Scientist Gets a Flood of New Harassment Tips After Interview

Sep 24, 2018

Julie Libarkin has compiled a list of some 700 cases of sexual misconduct in academia.

Two weeks ago, we brought you a conversation with Julie Libarkin - a researcher at Michigan State University who has spent two years compiling a database of more than seven hundred cases of sexual misconduct in academia. That database contains some shocking stories, as well as evidence that serial abusers are a prevalent problem in academic settings. But the database is far from comprehensive.

After our conversation aired, Libarkin started hearing from people who’d heard about the database. Some thanked her for shedding light on the problem. Others had cases for her to add to the list. She even received a basket of fruit and chocolate from an anonymous sender. It wasn’t all positive though, she did receive one threat to be sued for libel.

I'm not doing anything libelous, and this is not the first time that has happened,” Libarkin said. 

Libarkin created a form where people could send her information about harassers that she has missed. She has about 30 forms from people, and another 50 or 60 e-mails from people so far.

She can't include all of them though because there needs to be documentation beyond someone's word, which underlined a certain fact: people were upset that they weren’t able to find what they felt was justice through their institutional systems.

Some organizations are starting to respond to the issue of sexual harassment in academia, though. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has announced that they'll be looking at a policy for revoking any professional honors bestowed to those who have who have been found to have engaged in sexual misconduct.

“I think it's a nice first step. And I give a shout out to a number of advocates in the social media sphere and other spaces who really pushed for that to happen,” Libarkin said. “So, I think it's a good start. I think that the AAAS policy puts the burden on the victim or survivor of the misconduct to report it to the AAAS.”

Libarkin then mentioned that the National Science Foundation just came out with a policy that requires that institutions alert them whenever anybody has a finding against them.

“And that is actually great because it takes the person who's been victimized or who has survived this encounter out of the picture, and it's between institution and institution.”

Libarkin wants to continue to do this work, and she’s slowly making her way through the emails and forms, this on top of her day job as a Professor at Michigan State where she heads the Geocognition Labratory.  

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Web content created by Liz Lerner.