University of Alaska, Anchorage archaeologist David Yesner found guilty in Title IX investigation of harassment, assault, and other charges.

David Yesner
In a case I have been following for some time, an investigation at the University of Alaska, Anchorage has found UAA archaeologist David Yesner guilty--by a preponderance of the evidence--of sexual harassment, assault, and other charges.

The news was broken last night/this morning by station KTVA ("The Voice of Alaska") in a story which provided many details from the investigative report, dated March 15 of this year.

Yesner, who retired in 2017 and had sought emeritus status at the university, was well known in the archaeological and anthropological community for his work on the Peopling of the Americas (an area which I have covered extensively, as a science writer, for Science and other publications. I had quoted him in some of those stories.)

I recommend reading the KTVA story, which does a pretty good job. This is certainly one of the most grievous cases of misconduct in academia I have come across.

Meanwhile, I have obtained a copy of the 30 page March 15 investigative report. I want to excerpt here the charges which the investigation upheld in their entirely, with the exception of one small detail concerning the transmission of pornography. In this slightly redacted report, R1 is Yesner, and the various individuals represented by the letter "C" are alleged victims and survivors of his behavior. According to the report, Yesner declined numerous invitations to be interviewed by the investigators and tell his side of the story.

Update March 26: According to the investigative report, Yesner asked for delays in being interviewed, citing health problems, the nature of which were redacted in the report. However, I am told by sources in the department that although Yesner stalled the investigation for months on the grounds of health problems, he remained active and visible in the anthropology community, even attending at least one conference during that time. I have contacted Yesner for comment, and I will update this post if he agrees to provide it, along with any other details.

Allegation No. 1: R1 Engaged in Sexual Discrimination/Harassment by Inappropriately Staring at Multiple Students’ and Professional Colleagues’ Breasts and Engaging in Verbal and/or Physical Conduct of a Sexual Nature that Resulted in the Adverse Treatment of Female Students and Employees and Created a Hostile Work Environment.

 Allegation No. 2: R1 Engaged in Sexual Discrimination/Harassment by Conducting Inappropriate and Sexually Suggestive Conversations with C6.

Allegation No. 3: R1 Engaged in Sexual Discrimination/Harassment by Making Sexually Explicit and Suggestive Comments to C7 and Retaliating Against her when she did not Reciprocate his Sexual Advances.

Allegation No. 4: R1 Engaged in Sexual Discrimination and Harassment by Touching C8 on her Breasts, Making Sexually Explicit Comments, and Retaliating Against her Professionally when She Failed to Respond to his Sexual Advances.

Allegation No. 5: R1 Sexually Assaulted, Harassed, and Discriminated Against C9 by Engaging in Non-Consensual Oral Copulation and Inappropriate Touching without C9’s Consent, Making Sexually Explicit and Suggestive Comments, and Using his Position of Authority as a Means to Procure a Sexual Encounter.


R1’s Conduct Created a Hostile Environment

R1’s Possession of Inappropriate Female Students’ Images Violated University Regulation Regarding Sexual Exploitation

R1’s Possession of Obscene Material on University Information Systems Violated University Regulation R02.07.054(F)

Dated this 15 th day of March, 2019 at Anchorage, Alaska. By: Danée Pontious AK Bar No. 0411076 [This is the private attorney hired by the university to complete the investigation begun by other Title IX investigators]

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#MeToo session at the upcoming meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque.

Since many reading this are likely to be archaeologists and anthropologists, I wanted to post this session which I hope everyone there will try to attend. It could not be more timely. I am honored to be among the panel participants.

#MeToo in Archaeology at the SAA

Forum Summary

Archaeology has long offered safe harbor to perpetrators of sexual violence, harassment, and misconduct. These individuals have often relied on their positions of power and authority to intimidate or attack students and colleagues. The dynamics of archaeology’s field work settings—where social expectations may feel lax, murky, or seemingly removed from the norms of the “real world”—have also created a problem unique to the discipline. Those who have experienced sexual violence, harassment, and misconduct may feel pressure to keep silent about their experiences for many (valid) reasons. Regardless, what was once anecdote and open secret has been confirmed in recent years by systematic research. With all of this in mind, it is now time for archaeology to enter into the conversation catalyzed by the larger #MeToo movement.

To this end, Heather Thakar, Pamela Geller, and Jason De León have co-organized a forum for the 84th Annual Meeting of the SAA. “#MeToo in Archaeology,” which is sponsored by the SAA Ethics Committee, will provide a platform for people to anonymously share their stories of sexual violence, harassment, and misconduct. Narratives will be submitted prior to the meeting, to then be read aloud by members of a pre-selected panel. The forum’s aims are three-fold: to acknowledge and validate these experiences in a public and safe space; to demonstrate just how prevalent these occurrences are in archaeology’s academic and field settings; and to provide a first step on a much longer path towards structural change. “#MeToo in Archaeology” is scheduled for 13 April 2019 (Saturday) from 1:00-3:00pm. [
room 110 Galisteo in the conference hotel]

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