luring students to their upcoming winter field school in Ireland on facebook and website. Pandemic aside, so far they have failed to alert US-based applicants about the new Title IX regulations that will no longer allow their home universities to protect them from sexual harassment and assault while abroad. Students should be also aware that IFR faculty are not bound by Title IX regulations, are not required to reveal any former violations, and are not required to sign any code of conduct. The company does not employ trained sexual harassment professionals to investigate incidents, nor will they report or warn students even if they have found any of their affiliated faculty to have committed a crime.
Prospective students to Ireland and elsewhere, do yourself a huge favor and read the above letter from a student who was sexually assaulted at an IFR field school in Peru. If you do not want to find yourself in a position where you’ll one day have to compose such a letter to YOUR Chancellor, you should demand that IFR explain what they plan to improve in order to protect you and prevent more harassment and assault in the field.
You can find more details here:
http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-ucla-town-hall-on-meto-and-related.html
And especially in the comment from June 20, 2020 at 5:52 PM