Sexual Harassment and the Academyrnby Clay ReynoldsrnSCENE; Administrative conference room at a major university.rnFive grim-faced faculty members sit around a long tablernand stare at THE ACCUSED, who sits at one end, apart andrnalone. He is well dressed, young middle-aged, nice looking butrnnot particularly handsome. Each member of the COMMITTEErnhas in front of him or her a thick sheaf of papers, which they allrnconsult from time to time. Just to the side, a woman sits apartrnfrom the committee. She is the FEDERAL AFFIRMATIVErnACTION OFFICER. At the head of the table, the PROVOSTrnstudies his papers briefly, then begins to speak. PROVOST (rises;rnto everyone): “This hearing is to inquire into allegations stemmingrnfrom specific complaints against a faculty member of thisrnuniversity. Everyone is advised that the proceedings arc to bernconducted in a fair and professional manner.” (He sits, opens arnfile folder, reads briefly, and then says to the ACCUSED) “So,rnProfessor Bookbinder, when, precisely, did you start harassingrnAs farcical as the above opening may appear, it is a dramarnthat is being played out with increasing frequency across universityrnand college campuses and even in some public schoolrnboard rooms throughout the United States. For a while, suchrnStar Chamber inquiries were held in secret (the preferred termrnis “in confidence”), but now their results are appearing in dailyrnnewspapers and professional tabloids.rnFor a time, such inquiries concerned isolated accusations ofrnimpropriety on the part of a male facult- member or administratorrnby female students or workers. Now, however, they seemrnto be coming in bunches. At one universit) in Texas, for example,rnfour faculty members, including a former departmentrnhead, stand accused of displaying “gender bias,” one of thernseveral euphemisms being used by administrators to avoidrnthe word “sex.” At another school, two faculty members havernbeen denied tenure, they assert, on the basis of the hint ofrnClay Reynolds is a freelance writer in Denton, Texas.rncomplaints of sexual harassment circulated among administratorsrnby “secret memo.” At yet another school in the Southwest,rnthe rumor is that as many as 16 faculty in the past threernyears have been forced to resign quietly or face charges ofrnsexual harassment.rnOne department head in Alabama confidentially assertsrnthat nationwide as many as a thousand faculty members werernforced to resign or were denied tenure in 1992 when even thernthreat of sexual harassment complaints arose. He himselfrnclaims that he left his previous position at a major state universityrnbecause he was told he “had a year to find another job,” orrnelse he would also be targeted for similar complaints.rnAn attorney in Dallas, Texas, says that he has recently or isrncurrently representing more than 30 professors, instructors, andrnsecondary school teachers, all of whom have been accused ofrnsexual harassment or sexually biased discrimination. Hisrnadvice to all of them is “cut the best deal you can and resign,”rnalthough most of them prefer to fight what they see as nothingrnmore than legal blackmail.rnTo the general public and most academics, this seems to bernproper. These men have, in the parlance of our time, “hit on”rnwomen who were subordinate to them. They either threatenedrnthem with punishment if the women were not compliantrnor made an outright offer of better grades or job advancementrnin exchange for sexual favors. Or, at least, they have been accusedrnof having done one or all of these things. If they arernguilty, they should be severely punished, for women should bernable to work or study without the threat of randy wolves prowlingrnthe hallways in search of vulnerable sex partners. Almostrnno one in the academy believes otherwise. Sexual harassmentrnis a despicable form of intimidation that should, when itrnoccurs, be stopped swiftly.rnIf that was what was going on in most of these cases, therernwould be no real problem. Women who have been victimizedrnin this wa’ could come forward, file their complaints, givernproof of the damages done to them, and the guilty would bernconfronted, judged, and punished. Unfortunately, that isrn18/CHRONiCLESrnrnrn