Society for American Archaeology Can Ban Harassers from Meetings
Society for American Archaeology Can Ban Harassers from Meetings

Society for American Archaeology Can Ban Harassers from Meetings

Members approve a bylaw change that could prohibit someone guilty of misconduct from attending a conference, following uproar over the presence of a known harasser at a meeting earlier this year.

Dec 3, 2019
Kerry Grens

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Members of the Society for American Archaeology have voted to allow the organization’s board to block people who have committed misconduct from attending its conferences, Science reports. The change, which went into effect last month, comes after the SAA faced considerable backlash for not immediately evicting a University of Alaska Anchorage professor—banned from his own campus for sexually harassing students—from a meeting earlier this year.

See “Archaeologists Ask Society for Harassment Policy Change

The language in the bylaw states that the board may ban someone from a conference. Another proposal that did not get passed stated that the board will block the person from attending. The less-imposing wording that was approved was a disappointment to some members.

“That means we have to have board members who are supportive of victims and other survivors,” says Sara Gonzalez, an archaeologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, tells Science, though she notes that it is still a positive development.

In April, University of Alaska Anchorage archaeologist David Yesner attended the SAA’s annual meeting in Albuquerque where several of his victims were present. They alerted the conference organizers, but found the SAA response inadequate because Yesner was not removed right away, nor had they prevented him from appearing in the first place.

The subsequent initiative to change the bylaws came from members who sought to ban people who had been found guilty of sexual harassment from attending conferences. The new rule also allows conference organizers to block attendance for other forms of misconduct beyond sexual harassment.

See “Scientific Societies Update Policies to Address #MeToo

Kerry Grens is a senior editor and the news director of The Scientist. Email her at kgrens@the-scientist.com.