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Prof slapped over harassment training

UC Irvine relieves a faculty member of supervisory duties for refusing to take sexual harassment training

By | December 11, 2008

A University of California, Irvine, biologist has been relieved of his supervisory duties for refusing to submit to sexual harassment training mandated by California state law. UC Irvine has also contacted the scientist's funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, to say that he is no longer supervising his grants because he refused the training -- a step that has him concerned he may lose his funding altogether. linkurl:Alexander McPherson,;http://www.faculty.uci.edu/scripts/UCIFacultyProfiles/detailMBB.cfm?ID=3340 who has studied protein crystallization technology at the school for 11 years, told __The Scientist__ that he continues to decline partaking of the training on grounds that it impinges upon his individual dignity. "What I'm arguing against is that the state thinks it has the right to impose upon its citizens what is essentially behavioral training," he said. The training, which is mandated by 2005's linkurl:AB 1825;http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/03-04/bill/asm/ab_1801-1850/ab_1825_bill_20040930_chaptered.html and is required of all supervisors in California working for organizations that regularly employ 50 or more employees or regularly, involves two hours of classroom or online instruction on federal and statutory sexual harassment laws and guidelines. The law is meant to protect California institutions from harassment lawsuits. According to the linkurl:US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,;http://www.eeoc.gov/stats/harass.html thousands of harassment lawsuits are brought to court every year, with some jury awards reaching $500,000. Due to McPherson's refusal to take the training, UC Irvine, on November 1, prohibited him from supervising two research scientists in his lab, though he said his research has continued uninterrupted, and he continues to teach an advanced biochemistry course. The university has informed him, however, that he'll have to teach the course without the use of TAs starting in January. McPherson also said that UC Irvine's vice chancellor for research, linkurl:Susan Bryant,;http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=2114 sent letters at the end of November to NIH and to the linkurl:Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute,;http://www.hwi.buffalo.edu/ saying that McPherson was no longer a supervisor on grants from the institutes. The letter to officials at the Buffalo, New York-based Hauptman-Woodward Institute, which was obtained by __The Scientist__, read, in part, that McPherson was "no longer available to supervise personnel on this award because he has refused to take the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training required of all supervisory employees by California Law (AB1825) and by University of California policy." Individuals are required to take the training every two years. Paula Flicker, the NIH program manager who oversees the $1.2 million, four year grant that McPherson began receiving this month, confirmed that the NIH had received a letter from UC Irvine informing the agency of McPherson's non-supervisory status. Flicker told __The Scientist__ that UC Irvine -- with McPherson as PI -- was awarded the grant in September, but that no further determination regarding the letter has yet been made. But the fact that UC Irvine's research office is contacting his funders about his noncompliance to the state's sexual harassment training has McPherson worried. "To suddenly have [my funding] taken away by this arbitrary action?" he said. "You're damn right I'm concerned about it." McPherson said that after refusing to take the training about four years ago and generating friction between himself and university administrators, he suggested that he would submit to it if the university would provide him the following official statement: "The University of California, Irvine acknowledges that the sexual harassment training required of Professor McPherson by the State of California is a requirement for his continued employment at the University, and a condition he will fulfill only under protest. Fulfilling this requirement in no way implies, suggests, or indicates that the University currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student, or any person under his supervision during his 30 year career with the University of California." McPherson said that the university refused his request to provide the statement though he asked three times. "They refused to even consider this," he said. Though linkurl:Susan Menning,;http://www.today.uci.edu/contact/ assistant vice chancellor of communications at UC Irvine, declined to comment specifically on McPherson's case as it was a "personnel matter," she did speak in generalities about the school's sexual harassment training program. "I know UC Irvine has taken [the training] very seriously, and we expect people to comply," she told __The Scientist__. "This is a state institution, and there are many policies and procedures required of faculty and staff," for example, training involving the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for people working in the health care field. Since the law was enacted in 2005, explained Menning, there have been two cycles of the biannual training on the UC Irvine campus. "There's only one individual on campus who has not participated in either cycle," she said. Although Menning said she didn't know what further actions -- beyond relieving them of their supervisory duties -- might be taken against someone who continues to refuse the sexual harassment training, a document released in October yields some clues. That document -- a linkurl:letter;http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/underreview/Sexual%20Harassment%20Training%20Email.pdf from linkurl:Robert Grey,;http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/18414 UC's interim provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, to linkurl:Mary Croughan,;http://obgyn-nw.ucsf.edu/view_faculty.cfm?member=94 chair of UC's academic council -- outlines "possible administrative actions that might be taken to assure full compliance by faculty in the new cycle of sexual harassment training." These include: "--Removal of supervisory responsibilities over TAs, RAs and Postdocs (already in place at the Irvine campus). --Delaying implementation of merit increases or promotions, without changing the effective date (i.e., once training is received the merit increase or promotion would be retroactive). --Reporting the names of non-compliant faculty to Chancellors, EVCs, Deans and Regents. --Freezing budgets of departments with non-compliant faculty. --Denying internet access." Though McPherson does not currently support any graduate students or postdocs in his lab, he said he worries that his refusal to take the sexual harassment training may negatively impact his two senior scientists, who rely on NIH grant funding for their salaries. McPherson maintains that his refusal has little to do with sexual harassment and much to do with individual dignity. He added that he would respond in the same manner if he were asked to sign an oath of loyalty to his university or to take a course in "islamophobia." "The point is it's an inanity, and they're trying to kill my grant because I won't participate in that inane process," he said. "Does that make sense? Not to me." McPherson said that he has received both messages of support and negative comments since his case has become public. Out of 200 emails he has gotten regarding his situation, McPherson said that 197 have been supportive. He has posted the text of some of those messages on his lab linkurl:website.;http://crystal.bio.uci.edu/alexmcp/ Asked why he doesn't just submit to the training and end the difficulties he's experiencing, McPherson said: "See, that's what they want you to do. They want you to wear yourself out over this. That's what they're counting on, and damn it I won't do it." McPherson added that he has heard from colleagues that other California universities haven't pursued noncompliance to the sexual harassment training as aggressively. McPherson said that he recently sent a letter to UC Irvine's executive vice chancellor and provost linkurl:Michael Gottfredson;http://www.evc.uci.edu/ to ask is he was aware of the actions the research office had taken against him. He said that Gottfredson wrote back saying that indeed he was fully aware of McPherson's situation. "If this is accepted as a precedent, everyone in the state of California would have to take sexual harassment training or have their NIH grants pulled," McPherson said. "This should strike fear in every scientist out there. They don't realize what they're doing here."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Love in the Lab;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14332/
[15 December 2003]
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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

My strongest support to Dr. McPherson. He has the backbones many others do not have.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 15

December 11, 2008

As one who took a similar on-line harassment course, the idea that such a course makes you competent on the topic is ridiculous. Most of the examples provided in the course were decided in ways that defied logic. Some decision were split decisions by courts and some were overturned by higher courts. Clearly the "legal experts" could not agree in many cases and workplace supervisors are suppose to predict consequences when legal decisions may be made based upon emotion and political correctness. I continue to personally apply common sense and learned very little from the course.
Avatar of: Gary Huber

Gary Huber

Posts: 23

December 11, 2008

Although normally I, too, would think that such courses would be a waste of time and a reiteration of common sense, I took the online course and actually found it to be quite informative, especially about the supervisor's legal responsibilities towards his workers. Moreover, nothing in the course implied that I was going to start pawing at my grad students. Perhaps the university should cut some slack and not make him take the course, but then he will have to realize that his rear end will be very uncovered if somebody in his lab or class ever does cause problems.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 3

December 11, 2008

I have taken that course many times at my institution. I understand why institutions want to cover their ass...ets, but in all truth the questions and answers in these courses are more than ridiculous. Fact is, sexual harassment is alive and well despite these enforcements and sometimes institutions decide to cover-up perpetrators when they are important persons and bring in a huge amount of money and/or prestige (...). Same thing for HIPA: They teach us fundamentals to protect patients' privacy, yet privacy is infringed every day in every American hospital despite these enforcements. \n\nReally, what institutions need is to hire people that are not only competent and experienced in their field but that also know the basics of common sense, reciprocal respect, and good manners. I regret to notice that not too many of my colleagues fall in this category and no courses will bring them back on track.

December 11, 2008

I read with some amusement and concern Dr. McPherson's stand on principles concerning sexual harassment training. It seems to me that some fights are not worth the cost?that is the game is not worth the candle. My wife is a professional trainer for the state of Oklahoma, and one of her duties is to provide ?sensitivity training.? Most people start out with negative attitudes toward the training, but few end her class with them. Sexism, racism and other prejudicial behaviors are very deeply ingrained in our culture, and most people end up at least accepting that and that they were unaware of how often their own behavior and what they thought were innocent words or acts left others with bruised feelings. \n\nI do not really understand the?dignity? argument. I see no suggestion that requiring training implies that one has acted improperly. As a member of society who takes resources from that society and its agent (UC Irvine), it seems to me that the society has some rights to provide a level playing field for all its members. If providing a safe working environment is part of that, then requiring us to take certain training does not seem odious, particularly in view of the level of support he(and I) are receiving from the society in which we are embedded. \n\nOf course this is probably more about risk management than anything, but nonetheless I do see they have a duty to ensure that people in supervisory positions understand what is and is not acceptable. I wish Don Quixote McPherson good luck with the windmills and hope his career is not ended over this.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 11, 2008

This type of behavioral training is ridiculous.\n\nI commend the professor for his stance, and sincerely hope he does not have his grant funding withdrawn for his unwillingness to comply.\n\nThere are too many people speaking of encouraging diversity, yet being intolerant of those who do not share their views - from from sexual harrasment to race to tolerance. \n\nIt's about time we stop wasting time on these PC-type trainings (brainwashings) and get back to work. \n\nI would encourage anyone to simply define sexual harassment - in a way that can be agreed upon by everyone. Then we won't need these silly classes.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 8

December 11, 2008

Let keep it simple: Sit (sleep) thru 2 hours of inane(Mcpherson's word) training & then go back to work vs lose my funding? Duh! Cost benefit analysis would say the former. Dr. Mcpherson would seem to fall into the catagory of $100,000 dollars of education & no common sense. Or survival instinct.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 107

December 11, 2008

I love this story! The fact that they took away his TAs but let him keep on teaching indicates to me that this has nothing to do with protecting anyone from anything. It just a bureaucratic pissing contest. Someone should pass a law against bureaucratic harassment, it's alot more common than the sexual variety.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 11, 2008

Robert and anon ([Comment posted 2008-12-11 13:37:28]),\n\nYou can't be serious. Why would he fight this?\n\nBecause he does not believe it to be OK.\n\nJust because you don't understand why the training is an insult to his dignity, doesn't mean anything. This is the type of logic that leads to (if we don't understand why it rains, then it must be GOD).\n\nI wish I had this mans conviction, too many times I have wasted my time and taxpayer money sitting through two hours of nonsense (my opinion) just because it was easier to go along, when I felt I should not have given in to the PC bullies.
Avatar of: Ken Grant

Ken Grant

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

The offer to take the classes with the University issuing a statement was perfect.\n\nKeep up the fight!
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

December 11, 2008

This guy is right. There is no legitimate reason for requiring people to "check the box" and thinking that makes the least bit of difference. It doesn't. The real problem is that when complaints are filed of all kinds, the university administrators sweep everything under the rug, although nowadays a rare professor uses nastier female graduate students to make false accusations as part of their academic infighting. \n\nThe Scientist should file a FOIA lawsuit to get all the misconduct complaints, sexual and otherwise against UC. It's rich. So are a lot of other universities. Please do it. Post it online in a database and make it available. The material is astonishing, not just for what happens, but for what the bureaucrats do to bury it - and the student with it.
Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 23

December 11, 2008

I personally agree that these types of "courses" are a waste of time. Having gone through them at several companies, there are just a few truisms that could be written on a half-page memo: groping, threatening, quid pro quo. The rest are grey areas that are totally situational.\n\nThe whole reason for these courses is to eliminate company/institution responsibility when lawsuits do occur, pure and simple. "Hey, we trained him! It's not our fault!"\n\nWhile I absolutely feel for Doctor McPherson, the law's the law, and as a nation of laws, we must adhere to them, however stupid. The entire UC Irvine administration seems to have gone way overboard on this political correctness, but this is California, so rants or protests will come to naught. Still, a "course" in sexual harassment can be whatever the institution believes the course should be. Hence, in that environment, he should either try to work with them to come up with that half-page memo and sign it or take a nap through the dumb two-hour course, and be done with it.\n\nIf Doctor McPherson is as fervent as he lets on, though, he should then get an answer to the scientific question, "Does such 'training' decrease the number of sexual harassment incidents and associated lawsuits?" With the economy as it is, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of hours of lost productivity over dubious worth. Economics and science can then be ammunition for him to use to work to eliminate a bad law.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

The training is to provide the guidelines and laws on sexual harassment, not to brainwash you. The university uses these training courses to inform their academics of relevant information that will help them not get into trouble. There are now many cases of harassment that could have been easily avoided if the academic had the relevant training. This costs the academic and University many painful days and money to fight these cases. It is a pity that this particular academic does not see this point.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 7

December 11, 2008

I have sat through Sexual Harassment, bullying, gang identification, cultural sensitivity, disability sensitivity, drug use awareness, and a host of other required sessions. Mostly, they are a waste of time. Take a good book, or papers that need grading. Bring knitting, or a NYTimes crossword. The other alternative is to get cell phone numbers of coworkers attending the same seminar and call each other constantly during program. Don't answer or talk, but the constant ringing will drive mamagement nuts. You don't have to listen, you just have to present a warm body. On the other hand, the administration may need to recognize that all these politically correct requirements are actually interfering with the job. If there is evidence that someone needs training, ie: multiple complaints, then provide training for that individual only. Otherwise, the requirement for this type of training implies that I am too imature to be responsible for my own behavior. This is quite a statement to make about educators.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

I am a female PI and have encountered many levels of sexual harassment in my work. If we were to go back and tabulate who supports this prof I expect it is 99% male. Perhaps it is because many of you have never had the barriers that I and other women have encountered that \nyou project this response. Many women I know have left science or developed PTSD in order to deal with a system with this kind of attitude. I am on the universities' side with this one - take the training or lose your job.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

There are so many really important issues to take a stand on, and this is not one of them. As anyone who hasn't spent the last 30 years in a cave should know, these classes are all about insurance. In order to get litigation insurance, the university has to require their supervisors to take these classes, so that later, if there's a sexual harassment lawsuit, the supervisor can't say "I didn't realize that was sexual harassment". It's the same reason that sellers of hot coffee have to put inane "beverage is hot" warnings on their beverage containers - to protect themselves in case of a lawsuit. Does anyone honestly believe that consumers don't know that the beverage is hot? I agree that UC has a pitiful record on dealing with sexual harassment complaints, but that's not the issue here, nor is his stance going to help that problem. Refusing to take a two hour class at the cost of losing your job shows remarkably poor judgment.
Avatar of: GORAN HELLEKANT

GORAN HELLEKANT

Posts: 10

December 11, 2008

I agree with comments that "the whole reason for these courses is to eliminate company/institution responsibility, so when lawsuits do occur, it can state pure and simple. "Hey, we trained him! It's not our fault!". This is the wrong reason."\n Instead, if there is evidence that someone needs training, i.e. multiple complaints, then provide training for that individual only. Otherwise, the requirement for this type of training implies that we are too imature to be responsible for our own behavior. This is quite an insult to a faculty with 30 years of untainted records.\nUnfortunately, this erroneous reason is behind almost all compulsory "training" imposed by the institutions. In my institution the latest gimmick is training how to avoid "slipping and falling at work". Two hours offered!\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 125

December 11, 2008

Really, what's your problem?! There are plenty of inane things that people must follow in their workplaces and profs aren't any special exception. If you value your job enough at a state institution, then go along and do it, OK? Your personal right and principle has no priority over the laws or regulations to protect everyone. Besides, the fact that such training became mandatory is a consequence of the past recurrent problems of sexual harassments or insensitivites by the brash, egotistical attitudes of male academic researchers who ran their labs freely like their own fiefdoms and their lab workers like their personal servants - and the sad reality is that many of your peers still do. Geez, what a thin-skinned whiner!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

My mom worked in a man's world for decades, she was demeaned, harassed, and paid half as much to do hers and her bosses job because he was a sports figure who was used as a prop in the department, so that he could play grab ass all day.\n\nHowever, you harassed her, she dished it right back or told you to stick it. She'd have traded the training dollars on an increased salary any day, and the time used in training as time off to see her eight kids whom she supported by herself. Problem here, and one of the posters unintentionally makes this case, is that the training appears as validation. Why not have a strike for higher wages? That makes more sense to me; men, especially in sciences, likely would join in. Shut their labs down and see if you don't get a response. \n\nThere is no place for harassment, or wasted time in unnecessary training, if they can show a need in that department or for that individual, make him take the course, if they can't, stick the training and leave him the hell alone. If the department has valid complaints, the training is warranted. If it doesn't, move along. It is harassment he is undergoing for asking if he has any rights in the matter. Basically you're saying he is a bastard and has to be re-educated--regardless of his culpability.\n\nIt's a far better business climate for women than it was when mom was working, but it still aint perfect. However, validating feelings through training can create as much ill will and paranoia as it can solve actual crises. I am a male but am posting anonymously for one reason:\n\nI don't want to be sued and harassed for not saying "train always regardless." But don't pretend I don't understand it is not a world tilted in men's favor in the workplace, it still is. That doesn't simplistically make sexual harassment/sensitivity training required.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

As an employee of a University, also in California, it was mandatory (in order to keep my job) to accept the same policies that Professor McPherson did not accept. While taking the training course I was apalled by the example situations that were presented. I honestly felt like I was harrassed by exposure to the training situations. There were several uncomfortable scenarios that were very unlikely to involve me. The perverted scenarios were presented as if they were common. I agree that nobody should harass their co-workers but the training scenarios presented were vulgar and I do see how they could lead to many copycats.\n\nToday, in the US,I feel that legal issues go beyond common sense and ethics. I feel unsafe to post here even as an "anonymous" poster. The laws in the US are enforced way beyond the boundaries of freedom. The legal system is a shame and will likely lead to a demise in the values of our country. Laws should protect innocent people such as Professor McPherson.\nRegarding the harassment survey, there should be more than one rigid box to check at the end of the 2 hour lesson. One option should be to forego the training and simply acknowledge that you understand the section of the law regarding harassment.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 11, 2008

McPherson's stand is, in my opinion, neither warranted nor prudent.\n\nNo one is above the law. We may not agree with it, but we must all abide by the law or suffer the consequences. He deserves the negative consequences of his actions.\n\nUltimately, his act of defiance will cost him vastly more than the time required to undergo the training. His ego would have recovered from the "training" far more quickly than his career will recover from his refusal to cooperate.\n\nNot smart.
Avatar of: Darby Brooke

Darby Brooke

Posts: 6

December 11, 2008

A mandatory two hours of training in what constitutes sexual harassment?! Typical university/bureaucratic nonsense, yet also chillingly redolent of Communist-style 're-education' programs. \nSexual harassment is not acceptable, yet nor is forcing people to attend such 'classes'. Prosecute/investigate those who may be guilty of such conduct - don't treat everyone as potential offenders by subjecting them to such an undignified timewasting session of politically correct 'education'.\nThe university should be supporting McPherson for showing the courage to make a stand - the *law* is the ass here.
Avatar of: Jeremy Wickins

Jeremy Wickins

Posts: 9

December 11, 2008

Robert Hurst's comments show that this sort of training is actually an attempt at behavioural modification. He says that people start his wife's "sensitivity training" with a hostile attitude, and finish by realising that they are bad people who need to be told the correct way to behave. "Anger management" does the same. In any other sphere of life, this undermining of a person's individuality would be regarded as a terrible wrong, but somehow it is okay when it comes to dealing with others. The assumption is that you are wrong or the object of suspicion merely because of some characteristic, which usually seems to be being male - borne out by some comments already on this blog. Let me be clear - no-one has the right to enforce training on anyone that may make them come to doubt their core values unless they have actually done something wrong, and especially not as a condition of employment.\n\nI support McPherson in his stand - there is an element of "guilty without proof" in the university's attitude, and the law on the books. The law is clearly too blunt an instrument for this type of thing, and the constant kow-towing to insurance companies is actually damaging to all. McPherson should become an example to many, because if others did the same then there might be a sensible discussion about the limits of law, and the corrosive effects of the political correctness lobby in the US and elsewhere. Then just maybe we can start to discuss genuinely effective ways of making the world a little more equal for all.

December 11, 2008

The McPherson incident should prompt us all to consider what "training" should be mandated for university faculty - religious? esthetic? ethical? political? economic? sexual? environmental?\n\nTo what extent does such "training" compromise our fundamental freedoms? To what extent does it compromise the "illimitable freedom of the human mind"?
Avatar of: Gary Huber

Gary Huber

Posts: 23

December 11, 2008

I'm a culturally conservative, church-going white guy who took the course, and I really don't recall anything wrong or "politically correct" in the training. If Prof. MacPherson thinks he has to jump through hoops, he should talk to my wife in the public elementary school system. She is a highly trained speech pathologist with a master's degree, and yet she spends most of her day doing paperwork and attending workshops to make sure that the school's collective butt is covered if anything goes wrong. It's just a symptom of the times.
Avatar of: Sara Anderson

Sara Anderson

Posts: 2

December 11, 2008

Precautions are not punishments. If McPherson would look around himself, he'd notice how few women are high-level academics in the sciences, and how frequently women who leave the field cite sexual harassment as a reason. As a scientist, he's supposed to be able to separate the patterns that are coincidental from the directed. I'd be interested in what he'd hypothesize is going on, if not workplace hostility perpetuated by the willfully ignorant.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

December 11, 2008

I naively agreed to take so-called ?sexual harassment? training at my institution. I found it insulting and demeaning to me personally and to men in general. Participants were told that because they are men they are prone to sexual harassment. Nowhere in the training was there any example of men being sexually harassed by women. I have personally experienced sexual harassment by women in the workplace. When I tried to raise this issue, I was humiliated by female training leader and told that I was imagining things. Being forced to endure this kind of degrading experience is, in itself, sexual harassment. Next time, I intend to refuse the training.
Avatar of: Gary Huber

Gary Huber

Posts: 23

December 12, 2008

Jeez, folks, next time just take the course online!\nIt wasn't that big of a deal, and I think I got through it in less than an hour.\n
Avatar of: John Furedy

John Furedy

Posts: 1

December 12, 2008

For a recent earlier case of this sort of thing, see http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/furedy/academ_free.htm. The only difference between the policy of these university administrators who mete out punishment for not wanting to be "re educated" is that the punishment is not jail or execution (as it was in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia), but only loss of income and reputation.\n\nIn other respects, university administrators who mete out thissort of punishment are akin to the head commissars of the Kremlin's polibureau. The are also responsible for transforming universities from institutions devoted to the search for truth through the conflict of ideas to adult daycare centres where comfort is the only cirerion of what can be thought and said.\n\nThose are not the sort of institituions that should be supported by the taxes of a free society.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 6

December 12, 2008

I was just wondering if it is required for everyone at UC Irvine, including women, to take this course. As mentioned in a previous post, sexual harrassment by women towards men (or other women) does occur. This type of harrassment can take place whenever you have someone in a position that is much more powerful than the person they are harrassing (as is common in academics).\nSo, back to my question, is taking this course also required of female employees at US institutions?
Avatar of: Gary Huber

Gary Huber

Posts: 23

December 12, 2008

Anybody who is a supervisor has to take it, man or woman. It not all about what bad things YOU might do; it mostly concerns the steps you should take and the resources available if, say, one of the students in your lab starts making another student feel uncomfortable, and yes, how to keep your rear covered legally. Pretty useful stuff, actually.\n\nI never thought I would spend time defending sexual harassment training, but there are so many paranoid comments here that I had to say something! If I am indeed missing out on some great commie-liberal-pinko conspiracy, please enlighten me.\n
Avatar of: Michael Katz

Michael Katz

Posts: 2

December 12, 2008

Prof. McPherson is doing the right thing, even as it seems to have taken more time that a pat response to the requirement. The issue may not be explosive and the matter relatively trivial for some one who has not even been involved in the so-called sexual harassment. Nevertheless all of us who are in positions wherein sexual harassment is possible are potentially subject to such accusations, even if we are innocent.\n\nWhat Prof. McPherson has done is courageous and merits our support of him. The argument that taking such a course would not be formidable and could well be tolerated in terms of its content and the time it involves is in error. During the McCarthy era when grantees were mandated to take loyalty oaths, similar objections by courageous scientists were expressed. I saluted them then (I was too junior to have to do it at that time) and I salute Prof. McPherson now.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 12, 2008

A course that teaches how to comply with state law is not 'behavorial training' any more than driver education is. As a U.S. citizen you are free to take the information and do with it as you will, but if you do not comply with the law then you will be arrested. I frankly find it useful to be as educated as possible about what the laws are, whether I agree with them or not, to avoid this situation. Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Those courses are to protect you and your school.\n\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 12, 2008

It's not all about you. Everyone has to take it! This way the ones that don't know the how to be compliant with the law will be educated. Do you really want them to try to identify the ones that need it and single them out? Then if you were selectively targeted for education, you might have a right to be so defensive. It is better to just do a blanket education system like they have. \n\nIt sounds like Dr. McPherson is fighting for his right to be ignorant of state law or to not have to think about what constitutes 'sexual harassment'. Burying your head in the sand is hardly an admirable or defensible position.\n\nIf you think sexual discrimination is a thing of the past, you are flat wrong. I don't care about the flirting or innuendos because human nature doesn't offend me, but when someone tries to hold back my career because of my gender, I take offense. Here is just one example that occurred in 2007 in a top 10 graduate department. As a postdoc I was given a supervisory position on a project that an assistant professor had strong opinions about. He told my supervisor that -as a woman- I was incapable of handling a position of high responsibility, right in front of me. Could I have reported him? Yes. Did I? No, because I retained the position and punishing him for his ignorance was not worth my time or sullying my reputation with his petty nonsense. It is better to tuck that information away about his character and successfully complete the project I was given. Had he taken a sensitivity training course, I'm sure his opinions wouldn't have changed, but perhaps he wouldn't have let it come out of his mouth and I wouldn't have to bite my tongue every time I interact with him. \n\nOne last note: I am also of Scottish descent and get on my pedestal about matters of principle regularly, but I save my real battles for truly important issues. Like if I had lost that supervisory position due to his comment, I would have sued him from here to the Supreme Court.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 12, 2008

Required training by law does not imply guilt. Mr. McPherson is misguided, and he wastes the time of his university, the NIH, the writer of the article, and all of us who read the article, and worse who responded (such as myself).\n\nDid McPherson take defensive driving? Did McPherson take training in waste disposal and radiation safety and policy? \n\nWhat does that imply? Maybe he didn't complain about that training, because he has been cited for careless driving or because he had a lab accident that required implementation of common sense clean up procedures.

December 12, 2008

I have met Prof. McPherson at a crystallography course. He made a very strong impression on me, as a very smart, yet kind, person. Back then, it didn't appear to me then that he was grabbing the female student's butts; maybe it just escaped me.\n\nI find it surprising (if not scary) how many people say "c'mon, go to it, present a body --you may have your thoughts anywhere else-- and get over it; it's required by law and what can you do about it?". As a person who grew up in a communist country, I know too well that this stance leads exactly to everybody yielding in and accepting whatever is imposed.\n\nThe argument that "it's required by law" is at least dumb. The same US had laws segregating whites from colored less than 40 years ago. The fact that Rosa Park said "to hell with this law" and did not yield her place in the bus is a good example of people saying that laws are made by humans and can also be changed. \n\nThe problem with the US (ok, you can lash me out, I do NOT live in the US) is not necessarily that there are too many laws, but too many Stellas suing for anything, from the coffee being too hot to the sky not being blue enough.\n\nI had a few US colleagues in my former lab. One of them (female!) once said that it's so nice in Germany, since you don't have to worry whether a gesture which is just friendly might be interpreted (and accordingly punished!) as sexual harassment. Don't get me wrong: there might be instances of real sexual harrasment, and they ought to be exemplarily punished, but most of them are actually not there, they are just nice excuses to try to extort money or positions.\n\nSo it's not Prof McPherson who has to "get over it" but the UC. And, true, with the superhigh "damage claims" raised by plaintiffs, the UC has to cover its butt with 10 layers of "trainings". I think it's actually the US judicial system which has to change and maybe a stance like McPherson's might draw attention at how preposterous the situation is!\n\nSo, to everyone whining that "what does it matter": Prof. McPherson thinks it matters a hell lot and I think he's damn right!
Avatar of: Peter HIbbard

Peter HIbbard

Posts: 7

December 12, 2008

We are given training in anything that might give rise to litigation. I have been in a situation where a male supervisor harrassed me and several female employees. It is demeaning, and should not be tolerated. When I complained, He stayed on the job and I was offered a transfer. Several women quit rather than take it. I was also a supervisor in that office but in a different division. In another job, I was required to take "official" taining courses in sexual harrassment. The examples were extreme and probably verged on assault. I did not learn much. I could have read a pamphlet and signed off and saved a lot of time. I agree that little has changed, but most businesses and Universities have an Affirmative Action Officer to deal with complaints against others they supervise. Political correctness can be taken too far. Viewing examples that would not occur in my environment, and ignoring those that might, falls into the one size fits all model. Soon we will have to take alcohol abuse and drunk driving classes, even if we don't drink. This reminds me of the joke about the woman who checked out of a hotel and found a bill for $50 for the room bar. She complained that she didn't use it. The manager told her that all the equipment was there for a party if she wanted, and they would charge her for the service. She asked for a policeman, and said she would charge the manager with rape. He protested that he hadn't touched her. She replied that he had all the equipment and could have if he wanted to. I thought we were presumed innocent. Perhaps there is better use of public money than to require education for things that haven't happened. Prosecute those who break the law, but the only reason for the training that the Professor and I have been required to take, is because the government is changing the definition of what is offensive. It seems like they try to make Freedom from Offense a Constitutional right. I am offended!
Avatar of: Kathy Barker

Kathy Barker

Posts: 7

December 12, 2008

Only in a world where people won't even sign their names on a science blog could McPherson's stance seem bold and brave.\n Still, newspaper articles don't tell all of the story. I would support McPherson if I knew he would put his job on the line to protest the sexual harassment of one of his colleagues, or that he is really fighting the inadequecy and hypocrisy of a sexual harassment "course," and would prefer stronger measures.\n \n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 17, 2008

So, Dr. McPherson is employed by the state, gets his money from the state, and, as a condition of that employment agrees to show up at work at a state facility, teaches the courses he is asked to teach, presumably takes training on laboratory and site safety, probably also takes at least web training on the university's IP policies and other policies, but won't take training on sexual harassment. Sounds like the problem is Dr. McPherson's not the university's.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 17, 2008

Should individuals be forced to comply with training that implies a type of guilt or propensity to commit undesirable or illegal acts? I say no. Professor MacPherson is correct in his stance. To make matters worse, this arbitrary demand for training was not a condition of his employment when he was hired. He obviously has a long track record of satisfactory performance at the University, so why should he submit to such a demand?\n\nReaders, I ask you this: Should the state be able to force all individuals to take training that would prevent them from committing pedophilia, adultery, hate crimes against African Americans, domestic violence, cruelty to animals? The obvious answer is no!\n\nThese kinds of mandates are undemocratic - an antithesis to the very principles a university stands for. They also create artificial suspicion, fear, and ill will within the community because they send the message that no one can be trusted to be left to their own devices. Therefore, we all need government-sponsored programming in order to keep our thoughts in order and keep everyone "safe."\n\nPerhaps Professor MacPherson's students and colleagues now think he can't be trusted because he had the courage to refuse such training. This is unfair and undemocratic; unfortunately, the damage to his reputation has already been done.\n\nLastly, Professor MacPherson agreed to complete the training if the University would state in writing that the training in no way implied that he had ever been under suspicion of sexual harassment. The University refuse to consider his reasonable proposal.\n\nI am disappointed that so many readers would gladly conform to such shameless and undemocratic dictates!\n

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