On October 6th, 2017, Science Magazine published an article detailed out allegations of sexual misconduct of a Professor and his PhD workers while they were out in the field in Antartica. At the University of Rochester, 9 female researchers filed a federal suit claiming that they had been continually sexually harassed for over 20 years by a male professor in the Cognitive Science department and the University failed to protect them, with reports of over 18 individuals being victimized. One of the plaintiffs, Professor Elissa Newport, PhD., is currently a Professor of Cognitive Science here at Georgetown. Their stories speak to the harrowing power differential between mentor and mentee, and the feeling of helplessness when it came looking for someone to turn to.
Forty-four percent of female graduate workers report sexual harassment, and twenty two percent of female graduate workers report that sexual harassment is received from faculty members. If an individual currently wants to report misconduct here at Georgetown, it must be filed through the employer, and in the case of Cornell, can take over one year for the employer to decide to act.
With a union, we can expand our options for representation. Those who face sexual harassment can feel helpless and powerless. With a union, we can ensure that disputes can, if needed, be turned over to a third party. Despite the university’s resources, cases of discrimination both here and at other universities have shown that grievance procedures often favor the vested interest of the institution -- and, all too often, the higher-ranking offender -- rather than the subordinate complainant. GAGE’s recognition as a union and its affiliation with AFT will give workers an advocate outside of the university, independent of the institution’s vested interests should such a case arise. That is why grievances against faculty misconduct is a mandatory subject of bargaining once we get to the table. We want to empower all individuals who face these kind of problems and not feel that the group that is investigating these claims is the same group that is being encouraged to hide them, as so frequently occurs.