BY MARTIN KICH
Writing for New York magazine Jessica Roy reports on the resignation, under threat of termination, of Jason Lieb, a molecular biologist at the University of Chicago. Lieb had been accused of making “unwelcome sexual advances to multiple female grad students,” most notably at an “off-campus retreat,” and of engaging “in sexual activity with a student who was ‘incapacitated due to alcohol and therefore could not consent.'”
Worse, Lieb had apparently faced a similar accusation while holding a previous position at the University of North Carolina. In fact, the search committee at the University of Chicago had been made aware of the previous accusation “but though they looked into it, they couldn’t find sufficient evidence to corroborate the claim”: “Lieb had told them during the interview process” that after he had secured a position at Princeton University, the university had indeed “faulted him for not informing them about a complaint of unwanted contact filed against him at North Carolina, where he had taught for 13 years. But he told them he had seen no reason to do so because the investigation had not found evidence to support the claim.”
So, as our institutions’ handling of sexual misconduct and sexual assault accusations has come under much-intensified and much-deserved scrutiny, there is much reason to feel outrage at this faculty member’s being hired at one elite university after another despite the awareness of his history and without some close oversight of his behavior in his new positions.
Indeed, Roy’s article is titled “Another Professor Resigns after Being Accused of Sexual Misconduct,” and as background to this story, she cites the recent firing of an “astrophysics professor at Caltech [who] was outed for harassing and discriminating against one of his female grad students.”
Roy concludes the short article with this comment: “Even in this fast-paced digital age, it’s comforting to know that dude professors remain as creepy as ever. Some things never change!”
Although these scandals have clearly not yet attained the cumulative weight of the sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church, their impact on public perception is similarly magnified by the fact that an appropriate institutional response has been either very lacking or very late.
Moreover, the consequences of such a failure to address these sorts of issues morally and decisively should be apparent to anyone who has followed the way that the opponents of public education have used similar stories to vilify teachers—despite the obvious reality that this sort of misconduct certainly occurs in all sorts of schools and that it is very easy to exaggerate how often this misconduct is occurring. But this following item from the website of the Far Right news source World Net Daily will nonetheless very pointedly illustrate the dangers in allowing a negative stereotype to take hold: http://www.wnd.com/2014/08/39783/.
Roy’s complete article is available at: http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/02/another-professor-accused-of-sexual-misconduct.html.
A fuller article on Lieb’s resignation published in the New York Times is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/03/us/chicago-professor-resigns-amid-sexual-misconduct-investigation.html?_r=2.