When to name and shame on Social Media, and when to show compassion…

by Andrew Maynard on October 15, 2013

This is a piece I had hoped not to post – at least so soon – and still feel uneasy about, as it refers to events that will probably cause hurt to some people.  But as I have been called out on Twitter and discussion around the events is gaining some momentum, a little clarification is probably in order.

This weekend, the science communication community (and beyond) on Twitter erupted over the temporary removal of a blog post on Scientific American by Danielle Lee that described a highly distasteful email exchange.  Scientific American caught a lot of flack for this, and things got personal with SA’s editor Mariette DiChristina and – to a lesser extent – with SA’s Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic.  At least that’s what I thought until I saw this post from Monica Byrne.

Monica wrote about a distressing encounter with a science editor and blogger in October 2012.  She made the decision to blog about the experience without naming names – in part to let people know what experiences like this are like.  However, in reading about the the incident involving Danielle Lee in Jezebel, she decided this weekend to name the person in the account – Bora Zivkovic.

I must confess, reading this brought me out in a cold sweat.  I do not question Monica’s experience, or the trauma she suffered as a result.  But naming and shaming in a way that is likely to damage lives and reputations in ever increasing circles without the moderating influence of due process and what some might consider appropriate channels worries me.

I teach and lecture on science communication and social media, and know Bora professionally but not personally.  And so this piece had a connection with my professional community and activities.  As a result, I felt it placed in a position of having to make a decision:

  1. Do I ignore it and walk way?
  2. Do I endorse Monica’s “outing” of an individual?
  3. Do I publicly question her judgement? or
  4. Do I see if some degree of process can be agreed on privately?

#3 was clearly inappropriate.  #1 would have been the easiest, but something of an abdication of responsibility I felt.  #2 made me really uneasy as it implies a value judgement on my part with little thought of consequences and evidence.  Which left #4.

With the full realization that I may be sticking my neck out, I emailed Monica on the morning of October 14:

Dear Monica,

I must confess that this is an unsolicited appeal from a total stranger about your writing, which puts me immediately into the category of interfering busybody, or worse.  However, I have been watching the situation surrounding Danielle Lee’s Scientific American blog post unfold this weekend with some dismay, and after reading your update to your Oct 9 post (http://monicacatherine.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/this-happened/) this morning, I felt that the risk of looking a fool was less than that of trying to help avert a potentially serious mess regarding Bora Zivkovic and his personal and professional life.

Let me say first that I have am fully supportive of your original post – and am saddened that you had the experience, as well as recognizing the importance of making information like this available.  However, I have serious concerns about naming Bora specifically on the grounds of the tremendous speculation that has spread through the internet over the weekend regarding Danielle Lee’s removed post.

Naming Bora has a reasonable likelihood of destroying his marriage, his friendships and his professional standing in this case.  You may feel that this is justified.  But I can’t help wondering where the bar lies for wielding a private exchange (which admittedly led to serious distress) to causing serious and widespread damage.

I have corresponded with Bora on occasion, but nave never met him in person.  I have no reason to doubt your account of your meeting with him.  I do know that he has been a major factor in the rise of informal science writing and web-based science communication in the US and beyond.  And that he is highly respected within his community.  Whether these are adequate justifications for not calling him out by name I leave with you.  But I would advocate for consideration and compassion at this stage.

Yours with just a little chagrin for being such an interfering busybody

Andrew Maynard

I did not do this lightly.  I was aware that my email could be construed as undermining the significance of Monica’s experience – which I did not want to do.  I was concerned that it might be considered as an inappropriate use of a perceived power-differential – fo this reason I didn’t include my usual email signature.  I was highly sensitive to my lack of right to request a specific course of action.  Yet I felt a responsibility to respond in some way.  And so I advocated for consideration and compassion.

Monica didn’t respond via email, but she did via Twitter:

Amid the bro backslapping going on around the @sciam blogging incident, I’d like to say publicly that @2020science wrote me this morning… (link)

…asking me to delete the naming of Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ) as my sexual harasser in this post: http://monicacatherine.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/this-happened/ …… (link)

(you can read the full Twitter stream here)

I hadn’t particularly wanted to post this email as I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to to anyone in the public domain.  And let’s be honest, there’s something a little embarrassing about laundering your personal emails in public.  But given the discussions around it, I thought it was only fair that people could see what was originally written.

Was it a smart or a foolish email?  I don’t know.  I do know that sometimes staying silent or following the crowd aren’t great choices in hindsight.  And I do know that it’s very easy to cause a great deal of harm through poorly considered actions that may not be meant to cause the harm they do.  I also have what is probably a naive belief that there are ways of addressing important issues that are effective at reaching resolution without significant collateral damage.

But to finish this piece off by bringing the subject back to something more aligned with science communication – which is part of what this blog is about.  The incident has got me thinking afresh about the responsibility that comes with being part of an online community without walls.  And specifically, I’m left with the following questions:

  • When is it OK to name and shame online – on any issue?
  • When is it appropriate to support someone else’s outrage because it appears to fit your worldview? And
  • For science communicators, when is it OK to draw strong conclusions in the face of scant evidence?

These are genuine questions – I have my thoughts, but of course, they may well not be valid.  But then, that’s what the comments box is for.

Update Oct 15 11:18 AM:  This has just been posted by Bora Zivkovic on the incident: http://blog.coturnix.org/2013/10/15/this-happenned/

Update 2:45 PM EST Oct 19 2013: Over the past few days a number of additional details of Bora sexually harassing women have been published, including disturbing accounts from Kathleen Raven and Hannah Waters.  On October 18th, Bora resigned from Scientific American.  And the science communication community nurtured and mentored by Bora continues to try and make sense of the unfolding situation and what can be learned.  It is becoming increasingly clear that there were largely unvoiced suspicions about Bora’s behavior within the online science community around him – suspicions I was utterly unaware of.  If I had the smallest fraction of the information I now have on Monday, I would never have emailed Monica.

Update 8:00 PM EST Oct 16 2013: Since posting this on Tuesday morning, things have moved on fast. Bora Zivkovic has fully acknowledged his actions as described by Monica Byrne and has resigned from ScienceOnline Board of Directors; Scientific American editor Mariette DiChristine has issued a statement on Bora’s position with the publication; additional victims have come forward; and my actions and person have been thoroughly condemned on Twitter, on blogs and in comments on posts.

I hope I have been open about my motivations and actions – misguided and inappropriate as many feel they are. But I realize that intentions don’t really count if the following actions cause harm.

Given this, and the reactions to this post, I would like to be very clear on the following:

  1. I apologize fully to Monica Byrne for the distress my email caused – this was not intended.
  2. I apologize to anyone who has taken offense or been distressed by my actions – again, this was not my intent.
  3. I thoroughly abhor uses of privilege that lead to or support sexual harassment.
  4. I also thoroughly abhor the use of any privilege that leads to or supports any form of injury or harm to persons.
  5. I condemn absolutely the “brushing under the rug” of incidents that lead to harm – including the incident described by Monica. But I also believe there are multiple routes to achieving appropriate ends.

Point #3 may seem incongruous in the light of the post below. But I still struggle to get my head round how to act when it seems to conflict with point #4. And I continue to grapple with how to reconcile pain, hurt and compassion with loyalty, justice and – just occasionally – moral courage. And I am still learning.  Because of this, as a friend advocated earlier today, I am still “truly listening.”

Update March 5 2014 – final reflections on this business.

1 Van October 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

This is a classic set of excuses for reprehensible behavior, classic in the sense of they get trotted out every time a woman speaks out against harassment, and basically serve to encourage silence on the part of victims. All in the name of “let’s be logical and reasonable here”. Your three questions at the end are particularly offensive and leading (in that your implicit answer to each of them is clearly “never”). You should be ashamed of yourself.

Bora’s behavior, all denial to the contrary, appears to be a pattern, once again (and it usually is in these cases)–he approached multiple women in the same manner. Moreover, he was in a position of authority over the women who have come forward, determining if they would be able to write for SciAm. SciAm swept the behavior under the rug with a private apology, and then allowed him to stay in that position of authority. Inexcusable, and again, part of the typical pattern.

As is your post. Harassment will continue unless these chronic excuses are seen and reviled for what they are.

2 Just me October 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I have to say Andrew that there is a couple of inconsistencies in your argument. That, or you forgot #5 email Bora and try to compassionately hold him accountable for what is looking like a pattern of behavior.

Why is it that you decided to approach Monica, not Bora, when you personally knew neither of them?

What do you think is the impact of the interaction that occur between Bora and Monica had no implication for Monica? I.E. did it not damage her life? She wrote about this a year ago and she is still angry, don’t you think that interaction affected her? What makes him more worthy of your advocacy than her?

Your three questions or conclusions leave out the fact that women face this kind of assaults on a daily basis and because even in the face of evidence, women are still questioned, naming is not about the shame. Naming is very rarely about the perpetrator, it is about the person who endured the injustice. It is about getting your being back.

I’m all for showing compassion, but compassion in this case is holding people accountable for their actions, helping people become humans. It is not about silencing people. If you silence people how else are you going to know that there’s a problem? And if you don’t know that there’s a problem, how else can you attempt to find a solution?

3 Alison Cummins October 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

If SciAm doesn’t handle the problem, then what are the women he treats inappropriately supposed to do?

There was a 4. SciAm passed on it. They reap the consequences.

It’s not up to the women a harasser targets to protect the harasser, it’s up to the harasser’s employer. If SciAm doesn’t do anything, women will share information to protect one another. If SciAm cared about BoraZ’s marriage they would have fired him. Why would his targets have more compassion for his marriage than his boss does?

4 dsks October 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm

To hell with it. Name us and shame us. I share your worries, Andrew, I do, but that’s exactly why I think this is a sensible and efficacious strategy for women to pursue. It scares us. It really does. It’s visceral. You felt it, I did, we did. I feel anxious just imagining what it would be like to be outed in this manner, and the consequences that could potentially ensue (although, if the political arena is anything to go by, these consequences are rarely career-ending, even when they probably ought to be).

The “due process” argument is not without weight, of course. But it does have to be viewed within the context of the current and continuing state of affairs, both societal and legal, that has we dudes with the strong – extremely strong – field advantage. Even now, the accused in this case is beginning to draw a little sympathy, and has directed the narrative to one that speaks of a transient and uncharacteristic transgression… and yet there is already murmurings that this might not be true.

It is very easy to come down on the side of dialogue, to urge caution, to be the voice of reason arguing for restraint. But this approach loses its legitimacy, particular in cases relating to civil rights, when, far from being a truly “unbiased” position, it serves the defense of the status quo.

Professional upheaval, family upheaval… these are the consequences that must be felt if anything is to change. Name us and shame us, imho.

5 Angelique October 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Maybe you should reconsider your questions:

- Why is protecting a man’s reputation more important than protecting and giving a voice to other women/potential victims?
- Why isn’t it belittling to describe community support of women in a vulnerable position as mere recreational outrage?
- Finally, you can’t have it both ways–taking to task women who name their harassers/attackers *and* suggesting there’s not enough evidence out there to draw conclusions about the behavior of those men.

I definitely recommend you reread the comment above by Just Me and consider why you felt it was worthwhile to contact Monica, asking her to consider the impact of her choices on Bora, but–at the very least!–not to also contact Bora and ask him to consider the impact of his choices on SciAm, its community and Monica herself. Now that Bora has confirmed this account and other women have commented on Monica’s blog saying they’ve had similar experiences, have you sent a concerned email to Bora?

I expect my tone here comes across as a bit harsh, and I don’t really mean it to be. But I’m a bit exhausted by women hearing the same thing over and over and nothing changing. Just this month, in both Danielle and Monica’s experiences, they were both told these were private or personal matters and should be handled out of the public eye. This is completely false as both situations started as professional requests. No personal relationship or familiarity was sought by either, but now the men are supposed to get shelter from the supposedly private/personal nature of their interactions.

6 Hannah October 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I hate to be the one pointing out the obvious, but nobody else seems to be seeing it, so here it goes. Whatever consequences come of this naming are a result of Bora’s actions, not of Monica’s decision to name him. If his marriage, career, and friendships will suffer, it’s because he chose to hurt them by his behavior. Why should Monica or any other woman be expected to protect relationships he willingly(and apparently repeatedly) chose to endanger, especially when doing so would be at her own expense? As for you, Mr. Maynard: You may tell yourself yours was a compassionate response. By I and most women see it for what it really is, an attempt to shame the victims of harassment into silence, so as not to inconvenience the important work of men with their petty little feelings.

7 Natasha October 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Everyone here has it right, and this is particularly right. The problematic actions were Bora’s, not Monica’s. As everyone is saying, to ask Monica to be quiet about it just to protect Bora is completely unfair. And, yes, actively silencing.

Reread what Angelique says about trying to have it both ways.

8 seriously October 16, 2013 at 2:35 am

This is victim blaming, somehow rationalizing or justifying that his actions were okay.

This is not okay, it will never be okay. As a man in the science/tech field, this sort of behavior moves our culture backwards and removes any progress we’ve ever made for show.

9 ATheoK October 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Aye!

The author’s quote above

“…Naming Bora has a reasonable likelihood of destroying his marriage, his friendships and his professional standing in this case…”

implies that damaging Bora rep, life and family is worse than suffering personal humiliation privately, publicly and professionally. Not to forget that Monica also has a life, reputation and family.

Monica, the target of the author above initially described the whole interaction with Bora with all identifications but hers redacted. She provides documentation about written communications between the two including a somewhat after the fact very late supposed apology.

Other commenters have not only identified with Monica, but also identified the same sexual predator. While these claims are not proven, yet; they are believable because Monica documented her experience and kept her communications.

At this point, officers of the law should seek additional information as it appears a sexual predator is on the loose. Whether enough information and evidence is found for indictment is not the issue; prove either of these interactions and ethics are clearly violated. Prove other co-workers or superiors knew this man is on the prowl and there is a systemic issue with ethics at SciAm.

Yes! All women that may come within his sphere of interactions should be warned. All future employers need to know that he needs watching. A company should be aware of when an employee may cause sexual harassment lawsuits arising from improper interactions. Because that is the proper description for what occurred to Monica by Bora.

The male in question at SciAm makes me embarrassed to be one. The above blogger is just clueless and appears to try and strike a ‘dispute middle ground’ approach. Only when wrong is one side and truth is the other, half wrong is not a neutral middle choice.
His opinion and questions remind me of employers deciding to fire experienced female workers because the inexperienced men have families. A ‘supposed’ right action assumption denies the women equality and their jobs; but it’s OK because families, honor and friends are protected. No! It is wrong, period.

Ladies, visit Monica’s and read her story plus many of the following comments. Men, support where you are able.

10 Sam Juno December 8, 2013 at 12:19 am

In context to what Monica endured I found this 2011 post on her blog most curious. She part begins about 8:40.
http://www.themonti.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Podcast-Episode-4_ElizabethFinley_MonicaByrne.mp3

11 Laura October 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

What you’re doing here, Andrew Maynard, has a name. It’s called “mansplaining.”

Your email was far out of line. Bora Z neither needs nor deserves your pleas for protection.

He’s a big boy. Just remember that. Big boys act, and when they act, they know there are consequences. If they don’t, if they start to whine and hope the consequences go away, or somehow ask that they get a break because–well, they must be special, they must be uniquely unable to control their actions…then he’s acting like a baby. He (and you apparently) think he can operate AS IF he’s a Big Boy, but when he screws that up, he’s to be handled as if he’s a baby.

It’s not as if Bora didn’t know the behavior he exhibited was wrong. He knew. You know.

Wrong behavior has consequences. That’s why Big Boys are supposed to avoid wrong behavior.

Everything he does, he has a perfect ability to refrain from doing. The consequences, collateral and otherwise, are his problem, not yours. The entire situation is really none of your business and it is an attempt to silence someone in order to protect the perpetrator.

If I were your boss, I’d be sittin’ you down for a long hard talk about responsibility. It’s not optional. It’s required, because the lack of it has consequences. Bora acted irresponsibly. He gets to face the consequences now. You should step aside.

12 BQ October 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

It is always okay to name someone if they have sexually harassed you. ALWAYS.

The shame part, well, that comes from doing something shameful. One should feel ashamed if they sexually harassed a clearly intelligent and accomplished young woman. Perhaps shame is most effective, here. If Bora loses his marriage and his career over this, perhaps that will set an example for other men in similar positions. When will this constant harassment and degradation of women stop being okay, and furthermore, when will presumably intelligent men like you stop defending them? If we don’t speak out against this behavior, the answer is never.

I applaud Monica Byrne. More women should speak out about their experiences, and its sad that people like you make it much more difficult for them to feel like they should do so.

13 seriously October 16, 2013 at 2:32 am

Agreed, this is entirely reprehensible and is borderline victim blaming. As for Andrew Maynard, he’s lost any and all credibility.

It’s almost as if what he did wasn’t quite ‘bad’ enough, but even then, if it had gone further, I don’t think we’d even see any different of a response from the science community. I’m more saddened by the response than the news of the act.

14 Gerry October 15, 2013 at 9:29 pm

The only way to keep men accountable for our behaviour towards women is to make it visible. To complain about the impact of this in terms of the damage done to the offender only serves to obscure the damage done BY the offender.

15 Heather October 16, 2013 at 8:54 am

I’ve never read your blog before, Andrew. But I would take exception to an earlier comment “what it really is, an attempt to shame the victims of harassment into silence, so as not to inconvenience the important work of men with their petty little feelings.”

Or I’m just not most women. I recognize your good intentions, to try to contain damage that can spread past the obvious victims. This really does happen, as I can attest by having been around variations of the Internet for more years than many of the twenty-something people commenting on these issues have been alive. “…it’s very easy to cause a great deal of harm through poorly considered actions that may not be meant to cause the harm they do. I also have what is probably a naive belief that there are ways of addressing important issues that are effective at reaching resolution without significant collateral damage.”

Probably, your original e-mail, although laden with good intentions, was itself a poorly considered action. However, I defend your right to explain yourself and your point of view. Just like I defend the right of a victim to accuse their harasser, even publicly – but everyone needs to acknowledge the potential consequences. And a harasser has a right to also publicly explain their point of view about that situation, bringing whatever convincing elements they have into the conversation. Or to stay private, of course.

What worries many advocates of containment are the hypothetical, and there are probably real, examples of false accusations. However, if the accusations are ungrounded, and fact-checking runs its course, this should come out in the long run. And due process would have happened, unless someone’s voice gets muffled along the way. Historically, it’s usually the victim’s voice that got muffled. I doubt that there will be a massive inversion of history.

16 Andrew Maynard October 16, 2013 at 9:28 am

Thanks for the measured thoughts here Heather. I was going to wait some before responding to comments here, but felt that this required a more immediate response.

As I thought was reflected in the letter subtext, I wasn’t sure it was a well considered action or not – I’m still not sure – but I also felt personally that to do nothing, or to take the easy task of following the crowd, was an abdication of moral responsibility. I acted in the best way I could see, in the full knowledge that I may be wrong and there may be a price to pay.

I agree with your points on consequences, and these tending to be heavily biased toward the victim. And this again has caused me considerable angst. Yet there are so often multiple victims, with the danger that some get marginalized or even vilified in the melee. To me this raises the question of how we – as individuals and a society – ensure that in protecting the vulnerable and marginalized, we don’t leave a trail of destruction behind us. This is an issue that touches on so many aspects of a person – religious beliefs, racial groups, gender – including sexual orientation, mental and physical health, age and so on. To assume that someone isn’t vulnerable or is a fair target because they do or don’t fall into a particular category – opens the door to casual abuse.

But how to handle this when there are real abuses perpetrated? In my own mind I have to come back to questions around trigger points, measured responses, personal responsibility and – unfashionable as they seem – compassion, consideration and civility.

Noe of this detracts from the needs to protect and empower the disenfranchised and to prevent the intended or unintended misuse of power and influence. But hopefully it does help understand better the “how” of improving lives.

17 dsks October 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

“…To me this raises the question of how we – as individuals and a society – ensure that in protecting the vulnerable and marginalized, we don’t leave a trail of destruction behind us.”

In an ideal world the answer to that question would be that we simply sway the strong with the persuasiveness of the argument that their attitudes to x, y or z vulnerable and marginalized group are morally inappropriate. Unfortunately, the historical precedent for this strategy working is not terribly compelling. It’s not that discourse is without efficacy entirely – it always plays a role at some point, usually later – but there often has to be some form of muscular resistance* to overcome the energy barrier required to grasp the attention of the strong in the first place; and to endow the issue with a sense of importance and immediacy that provokes the strong to actually engage in a dialogue.

If Monica Byrne’s and Karen Stollznow’s revelations are the beginning of a trend, can we expect collateral damage, or perhaps even outright malicious libel? Yes. But these are going to be rare events, and as Heather pointed out, the accused will still have the luxury of mounting a defence. Looking back over history, and the sort of collateral damage that has been precipitated by various civil rights struggles, I’d say that the costs predicted to be incurred by a more forceful response from aggrieved women are vanishingly small by comparison.

I think this trend should continue, and that if a new normal arises in which women feel empowered to name their aggressors, the frequency of these infractions will wane, and a great good will have been achieved for what is relatively a trifling cost.

18 Banjoman0 October 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm

My problem is that when you refer to multiple victims, you obviously include @BoraZ, in spite of any evidence that he is a victim of anything other than his own piggishness. If you really were concerned with multiple victims, perhaps you can paraphrase the letters you also wrote to @BoraZ and Sciam?

19 Sue October 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

“To me this raises the question of how we – as individuals and a society – ensure that in protecting the vulnerable and marginalized, we don’t leave a trail of destruction behind us.”

As others before me have pointed out, it’s not the women who named these individuals who have set anything in motion. The chain of events in such incidents is kickstarted by the perpetrators of these incidents. As such, the innocent bystanders are being harmed by the original perpetrators, not their victims. Let us by all means retain a clear vision of the accountability here. I live in India and as a female professional I hear a lot of this argument (“Think of his family, think of his career.”) I have long stopped accepting it, because my ‘thoughtfulness’ has been seen as an acceptance of the perpetrator’s behaviour which has in the long run caused even more such incidents. Experience has taught me to support people who name and shame, because they are the only ones who are actively creating an atmosphere of security.

I appreciate your attempt to stem pointless acts of outrage, but I don’t think you thought this through far enough.

20 Jay October 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Naming and shaming was brave 100 years ago in small towns.

Naming and shaming allowed people a certain control over their lives, a certain way to harness the crowd, it got the information out to those who could use it, and it was limited in time and space and proportionate to the crime.

In a day of global shaming and google and bing longevity, naming and shaming on the net is itself cruel and unusual. It is disproportionate. It appeals to our need for revenge, not our need to heal or to progress.

The Internet is still young and I try to remain confident that in 10, 20 years, Internet shaming will be seen as handgun revenge is today, not as handgun and revenge were 100 years ago.

21 blah blah blah October 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm

So, uh, Jay, what’s your solution for how women should confront the issue of sexual harassment when they can’t get any help from “official channels”? Do you even care?

22 Paul October 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm

This is a serious error of judgement on your part. What were you thinking?
You say that “reading this brought me out in a cold sweat.” I’m tempted to speculate why that might be.
You say that to ignore the issue would have been “something of an abdication of responsibility”. What? What responsibility do you have in this regard?
To suggest that when women are subjected to such harassment – apparently bordering on abuse in this instance – should keep quiet, is completely unacceptable, and is the attitude that perpetuates this sort of behavior.

Finally, there is much concern about the low numbers of women in science and what can be done about it. If senior professors such as yourself adopt such attitudes, the problem will not get any better.

23 anon October 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I offer you my respect, despite having to do so anonymously, for sticking your head above the parapet. (It’s refreshing, also, to see the opposing comments you’ve not moderated away.) It is genuinely scary how much mob hatred one attracts from attempting any discussion of these issues.

No, no please put down the pitchforks I’m not “victim blaming” or oppressing women or supporting “rape culture”, I just think maybe in some circumstances there is *some tiny area for discussion* on people’s choices and actions, as opposed to just mindlessly boarding the hysteria train in any situation involving a female.

Gah even as I type it’s obvious that this is a futile endeavour.

24 Anon October 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Using the words “hysteria” and “female” in the same sentence pretty much discredits your whole point. Which was what, exactly?

25 anon October 17, 2013 at 4:34 am

Because females (and males, in this case) can’t partake in hysteria? Do you have a point to make?

To recap, mine were:
1) Respect to the author for having the courage to say *something* which he must have known would draw the wrath of everyone, being shouted down until he apologises and/or takes it down.
2) On the futility of trying to rationalise with hysterical males and females calling for someone’s head due to the implicit sexist/feminist underpinnings.

I’d like to add that the real options available to those watching these events unfold are to either: engage in one-upsmanship on who *most* values women’s rights and who can *most* appreciate how much of a traumatic ordeal this coffee conversation must have been, OR remain silent and not risk the hate squad getting us fired. The second group are inherently unrepresented in these discussions.

26 Camana October 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Yikes!!!! You might want to revisit your judgment now that hindsight is available to you. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to you that Ms. Byrne had been struggling with the pain caused by Bora for a year. Maybe you have never known anyone personally that has been sexually harassed and don’t really understand that the pain doesn’t go away – ever. Did you consider Ms. Byrnes pain and possibly her need for closure by outing Bora especially after she learned that several other women were victims?

Since you chose to meddle in something that wasn’t any of your business why didn’t you choose to meddle by writing to Bora first for his explanation and asking him if his behavior was chronic before meddling in Ms. Byrnes affairs? I am at a loss to understand your reasoning or your judgment in this matter Mr. Maynard.

27 Nina Quadros October 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Andrew,

As a follower of your blog and a fan of your career, I must say I am disappointed that you chose to follow this rationale.

This seems somewhat obvious to me, because you said it yourself in your post: “(…) it’s very easy to cause a great deal of harm through poorly considered actions that may not be meant to cause the harm they do.” Interestingly, you chose to apply the meaning of this sentence to Monica, but not Bora.

When Bora chose to behave in a harassing manner -in that very moment- he harmed his family, friends, and career. Only he didn’t know it just then because he probably didn’t think he would have to suffer any consequences for his actions. And, you know what? That might be one of the main reasons why harassment happens as often as it does. Something that seems clear to me, but may not be to you, is that once he chose to behave the way he did, he opened the path for the “destruction” you mention. It’s not up to the victim to help the aggressor.

What disappointed me the most is that you chose be an “interfering busybody” and to email Monica, not Bora. And you are asking her to be compassionate of his career. Did you consider emailing him and ask him to be compassionate to junior science writers who aspire to work with him and not put them in an uncomfortable situation?

Best,
Nina

28 Ulrich October 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

At what point does Bora too become a victim, never presumably? Having chose to behave inappropriately towards a female, he then deserves to lose his career, family… You seem to be arguing that that is indeed the case, but where does it stop? Should a someone’s life be ruined by those armed with one side of a story? And if this hounding leads him to mental depression and further… that too is justified based on an objectionable conversation?

These are all genuine questions, I’d be interested to hear what those baying for blood have to say.

The point about choosing to email Monica is poorly thought through, obviously she was the active party in releasing the information at that specific time; clarifying things with Bora could then follow. I know that doesn’t play in as well with the rape culture and victim blaming narrative, but that’s life.

Best,
Ule

29 AES October 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm

If Bora does lose his job or family, it will be because he chose (repeatedly, apparently) to act inappropriately, not because people admitted that he did so. There are consequences for actions. He’s not an axe murderer, but he sexually harassed someone (or several someones). That carries consequences. I think Bora’s therapist would say that he was engaging in self destructive behaviors. That he brought this on himself. You can see from the comments here that this was not an isolated incident. Should we all have conspired to keep this secret for him? Why? I believe his wife has a right to know about these behaviors, and she can decide for herself is she wants to remain married to him.

30 Nina October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Andrew,
The update was much appreciated.

============
Ule,

In my comment, I am not addressing the issue of whether or not someone’s career should be forever stigmatized because of a history of behaving inappropriately.

On your description of this incident as an “objectionable conversation”, I would like to recommend that you read Hannah Waters’ new blog post:
https://medium.com/ladybits-on-medium/857e2f71059a
She did a much better job addressing this delicate issue than I ever could in a comment.

As for your final criticism, I could not disagree with you more. My point is not poorly thought; perhaps you just didn’t think about it long enough. Both actions (Bora’s inappropriate behavior and Monica’s outing of his behavior) occurred in the past. Whoever Maynard choses to address, he is talking about correcting future actions beyond what was already done.

31 Ule October 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Nina, I’m disappointed you have just chosen to “not address” the questions I sincerely pose to you, though I hope they’ve made you reconsider the (apparently) black and white aspects of this incident.

Regarding your poorly thought out point: You’re right of course, because who need make any distinction between the immediate past (some call it the present) and the distant past (of a year). In fact, the real culprit here is surely Bora’s father for not educating him about “rape culture”, or HIS father for the same omission. After all, each of these interactions happened in the past and are thusly interchangeable — certainly with none taking precedence on account of immediacy.

AES, “keeping a secret” in this context is an emotive straw man argument but bears no weight. The two options open to someone following this experience are not 1) keep it a secret or b) kangaroo court justice across every blog and twitter feed. Similarly your personal beliefs on what Bora’s spouse should or shouldn’t know are somewhat outside your jurisdiction of anonymous internet commentator (or should be, at least).

32 AES October 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Ule, 1. No, YOUR arguments are emotive straw man arguments. LOL. 2. Do you realize that you’re sitting here passing judgment, and contributing the blog and twitter explosion just as much as I am? 3. Who are you to make the moral call that his wife doesn’t need to know about this. If I were his wife, I certainly would feel I had a right to know, your boys club attitude about it aside.

33 AES October 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm

It’s simple. Women in science (and science writing, apparently) are treated this way so often that it needs to be publicized so it stops. So that senior male scientists are afraid to act that way. Far too many feel free to now. They shouldn’t. As a woman scientist, a professor at a big research university, I’m speaking from personal experience. I deal with this shit all the time. And people wonder why there aren’t more women in STEM.

34 Jay October 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

It was publicized a year ago at her blog, and the Bora and SciAM apologized for the behavior.

How does bringing it up again *with* a name, do more, and how does it differ from revenge porn?

As for Andrew’s “intervention” I place his writing directly and privately to Monica along the lines of what any individual needs to do, especially perhaps after recalling Pastor Niemoller’s famous statement.

35 AES October 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Jay, publicizing the incident without naming who did it does *nothing* to deter other senior male colleagues from acting the same way.

36 j October 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Oh, you are on a mission for fixing what you perceive to be the global balance, hence your disregard for people. That makes sense, I guess.
Like the 72 virgins and stuff.

I doubt that you can claim 100% conversion rate to your religion though.
I imagine you are still a minority. which is cooler anyway.

37 AES October 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

72 virgins, my religion, what?…Not your most coherent post, dude. But anyway, to answer your question (I think), yes, the issue of hostile environments for women in STEM fields needs to be addressed. And no, I don’t have a disregard for people because I think Bora should be held accountable for his actions. I don’t think he’s an axe murderer, but he did what he did. No more, no less. If his behavior weren’t reflective of an epidemic in STEM, then it should have been resolved quietly between him and the blogger. But, unfortunately, it is. And hence there are compelling reasons to publicize what happened. If you would like to protect poor Bora because he didn’t realize what he was doing or whatever, then tell me, how do you propose to effectively address this issue of a hostile work environment for women in STEM? What else would serve as an effective deterrent from acting this way? You care about real people? My life and career have been impacted tremendously because these attitudes and behaviors are considered acceptable in my field. Sadly, I don’t think you’re going to have much of an answer, because I don’t think you really give a flying flip. But if you do, I’d love to hear it.

38 j October 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

All this is a logical consequence of the ‘victim’ culture. Acquiring this status absolve any judgement and allows every transgression with no limit.

Last week a woman who I know through other activities (yes, people meet elsewhere than dating website) wanted to go out with me. I did not, and she was forcing it on me. In the victim view, was I being harassed or was she discriminated against ?
No one was.

Now should we take a more global point of view and say that this example is representative of global trait in the society that absolve the victim ?

Why not, but that is a religion which by no means is universal.
And whatever your religion is, it seems outrageous to destroy a person’s life for *words* said in a context where there was an easy *way out*

Such a religion is despicable, and can not bring happiness in this world.

39 Andy October 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm

j, would your wanna-be date’s life fall apart if her friends and family knew what she did to you? No, she might be a little embarrassed, that’s all. If Bora’s life would fall apart if his wife and family found out what he did, because of his *words*, then it must mean he did something pretty bad, right? Him. Not the woman who chose to be honest about it, but him.

40 j October 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

As a matter of fact, her mother is extremely old-fashion and a bit deranged. She would probably retaliate badly if she knew of her intention to date someone not of their origin.

May be I should tell her? Should I also mention her daughter is easy ?

—-

What you don’t get is the movement. the spin. we all do bad things, we all do good things. the question is not them, but the blowing out of proportion.

There is a right for keeping things not private, but in proportion of the ‘harm’ done, even if one lives by revenge and lex talionis.

ps : Also, have you read about that book where a dude say : throw me the first stone etc….

41 Simple Desultory Philip November 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Did this woman invite you to meet in order to discuss the potential for you to work for her, and THEN come on to you? Was she a woman in a position of power, who could further your career or not based on the outcome of the meeting? Because if it was not a business meeting, then your experience isn’t the same, the analogy doesn’t hold up and you have no point.

42 j October 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Ironically, those voices who claim to defend women, might be achieving the exact opposite by defending a ridiculous position.

Next thing, we’ll hear about fighting for the proletariat by means of the worker’s paradise.

Now where is our female Soljenitsyne ?

43 Carolyn Thomas October 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Dr. Maynard,
I’m not a scientist, so may seem a bit out of my league here (although I did spend 20 years living with a scientist, amid scintillating dinner conversations about zinc and copper sediment in the Fraser River estuary – does that count at all?!)

While I don’t know science, I do know public relations, having worked in the field for well over three decades. What I’m observing here is a textbook lesson in what not to do when handling crisis communications. We see this all too frequently in cases of issues management: (A) Issue #1 occurs, followed swiftly by (B) a brand new Issue #2, created because of a defensive/inappropriate/stupid response to (A) – a response that can then threaten to loom larger than (A) ever did.

That’s why Dr. Danielle Lee’s story went viral: (A) Issue #1: Being called a “whore” by BiologyOnline was one crazy story which B.O. got on top of right away by apologizing and firing the sorry ass of the inappropriate name-caller. That might have been the end of it, but then the story got brand new legs with the creation of (B) Issue #2: SciAm spiked Dr. Lee’s blog post about the story, issuing patently ridiculous explanatory statements that merely inflamed the very response they were trying desperately to avoid.

And that’s also why your email and subsequent post here were so ill-advised. You broke out in a cold sweat over (A) – Monica Byrne’s post naming names – but then you just couldn’t resist harrumphing forward into (B) – attempting to exert what you believed was your considerable influence on her as if you were actually unaware of how ham-handed efforts to silence a perfect stranger would look.

Finally, if you truly believe, as I suspect you do, that you “condemn absolutely the ‘brushing under the rug’ of incidents that lead to harm”, you should, by definition, celebrate Monica Byrne’s brave efforts at uncovering that rug.

44 Pieter Kuiper October 17, 2013 at 2:41 am

Obviously the days are gone that one could write a private letter to someone.

45 ruth October 17, 2013 at 4:02 am

I agree utterly with the ideas already expressed that Bora chose to put his marriage, family, career and professional standing at risk when he chose to behave this way; and that your decision to query Monica over her actions rather than Bora over his highlight where you see fault lying.
It seems Monica DID try to issue a private warning, by publicly describing the situation, without naming the perpetrator, a year ago. Did the apology come at that time? Or did it only come when there was no other option?

46 throwaway October 17, 2013 at 5:18 am

Andrew,

This is what you did wrong: you tried to explore the shades of grey in an unwinable situation. You also tried to interject in ‘twitter time’ where you are at the mercy of anonymous public opinion. You cannot win discussion as these, your only choice is to go with the lowest common denominator — a SUPPORT THE TROOPS mentality or some other silly one dimensional platitude.

What happened here in both cases (Monica and Hanna) is that two women had an awkward conversation with an awkward man. Nobody got raped, no ones job was in jeopardy, it’s all about silly online blogging. It’s all just so ridiculous.

The excited out there are going to claim that there’s a systemic sexism in the workplace and particularly academia. yes, this is true, it’s getting better all the time by women and men working together to change hearts and minds. The situation we are discussing here is different. Again, it was two woman who had uncomfortable conversations with an awkward man. That’s it – end of story, this isn’t DNLee (which is an entirely different situation), this BoraZ situation is so massively overblown it’s all just so stupid. Ex-High school nerd – talks to relatively attractive women – makes awkward conversation with sex talk – women get offended- Boraz was oblivious – end of story. Yeehaa, lets go tweet about it.

Good news is that this will all be over in a week – it’s twitter time after all. Delete you’re posts about this on your silly blog and just get the hell of twitter for a week. At that time everyone will be back to tweeting about how they are eating toast and/or on the toilet – just as twitter was meant to be,

Props for trying though – evil prevails when good men remain silent – right? Unless of course, if it’s a situation like this, where apparently good men need to remain silent or also be pilloried and shamed. Everyone loves watching a train wreck.

47 blah blah blah October 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Aaaand throwaway tone-trolls here just as he did on Isis’s post.

Thank you for your contribution to rape culture, you smug, insufferable jerk.

48 throwaway October 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Tying this incident to rape culture is an insult to rape victims and women who have suffered true wrongs. You should be ashamed.

49 Simple Desultory Philip November 4, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Bora Z is (was, that is) a highly successful professional whose job depended in many ways on a large amount of complicated and sometimes delicate interpersonal interactions and public relations. He’s not “awkward”. His actions weren’t “awkward”. They were completely inappropriate. This man has a wife, kids, a family life. He has professional meetings and makes professional presentations CONSTANTLY. Also, his apology to Monica would completely contradict your assertion that he was “oblivious” – actually he admitted he was wrong and blamed it on a “personal crisis” that has since been “resolved”. Nice try though. Interesting that it didn’t “blow over in a week”, either. Guess Bora’s admission that yes, everything Monica said was absolutely true and so is everything all the other women who came forward said was also absolutely true and that he was out of line and knew it and thus tendered his resignation was just because wimminz is hysterical, amirite guys?

50 We Came In Peace October 17, 2013 at 8:58 am

I’ve no doubt he had good intention with the initial post but obviously things don’t always end up as intended. Full Credit to Andrew Maynard for follow up updates, including a clearly sincere apology to the victims. That’s a stand up guy in my book.

51 MH October 17, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am so angered by the responses of so many people in this situation – the ones who value “loyalty” (apparently to a man you don’t even personally know) and “civility” over justice and workplace safety.

On so many levels, what you did was wrong. As scientists, I believe we often equivocate in all areas of life (including issues of morality and appropriate behavior) because of how we think about scientific problems: is it REALLY true, or is this just what the evidence points to right now? However, this is not a time for equivocation. Your compulsion to reach out to a victim of sexual harrassment (and, in all likelihood, neither the first nor last victim of this particular harrasser) and suggest that she should consider the effect of naming her harrasser, then to continue to suggest that we consider all the victims (i.e. in your response to Heather, above), was wrong. Actions have consequences – and in this case, the consequences were easily foreseable. For an editor to repeatedly try to have sex with, essentially, job applicants, is wrong. For him to expect that, if anyone bothers to call him on it at all, it will be handled quietly so that his professional and personal lives are unaffected is foolhardy. And for you to suggest that he deserves that outcome of minimal consequence is wrong. If, in your professional life, you repeatedly behave unprofessionally (and immorally), you have earned having your professional reputation tarnished. If a surgeon were to regularly operate on the wrong body part, we would not say “Oh, the patient should not file complaints or speak out, as this may affect the doctor’s career.” If those patients went to the hospital board or the state regulators and no one acted, we would not be outraged if the patient then blogged about it. This is no different. This man went to his job, on a regular basis, and tried to use it as a dating service. These women (at least some of them) went to his supervisors and felt no appropriate action was taken. So they took action on their own. Why on earth were you so quick to 1. Jump the evidence gun and suggest it should have been handled differently, without waiting to find out if more victims came forward (as they often do in these cases – there is plenty of evidence for that) or if other methods had been attempted, and 2. To condemn the victim’s choices, rather than applaud them?

I am pained, at least a little, every time I read of someone going to jail. No matter their crime, they all had childhood dreams that didn’t involve prison and most have friends or families who will miss them. That doesn’t mean I think “Gee, if only the victims had taken a different route than calling the police.”

52 dsks October 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Andrew,
Update appreciated, and many thanks for stimulating a lively debate.

One final parting point:
You wrote in your original email, “Naming Bora has a reasonable likelihood of destroying his marriage, his friendships and his professional standing in this case.”

As the fall out of this very incident is beginning to illustrate, it is actually rather rare that a man in a position of power and influence, in any professional sphere, incurs much in the way of punitive consequences for sexual harassment (we witness this with particular clarity in the sphere of politics, but it’s a universal theme). Indeed, again as is shown here, the partner and colleagues commonly circle the wagons and issue their support for the accused.

So the driving argument for restraint and decorum on the part of the accuser in reporting sexual harassment, which rests primarily on the concern that the accused might incur consequences disproportionate to their perceived crime, holds little empirical or historical weight anyway. As it is the consequences do tend to be disproportionate to the crime, but usually the other way; that is, the punitive consequences are usually weak bordering on non-existent relative to the crime.

What society deems to be sufficient punishment for such infractions is of course a separate topic of discussion. But at the very least it seems to me that, in the meantime, the lay of the land must provoke us to support women in coming forward when they have been aggrieved in this manner, because even while the accused might not incur tangibly negative consequences, the outing is at least likely to give the accused pause for thought, and perhaps have them reconsider their attitude and behavior towards their female colleagues.

53 anon October 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Uh, so he just resigned from an organisation he founded? Is that tangibly negative enough or are you waiting for him to lose his SciAm post too? And lest we forget, no “crime” was committed. It’s not a crime to have a creepy conversation with someone who asks you out for coffee.

54 throwaway October 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm

..or to give someone a hug at the coffee ‘interview’. Oh wait, MB did that. Double standards abound.

55 Abagail October 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Well if he didn’t do anything wrong, then there should be no fallout. Don’t worry, boys. What are you worried about? Why would his wife possible be upset? He did nothing wrong! The SciAm board is going to review this and say the same thing.

56 Wylee October 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

As others here have pointed out, your response to this issue was very misguided.

When sharing details, a person’s only responsibility is to be accurate and to explain the situation fully. I feel that Byrne did that. As Bora did not refute any of the facts, it seems that he feels that Byrne was fair as well.

Beyond that, what do you expect? This was not a meeting among friends. She was not his confidant and there was no reasonable expectation of privacy. This was a business meeting during which he chose to reveal personal information.

If it was a one-time slip-up, some people would probably feel that a sincere apology would suffice. However, if this is chronic behavior, most people would probably feel that losing his job, reputation, and potentially wife is appropriate.

The issue here is that there’s no way for a victim of sexual harassment to know which happens to be the case at any given point of time. It is not reasonable to expect a woman to automatically know if her harasser is a one-time or habitual harasser. It is not reasonable to expect them to automatically know best way to handle a situation that they a) have no control over and b) did not want to be part of in the first place. The best thing that they can do is be open about the facts, neither demonizing nor excusing the harasser.

Your assumption that victims are morally obligated to air on the side of caution and keep details private is misguided at best. Serial harassers rely on the ‘compassion’ of their victims to enable them to do what they do. As others have pointed out, actions have consequences – even one-time actions. People make mistakes, but they also have to suffer the consequences of those mistakes. If anything, the consequences for harassers are often incredibly light.

Bora’s victims are most certainly suffering the consequences of harassment. I’m not sure why you feel that Bora shouldn’t have to. Why do you try to ‘enforce’ compassion onto Byrne but did not try to force decency onto Bora?

57 AES October 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm

The gender divide in these comments is depressing.

58 Steve Miller October 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I think you may have overestimated the gender divide.

59 AES October 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Andrew,

From your update:

“4. I also thoroughly abhor the use of any privilege that leads to or supports any form of injury or harm to persons.” and “But I still struggle to get my head round how to act when it seems to conflict with point #4. And I continue to grapple with how to reconcile pain, hurt and compassion with loyalty, justice and – just occasionally – moral courage.”

You still don’t seem to have wrapped your head around the fact that it was Bora who committed any injury or harm to himself. He engaged in those self (career and family) destructive behaviors, not the women who reported him. Now, if sexism and sexual harassment weren’t an epidemic in STEM fields, then maybe this should have been dealt with quietly. But it is an epidemic. And it is necessary to make an example of him and others like him so women can feel they have a home in STEM. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

Anne

60 Nicka October 18, 2013 at 12:37 am

Andrew, I feel you have no harm in your heart. You have been very open and honest. I hope you will truly listen and use your same gifts of communication and compassion to learn from the many valuable comments and viewpoints being shared here. I hope Bora will, as well.

Although you were well-meaning, you were gravely wrong to write Monica. It was truly bit your place to do so, not due to moral fortitude or lack there-of, but because it implied some authority you had over her to advise her or instruct her. Your letter may have been well-meaning in your mind, but you are wrong- and dare I say, ignorant. You essentially spoke on behalf of the patriarchy to silence a victim of harassment. Even if inadvertently, you used your position of presumed authority to involve yourself in protecting an abusive person.

Why did it not occur to you to contact Bora? Why appeal to the female victim’s compassion, not his? Why must the victim bear responsibility for decorum and privacy, not the harasser? You must honestly self-reflect on your limitations of perception which were reflected in your actions. You must truly listen to other voices very different to yours to learn why your instincts were so wrong.

You applied your own values to Bora’s actions, but personalizing motives is not the same as empathy. What gave you “cold sweats” perhaps thrilled him, and his pattern of inappropriate behavior is no “mistake.” If personal communication, abuse, etc. wasn’t exposed publicly it would only embolden and perpetuate him. If he wasn’t called out of the shadows, there would be another chain of victims.

If anyone doesn’t want to harm their reputation or family, they shouldn’t harm others. They should behave legally and morally. Brushing off his actions (which you do by trying to hide his behavior from consequences) condones it. There is no more gentleman’s agreement to protect abusers. I cannot think of a more clear example of patriarchy, and do you really choose to fall on this side of it?

61 FSE October 18, 2013 at 9:22 am

Andrew, unfortunately your 10/16 update is a classic “Non-Apology Apology”. I am sorry if it hurts your feelings when I say that. Oops, I did it too!

An actual apology is contrite. In this case, that means admitting that your email to Ms. Byrne was misguided, as opposed to admitting that others feel it was misguided and you did not intend that.

62 Paul October 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

Have a look at this one Andrew Maynard.

https://medium.com/the-power-of-harassment/3e809dfadd77

Do you still think these people should have kept quiet so that he can carry on doing more of the same?

63 throwaway October 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I saw that. Absolutely brutal. I was totally wrong. I thought he was an oblivious academic but he is a predator. Although online witch hunts can be dangerous it seems that at least in this case the duck was truly a witch.

If this hadn’t happened would the others come forward? Probably not. This has given me a lot to think about.

Sorry to those that I offended.

64 AES October 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Thank you for sharing that, throwaway.

65 Steve Miller October 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Andrew
I think that the error in your initial response was failing to realize that this type of thing seldom, if ever, occurs as a once-off situation. If everyone stays quiet and tries to handle it in the back room, behaviors continue. Over and over again, once one person steps forward and says “This happened to me”, it turns out that it happened to a number of people. While the circumstances differ by orders of magnitude, in principle the events at Penn State over the past two years resulted from the same thought process. Penn State has paid a huge price for trying to handle things in the back room in the Sanduskey case.

When Sanduskey’s first victim (and to the commenter who speaks of the “victim culture”, yes – he was a victim) spoke out, his high school administrators and county officials tried to convince his mother that she should not pursue actions that would harm the reputation of a philanthropist and really great person. She stated the name publicly, despite that advice, and a pattern hidden behind a network of silence was revealed.

If someone’s actions are such that telling people about them could do the actor great harm, then the actions are almost certainly out of line.

66 Van October 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm

“And I am still learning. Because of this, as a friend advocated earlier today, I am still “truly listening.””

Stating it doesn’t make it so. Especially when you’re STILL (as of yesterday) tweeting stuff like
“Desperately sad – well meaning but oh so destructive w/o consideration & process” (https://twitter.com/2020science/status/392028998563155968 )

You’re NOT learning, Andrew. Your words are a shield for what are clearly (from your first post on this and beyond) your true thoughts: that Bora got railroaded out of town unfairly. You constantly claim to be asking “genuine questions”–but you clearly have an agenda and preformulated fixed answers to those questions, and your tentativeness is nothing more than a guise.

I don’t think you’ve even started to absorb the reaction here in 95% of the comments to your post. You were wrong, from the start, and not just because you didn’t have enough information. Even while claiming not to, you rushed to the defense of a perpetrator rather than the victims. Shameful.

67 Joe October 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Andrew,

I still have an unanswered question. Would you please explain why you originally chose to contact Ms. Byrne, and not Mr. Zivkovic?

Sincerely,
Joe

68 Andrew Maynard October 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Hi Joe,

I haven’t been responding to specific comments as the situation has escalated so radically since my initial post. But to answer your question: On reading Monica’s post, I had no reason to question her account, but I did foresee a rapidly evolving situation where significant damage would be caused (to many people) that was independent of the initial allegation – rumors and speculation are hard to retract once out. There was a very limited time window before this went viral. So there were two issues at hand – how Bora’s behavior was brought to account, and how an uncontrolled escalation of rumor and speculation could be prevented from ripping peoples’ lives apart. The latter was the most time-sensitive, and would not be served by contacting Bora initially. The only person who had control over the way in which this started to play out at this point was Monica – I reached out to her as the person with the power at the time.

But all this is moot. Monica’s outing of Bora has empowered many to reveal their own experiences and establish a pattern of behavior that should have been noticed and stopped by his friends and colleagues long ago. It has initiated new and important conversations on sexual harassment within the science community and how to handle it. It has also left a trail of hurt and damage through a community that might have been avoided (I’m not thinking of Bora and his family here) if there were better-established ways of handling issues like these. In established social ethics and processes – whether legal or voluntary – naming and shaming is often considered a last resort because of the indiscriminate damage it causes. I fear that web-based communities have still to learn this.

69 K October 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

“It has also left a trail of hurt and damage through a community that might have been avoided (I’m not thinking of Bora and his family here) if there were better-established ways of handling issues like these. In established social ethics and processes – whether legal or voluntary – naming and shaming is often considered a last resort because of the indiscriminate damage it causes. I fear that web-based communities have still to learn this.”

And you still don’t get it. Let me explain what you missed. The above paragraph should read:
Bora’s actions have left a trail of hurt and damage through a community that might have been avoided if there were better-established ways of handling issues like these (ie we did not accept harassment, coddle offenders, or silence accusers). In established social ethics and processes – whether legal or voluntary – naming and shaming is often considered a last resort because of the indiscriminate damage it causes (as mentioned in other comments, naming and shaming was the last resort after the “established social ethics and processes” yielded no change). I fear that our society still has to learn that actions have consequences and no one, no matter how important/respected a scientist, should be above facing the consequences of his actions.

70 Becky November 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm

“It is becoming increasingly clear that there were largely unvoiced suspicions about Bora’s behavior within the online science community around him – suspicions I was utterly unaware of. If I had the smallest fraction of the information I now have on Monday, I would never have emailed Monica.”

Andrew,

I hope this sentence indicates some new understanding on your part. Because the suspicions were unvoiced, you did not have the information. Now that Monica and others have given voice, you do. We all do.

How were we to learn this information without somebody stepping up to be the first “namer and shamer”? To be accused of a lack of compassion and of inciting hysteria? To open herself up to public rebuke and private chastising emails from a complete stranger?

If your email to Monica had resulted in her following your advice and immediately deleting Bora’s name, I guarantee you sometime months or years down the line when it all came out through another woman standing forward to name and shame, people who might have co-signed your original letter would be there throwing their hands up, saying “How on earth could anyone have known?!”

This, right here, is how we could have known.

This IS the appropriate channel.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 11 trackbacks }