Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

University of Iowa avoidance and denial in faculty suicides

The University of Iowa is attempting to come up with some new ideas as to how to prevent faculty suicides which occur in the context of sexual harassment charges lodged against faculty members.

One idea that is being emphasized is the involvement of the UI Ombudsman Office.  The following was reported on the Ombuds Blog-

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor’s death.

The dankprofessor considers this proposal to be surreal and leads to avoidance and denial when it comes to basic and elementary steps that UI could have taken and can still take in cases such as that of Professor Mark Weiger.

Simply stated the UI can do the same things they do for professors that they already do for students and others who allege sexual harassment.  In the case of the accuser, the accuser’s identity is confidential and is shielded from public view.  If such was applied to the accused, the reputation of the accused is protected and the accused is not subject to a public stigmatization.  Such does not mean that the accused cannot be suspended with pay.  But what this does mean is that the university attempts to minimize punishment without trial and honor the presumption of innocence.

As a result of the Duke University lacrosse team fiasco, university administrations throughout the nation know of the possible dangerous consequences of  the rush to judgment.  By not rushing to judgment and protecting the confidentiality of the accused, universities such as the University of Iowa could save lives.  But universities such as UI are unlikely to implement these sorts of polices.  The dankprofessor asks why is this the case.

November 16, 2008 - Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization

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