|Peter Rathjen, former VC and president, U Adelaide|
Such is the fate of Australian scientist Peter Rathjen, immediate past Vice-Chancellor and president of the University of Adelaide. Today in Australia, Bruce Lander, an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, released a statement about his investigation of Rathjen, who has a long history of sexual misconduct.
The statement, a brief summary of a much longer report that is being kept secret, outlines Rathjen's latest abuses, which included the sexual harassment (including unwanted sexual touching) of two women employed by the University of Adelaide. Lander found that their allegations of harassment (or perhaps more properly, assault) after a university function in April 2019 were true. Lander also found that Rathjen lied both to him and the university's Chancellor about a number of matters related to his past misconduct.
I was gratified to see (pp. 5-6 and 8 of Lander's statement) that the inquiry included questions about prior misconduct that I had previously published on this blog. My first mention of allegations against Rathjen were very brief, part of a much longer report in July 2019 on bullying and sexual harassment by the former director of the University of Adelaide's ancient DNA lab, Alan Cooper. More recently, I expanded on those allegations, in a blog post last May. When confronted with these allegations, Rathjen lied about them several times, as Lander reports.
The report also confirms one of the most serious allegations against Rathjen, that he sexually assaulted a student while science dean at the University of Melbourne. I had originally withheld the name of the university involved at the request of a colleague of the victim of that attack, but since it is now public--and widely reported in the Australian media--there is no longer any point in doing so. This also raises serious questions about whether multiple institutions in Australia "passed the harasser" despite their knowledge of Rathjen's misconduct, thus allowing him to undeservedly climb to the summits of academia.
Indeed, there are already signs of damage control across Australian universities. Here, for example, is a message sent by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania on the heels of the ICAC report. Note that Vice-Chancellor Rufus Black states that an investigation at UTAS found no evidence that Rathjen had committed sexual harassment or sexual assault while there. He didn't need to, however. As I reported, while Vice-Chancellor at UTAS, Rathjen protected a convicted pedophile from being kicked off campus even after he had re-offended, and despite a campaign led by #MeToo activist Nina Funnell and others to get the university to do the right thing.
Black's letter is typical, and will be typical going forward, of attempts by university administrators to jump clear of the Rathjen scandal and claim that they either did nor know or took action as soon as they did know. And they will point to the fact that Rathjen (and thus perhaps his victims) finally got justice as proof that the system works. Actually, it does not work very often, as the failure of the University of Melbourne to alert the academic community about Rathjen's crimes indicates.
At the University of Adelaide, for example, officials continue to look the other way despite clear abuses in the School of Education and the dental school, situations on which I have also reported (see the long, long list of comments on this blog post for details about the dental school and allegations of bullying, mismanagement, and abuse.)
I'd like to end on a personal note, one which I find amusing, as serious as it is. As readers of this blog know, I have been sued for defamation by University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin, whose misconduct I have reported on extensively. As part of the "evidence" that I falsely accuse academics of being sexual predators and the like, Kurin includes a number of examples. One of them, mentioned in section 44 of her Amended Complaint, is none other than that of Peter Rathjen.
Update August 27: Elise Worthington and Conor Duffy of Australia's ABC have more today on the University of Melbourne investigation, which Rathjen lied about when asked, according to the ICAC statement. Serious sexual misconduct is a euphemism here for sexual assault.
Update August 28: Adelaide bully and enabler express their concerns about the ICAC report and Rathjen.
As usually happens when an institution suddenly faces a public scandal, its leaders have issued statements to the rank and file expressing their concerns and assuring everyone that they are there to listen. The first of these comes from Faye McCallum, head of the School of Education, whose own history of bullying I reported on earlier; the second from Mike Brooks, who has been appointed interim Vice-Chancellor and President to replace Rathjen, and who earlier (as Deputy VC for Research) was a key enabler of Alan Cooper, ancient DNA director at Adelaide fired for bullying students and postdocs.
Note that McCallum says everything is going to calm down and advises staff not to talk to the media. Only when staff started talking to the media did anything start to change.
Subject: [Alluniversity] ICAC Findings