The man pictured above, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters--former culture minister of Peru and current archaeology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima--has twice been found by key institutions with which he was affiliated to have committed sexual harassment of students. First, his own university upheld the allegations (which I first reported in June 2020), when PUCP's sexual harassment commission examined the evidence and found it to be highly credible. On that occasion, however, Castillo could not be disciplined or fired because the relevant anti-harassment policies were not in effect at the time he committed the abuses.
Then, last October, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, in which Castillo had been an international member, ousted him from the organization after its own investigation found him to have committed misconduct. During these events, Castillo has repeatedly threatened survivors of his abuse and other witnesses with defamation lawsuits, including this reporter (as of yet, he has taken no action against me, despite threats from his attorney that he would do so.)
However, Castillo, with the enabling and support of the PUCP, has begun to follow through on the threats. He has now sued a truth-teller, Lima-based anthropologist Marcela Poirier, for defamation. Castillo is asking the court to award him 200,000 Peruvian soles (about $50,000 U.S.) and to jail her for 30 months.
In her report on the action by the NAS, Science reporter Meredith Wadman described Poirier's role:
"Marcela Poirier, an anthropologist with a Ph.D. from Purdue University who worked for 1 year at a field school that Castillo Butters frequently visited, filed a complaint with NAS in the spring that included the PUCP commission’s report and asked the academy to oust Castillo Butters. Now a manager of cultural and educational resources in Lima, she told ScienceInsider today that NAS’s move 'sends the message that change is possible, and that justice—however imperfect—can be achieved.'"
(Note: Marcela Poirier was not one of my informants and was not one of the survivors I wrote about in my blog.)
As if that were not bad enough, Castillo's university, the PUCP, is threatening students who disseminated allegations on social media against Castillo and another professor accused of misconduct, Daniel Parodi, with suspension. (For Peruvian press reports, in Spanish, see here and here; and this Twitter thread which provides some visual details of the campaign against misconduct by faculty.)
And as if that were not bad enough, Peruvian police attacked students who were demonstrating outside the university, demanding that it take action (click link to see video.)
According to the Peruvian press reports, the complaints against Castillo and Parodi were shared on social media by student organizations, including the Federation of Students of the PUCP-FEPUC and the Federated Center of Letters. The site Wayka.pe quoted 19 year old Adriana Verastegui, Gender Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Federated Center for General Studies: "We thought it important to alert other students about the public complaints against these professors." In retaliation, Castillo and Parodi reported her and others to PUCP officials for "defamation." Scarlett Huanis, another student denounced by both Castillo and Parodi, said: "It is not the first time that we have been forced to publicly demand more concrete actions from the university on issues of bullying and sexual harassment of female [students and teachers.]
|La Republica/ Lucia Castro|
I have not personally investigated the allegations against Parodi, so I will not say more about him here. But my reporting has found convincing evidence of significant misconduct, including harassment, bullying, and sleeping with students, against Castillo. After my first report, cited above, some of Castillo's supporters, along with a crew of sycophants who owed their careers to Peru's most powerful archaeologist, began attacking the survivors who had come forward as well as myself. The survivors bravely issued a letter defending their allegations, and I have written myself about the lies that Castillo's supporters have spread about them and my reporting.
In response to all of these allegations, and even to the NAS's decision to eject Castillo from its ranks--the first time the Academy has ever expelled an international member--the PUCP has done absolutely nothing to protect students from his abuses. Thus Castillo continues to teach his classes at PUCP.
|(Castillo is still teaching; late word is that Parodi has now been removed from his classes)|
The university gave the Peruvian publication La Republica its supposed reasons for not acting against Castillo:
"Por otro lado, en cuanto a las investigación que se realizó hacia los docentes denunciados en redes sociales, Ana Neyra señaló que las anteriores comisiones de investigación de la PUCP no pudieron encontrar ninguna prueba probatoria para sancionar al docente Luis Castillo, a pesar de que se cuenta con una investigación periodística y cinco testimonios de por medio en su contra."
"On the other hand, regarding the investigation that was carried out towards the teachers denounced in social networks, Ana Neyra [the PUCP's secretary of instruction] pointed out that the previous investigation commissions of the PUCP could not find any probative evidence to sanction the teacher Luis Castillo, despite the fact that he has a journalistic investigation and five testimonies against him."
(Note that this is not correct. The evidence against Castillo was indeed probative, according to the sexual harassment commission, but he got off essentially on a technicality.)
In addition, Castillo, who has long had an affiliation with Harvard, first formal and now informal, has recently been showing up at Zoom talks about Andean archaeology featuring Harvard professors, according to witnesses. His presence has reportedly caused a great deal of discomfort among many in the virtual audience.
What is to be done?
With a few notable exceptions, including of course the brave survivors of Castillo's abuses and truth-tellers like Marcela Poirier, the archaeology community has been pretty silent about all of these attacks on colleagues in Peru fighting against sexual misconduct and bullying. As I have reported, some archaeologists, including some based in the U.S., apparently not wanting to get on the wrong side of Peru's most powerful archaeologist, have actually either defended him directly or attacked his accusers.
It's time for that to stop and for things to change course. I think it is entirely reasonable to insist that the archaeology community (and the broader scientific community) come to the defense of those who are under attack by abusers, to raise their voices (and not just anonymously on this blog, sorry to say), and make their intentions clear. In my view, Castillo must be completely isolated from the archaeology community, all collaborations with him must cease, and the PUCP should be directly called out for its enabling of him by refusing to take any action.
Perhaps the comments section of this blog can serve as a forum for discussion of what can be done, as well as updates on what is being done (as has been the case on some of these blog posts, to good effect.)
|"Enough with PUCP intimidation"|
Update March 18: The hearing in Castillo's case against Marcela Poirier will be held online on the morning of April 8. I am one of the witnesses for Marcela; Castillo has also mustered a long list of apparent "character" witnesses. Please watch here for regular updates, and please do what you can--either as individuals or organizations--to come to Marcela's support.
Update April 2: Please see comments below for the text of an urgent plea I sent to the leadership of the Society for American Archaeology and which has gone unanswered for more than two weeks.
Update April 4: The Institute for Andean Studies, the professional organization most closely associated with Castillo's area of study, issues a strong statement of support. This is the way the step up.