The Price of Bias

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports

California legislators plan to look into whether there is widespread gender bias in the California State University system

following a lawsuit that resulted in a multi-million dollar award to Cal State-Fresno’s former women’s volleyball coach.

State Sen. Don Perata, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said lawmakers were alarmed by the cost of the case to taxpayers, and also want to find out whether Cal State had turned a blind eye to gender discrimination elsewhere in the system, the AP reported…Fresno State said it would cooperate with any legislative questioning.

It’s getting costly to discriminate these days, even in academia.
But why should scientists and engineers care about what’s going on in athletics, even if discrimination lawsuits there are causing campus administrators and government officials to turn a more scrupulous eye to the campus at large?


Well, the big lawsuits and awards aren’t just the provenance of athletics, you know:

The University of Missouri at Kansas City has agreed to pay a total of $1.1-million to two female employees to settle a lawsuit that accused the university of doing nothing to stop the two men who ran their laboratory from making sexual advances, cracking explicit jokes, and groping female co-workers.
….
The lawsuit reads like a locker-room dispatch. In it, the women say that the directors of their lab, C. Keith Haddock and Walker S. Carlos Poston II, fantasized out loud about the women in the lab exercising and showering together, commented on students’ and employees’ physiques, put employees in choke holds, and cracked a litany of food-inspired sex jokes involving hot dogs, bananas, and Atomic Fire Ball candies.

I long for the days when I can stop reporting about women being groped in laboratories.
A quibble – but I’m bothered by that “reads like a locker room dispatch” description. Somehow it implies that the talk the women were subjected to would have been okay if the men had just limited it to the locker room; the problem was they did it in front of the women. I really don’t think that fantasizing about your female colleagues exercising and showering together, and commenting on their physiques, would be any more appropriate if you did it in the actual locker room than if you were doing it in the laboratory. I’m not saying no one ever mentally fantasizes about another colleague. But getting together with a co-worker and sexually objectifying a third co-worker through conversation is not professional and is demeaning to the woman or man so objectified, even if he or she is not present. Engaging in such talk makes it much more difficult for you to treat that person as a professional in your interactions with them.
Anyway, getting back to the morons in our story: Might I suggest that if you were thinking of collaborating with Messrs. Haddock and Poston, you reconsider. Likewise if you were thinking of sending any promising grad students or postdocs their way. If you were to unfavorably review one of their journal articles or grant applications, I would not say a word. Oh, wait, that would be vengeful bias. Sorry, I was just fantasizing aloud.
The women who brought the lawsuit against the university complained that they were “confused about how to file an official complaint with the university, and that when they did complain, the response was perfunctory.” I know you are going to be shocked by this next piece of information, but it appears Haddock and Poston are among the top grant-getters at the university. I am sure there is absolutely no correlation between the perfunctory response and the grant-getting.
Zuskateers will doubtless also be only mildly surprised to learn that both these pigs posing as professors have been promoted from associate to full professor in the time since the lawsuit was filed. One of the women still works at the university as an associate professor in a different lab now; one has moved on to another university and is finishing her PhD. Say, whose lives and careers do you think have been disrupted more by the lawsuit? Not the morons. They certainly weren’t as affected by the harassment, nor will they have to live the rest of their lives with memories of being subjected to it. F*cking pigs. Firehose puke for their shoes. Projectile puking’s too good for them.
And let’s not forget a general puking at the university administration and institutional structures that condoned this behavior and turned an unfriendly back towards the women who attempted to bring a complaint against the pigs. Any individual can be a rotten moron but it takes an institution to protect, reward, and promote him. Which is why it is only appropriate that the institution pay through the nose.
So take heed, department heads, deans, provosts and presidents: as you coddle and coo over your own little discriminators and draw a thin curtain over the harassing behavior at your institution, as you find yourself telling women students and professors repeatedly “he’s just like that ” or “you should just avoid Professor X” or “try not to take everything he says so seriously” or whatever is your favorite dismissive line, prepare yourselves to bring out the checkbooks.

  1. absinthe
    July 17, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    I;m not surprised the two professors got promoted. In my observation in my own case, and in the case histories of various other women I know, the harasser/discriminator is *very* likely to get promoted.
    In my case, the reasoning seems to be “poor JH…the kefuffle that Absinthe is making about his alleged denial of her childbirth leave and his cut to her pay is giving him a rough time, and that Chronicle of Higher Education article about it all really made him look bad. So sad…we should put him on a fast track for promotion to try to make up for the damage his career has suffered. Besides, if we don’t put him on the fast track for promotion it will make it look like we think he is actually guilty.” No joke, that is actually what went through the heads of many senior people peripherally involved in my case. How do I know? Because of comments people have made, and because of a letter the chair of the physics department at the university wrote to the Chronicle of Higher Education vigorously defending JH.
    For other women I know in similar situations, the reasoning seems to be along the same lines. Promoting the offenders is one way the university has to show the outside world that they don’t think the offenders are guilty. “How can they possibly be guilty of such misdeeds if they are worthy of being promoted?”

  2. July 18, 2007 at 10:16 am

    As a student at UMKC, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve not been more disgusted with them than I am now.
    Luckily, I graduate next week, so that’s that.
    I know one of the women involved, and she was always very nice to me. It’s very sad how she’s been treated in all of this.
    The other thing to note is that the lawyers are the ones recieving most of the money from the lawsuit.

  3. July 18, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least, sadly. We had a new faculty member who was so bad about obviously staring at women’s breasts, he earned the nickname Titspervert. Also, he was known to–after a drink or two–make advances on students. So, he has been told he cannot go to the departmental parties. I have no doubt he will get tenure in the end. And, with a male department head, a male dean, and a male university president, the feeling is that further complaints will not be acted upon.

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