חשיפה: אוניברסיטת חיפה ממשיכה להעסיק פרופסור בכיר שהואשם בהטרדות מיניות חוזרות ונשנות
The Israeli progressive medial outlet, The Hottest Place in Hell (I like the name too!), published a story (quotations below are translations from this article) about a senior member of the faculty of the University of Haifa. He’s been accused of serially harassing and assaulting female students over the years. Initially, the site published just the name of his university, but not his name. Then the professor’s lawyer secured a judicial gag order which forced the site to take down the article entirely. Finally, it was restored, but all reference to the University was removed. However, an Israeli colleague saw the original article and saved an online teaser which retained the employer’s name.
There are enough details about the academic field of the suspect to narrow down the identity to only two individuals. Both are former deans. But only one fits the very specific personal and professional portrait offered in the article–of one of the most powerful and successful members of the faculty. I’ve deliberated about whether to name the suspect and due to an abundance of caution I won’t–yet.
Among the offenses for which the professor is accused are:
- Yelling at a female student who was twirling her pen during class: “Stop that already! I can’t possibly concentrate when the only thing I see is how you’re giving me an erection.”
- A female PhD student burst out of the teacher’s office and fled with him in hot pursuit, red-faced, screaming at her: “Here we embrace, you frigid Polack. I like hot girls. And they must embrace me. Get out! Get out! You have no place here!”
- He would regularly ask his colleagues whether they’d “fucked” this one or that one. He approached the subject as if it were a joke, rather than outright sexual harassment.
- student conferences are always behind closed doors, especially with female students.
Perhaps the bitterest irony in all this is that the professor’s field of study is criminal violence in Israel, including domestic and sexual violence against women. Can anyone imagine Eichmann becoming a professor of Holocaust studies? Or Donald Trump giving lectures on sexual harassment? Of course, human beings are capable of enormous reservoirs of denial. They have a tremendous ability to compartmentalize so that their behavioral aberrations are tucked away neatly somewhere in the dark recesses, while the socially acceptable persona is what’s presented to the world.
The PhD student, who eventually left the University, according to an unwritten agreement between her and the university administration, may complete her doctorate without any further academic requirements or conditions, if she wishes, with no questions asked. She will not be compelled to return to campus.
Another student told the reporter that:
“…The University was like a Temple and he was the High Priest. He ruled all. He did whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted.” He touched women, forced them to embrace him. He worked them without pay. He appointed teaching assistants and permitted them to pass along course notes to their friends taking the course. “He promoted those he preferred and trampled anyone who dared say anything against him; or anyone who didn’t take to his coarse personal style. If someone rejected him that was the end of her. Anyone who angered him would be called out in front of the entire class. He would degrade and demean her shouting: ‘I wrote your thesis.’ Or ‘I made you.’ We saw him often with students in his car in the parking lot. Some students would bring him food. Others were afraid they wouldn’t hear when he called for them. Afraid of speaking on their phones in case he called and they weren’t available.
He had many researchers and lecturers who fawned on him and jealously guarded their position in his firmament. Some argued over who got to clean his office, who earned the right to the most time with him in his office, and who prepared food for him. Many times I heard a lecturer driven to tears by his degradation of her in front of others, in which he would say she’d only earned what she’d earned thanks to him. That she was nothing without him. That was his method: he stepped on some; he encouraged others, creating an abnormal sense of competition among all of them. Some of them wised up and realized they’d fallen victim to abuse and others who worshiped him and never understood how much they were exploited.”
Despite a formal investigation at which tens of witnesses were asked to testify regarding his behavior, the University fears taking strong action. The faculty member brings in plentiful funding for his own research, from which the school benefits. Students attested to harmful sexually suggestive comments made about them or in their presence. Junior faculty told of personal abuse including threats to cancel fellowships or sabotaging their opportunities for teaching positions or employment.
None of this made any difference to the school, which ended the investigation with a confidential agreement with the professor, whose contents are not known. He left for a year and students and colleagues were told he was on sabbatical. But nothing was official. No one knew for sure what had happened to him. Those who testified against him are aghast that he remains in his position and some day may return to harass again.
The University prides itself on the low number of sexual harassment complaints on record. But the problem is that many of these complaints are never officially recorded or reported. A secret agreement like the one in question bypasses formal university reporting requirements. Not to mention that the majority of victims in this sort of setting, in which they depend of their faculty advisors or teachers for success in their careers, would feel strong motivation to maintain silence.
The school’s response to the article is interesting in its legal-formalism which conceals much and reveals little:
“The University acts to prevent sexual harassment in accordance with the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act and its regulations. Besides this, it is bound to confidentiality and conveys its decisions only to those entitled access to them.”
Werner Fenster says
The University already has sexual harassment rules and regulations, ‘on the books’, and incidents of sexual harassment seem to low. The dean or professor has been investigated by the university, and he’s been booted off the campus.
Obviously the university doesn’t want adverse publicity, but do the student/victims really need to be dragged into this affair even more? That’s what would have happened if this tenured professor was publicly accused and a public investigation was initiated.
What do you want, Richard?
Allegedly, a crime has been committed and it is the police, not the university that should investigate. Than, if the complaints have substance, the honorable Professor will be trialed and punished. The whole idea of dealing with criminal acts within the institution is disgusting.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Amico: So you want this woman to go to the police, an agency which hardly ever takes sexual complaints seriously; which routinely degrades women; suspects them of being the guilty party; refuses to investigate or charge rapists, etc. THis is the agency she should put her trust in?
I’m about to publish a long profile of a Scottish woman raped & murdered in Eilat last year. Read that story & then tell the victims here they should trust the police.
I do of course agree with you that the university investigating sexual assault claims is ridiculous unless they have professionals trained & empowered specificallly to do this (which few universities in Israel do), with full powers to punish or exonerate the accused.
Werner Fenster says
I’m hoping one day for you to write an article about violence against Israeli-Arab women by Israeli -Arab men. You can title it, ‘The Invisible Woman’.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Werner Finster: Instead I’ll be writing (actually, I have written) about why Israeli society refuses to grant equality to its Palestinian minority; and instead offers it discrimination, apartheid separation, low employment & educational opportunities; and generally refuses to fully integrate Palestinians into societies in the ways which really make a difference. As a result, Palestinians in Israel don’t have an opportunity to absorb cultural values that may be different than the ones with which they’re raised.
A man who has a well-paying job, is well-educated, has housing & other benefits would have no reason to treat women in his community the way they are treated generally under current circumstances. Not to mention, that with all its vaunted liberal western values, Israeli Jewish don’t necessarily treat women that much better.
But most of all, you want me to write such a narrative because it suits your own racist, Arabophobic one. And this I will not do.
Do NOT publish more than three comments in any 24 hour period & do not publish another comment in this thread.
I’ve changed your handle from “Fenster” to “Finster” because in Yiddish, finster means darkness. That seems appropriate for you.
Where is the police in this equation?
Why do woman think they can throw empty harsh blames at people w/o going through the main channel of police compaint?
Sexual harassment (which doesn’t even start to describe what this person may have done) is a serious crime that should be investigated and prosecuted but one cannot expect action by others w/o taking full measurement themselves.
Go to the police and file an official compalint!!
Richard Silverstein says
@ Jim: I am so goddamn tired of men telling women what they should do or think. Without having a clue what a woman would have to go through to act as they direct them to. Do you have a clue what is involved in filing a criminal complaint against the most powerful professor on a major campus? Do you have clue what this would do to the woman herself psychically; her career; her relationships with fellow students & the university administration; her family relationships? No you don’t. You’re just another male jackass braying his opinions, which mean nothing to anyone but you.
So when you’re raped come back to us & we’ll be very sympathetic, get you a lawyer & direct you to the nearest police station where you can file a criminal complaint against your boss or your partner or whoever. Then see how it feels.
Do not post again in this thread.
You may have a bug in your comment system. My comment about Trump, disappeared.
It was a really dumb comment anyway.
Elisabeth – very mature.
Richard – you really let her write this? But then, you censored my comment so I guess you feel the same.
Well, Richard, with these kinds of comments, it is clear there is still a lot of hard work to do to get guys to see the ligth. Jeeez! (Sigh.)
I’m sorry Mr. Silverstein, but this clown needs to be named…..it would be like a sitting US judge doing these things in chambers and not in open court.
You can easily find out who he is. His first name is Zvi. I won’t write his full name unless Silverstein will approve it.
And it seems Richard did not understand my point: I think he needs to be REALLY punished, and that is something the university can’t, and won’t, do. By the way, US Berrkley is now facing a serious sexual harrasement scandal. It seems tt is a universal problem.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Amico: You can say it now. Unfortunately, I didn’t see your comment here of a few hours ago till after I wrote the new post. While you were publishing your comment I was putting the finishing touches on my research which confirmed what you said in your comment.
I’m sorry if I misunderstood your comment. There is always a problem with universities investigating themselves regarding sexual abuse cases (unless the investigation is independent). This problem rears its ugly head regularly in the U.S. as well.
My third and last comment (This topic makes me really furious)
Universities, at least in Israel but I suspect in other places as well, are very corrupt institutions, with bullying and harassments being quite common. I think there are 2 reasons for that:
Tenure gives almost absolute immunity so Professors allow themselves to do whatever they want. Students look up to them and that’s makes them feel even more allmighty.
Second, universities are misusing the concept of “academic free speech”. I have seen in too often.
My fantasy is to see people like Zvi behind bars, where their fellow inmate will teach them that there some manners.
By the way Richard, its not a big deal but just for the sake of 100% accuracy, what he said was not that the female student causes him an erection but that he can’t focus while she is “stirring his dick”, referring to the movements she was making with her pen. I guess he was annoyed by her behavior (and it is indeed annoying) and found a very “creatively” abusing way to state it. What a jerk
Richard Silverstein says
@ Strelnikov: Now I’ve been able to do it.
Regarding sexual harassments and attacks, the Haifa University is not different or even better than other universities in Israel and abroad. Only a few days ago, 23 years old lawyer and anti-rape activist Khensani Maseko took her own life at Rhodes University at Grahamstown after she was raped (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45115344). Nevertheless, I agree with the article that the case (https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2016/11/20/senior-university-haifa-professor-accused-sexual-assault-signs-secret-deal-school/) is only the tip of the iceberg at the University of Haifa. My experience from this university is of a similar pattern of an aberrational behavior associated with another senior academic member. Only, this person is not in “a position of Donald Trump giving a lecture of sexual harassment” (ibid.). His methods of directing are the same as described in the above cited article “He promotes those whom he prefers and trampled anyone who dared say anything against him; or anyone who didn’t take to his coarse personal style”. This is relevant to the majority of both academic and administrative colleagues at the Institute he is heading, and especially to all-female MSc., Ph.D. and post-doctorate students at his laboratory. Apropos, the husbands, especially of foreigners, can get a job at the laboratory if their wives behave correctly, e.g. if she did not reject his sexual advances. He attaches them to him by demanding that they bring him food and make him a tea….
If a woman-student rejects him, he might punish her, not only by not providing a job for her husband (for a couple, it is difficult to live on one student stipend in Israel), but also by not approving for a long-time her articles for publication. Vice-versa, if she gives him what he wants, he might praise her research publicly up to the seven heaven, pay her more money, and then throw her out at the end of the contract. This might be a critical issue, especially if the students would like to continue in a research position which acceptance depends on the number and quality of the published papers.
It will take a lot of effort to get rid of sexual harassments and attacks at the University of Haifa. Partly, the romances between professors and students are considered to be normal by part of the society (mostly by men), partly, because, dark sides of personalities are protected from revealing in this society (see above the description of the secret record between the University of Haifa and a professor accused of sexual harassment), and, partly, because there is still a tendency to put all the guilt of the sexual relationship on women.