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.”