Well, I didn’t expect this.

No one expects the Spanish Inquistion!

And I certainly didn’t expect the events I’m about to relay to you…

I was in grad school working on my doctorate at generic State University in Florida from 2002 until 2006. I should have my Ph.D, now.

I don’t.

It’s very awkward for me when I am asked “Why don’t you have your Ph.D?” It’s a long story.

I went to Generic State School in Florida to study ancient philosophy with someone very highly ranked in this not-very-popular field. For the sake of this post, we’ll call him “Ted.”

Ted’s well known for work in ancient philosophy, and State School was on many lists of being one of THE schools to study ancient philosophy.

I took more than half my classes with Ted. I probably don’t have to tell you that ancient Greek philosophy is even less popular than philosophy, and philosophy has a notorious problem with treatment of women. See also: This  and even The Huffington Post. (Many sciences have more females than philosophy does; philosophy averages about 80% male. Inquiring minds have to wonder why? Is it because women don’t like to think or are afraid to argue?  Hmmm …)

As I worked on my dissertation in September 2005, Ted posed a really tough question he had never solved that happened to be in my area of work.

I thought the question over. And then, as I was hanging with some friends, watching football and doodling, and I came up with something that just might work. Actually, I doodled a looping line that was the inspiration for an issue with Stoic causation and free will.

(Do you really want to be know about Stoic causation and hard determinism? I love it, but I don’t expect everyone to love this stuff.)

The next Friday I showed Ted, and he was … well, he was flabbergasted. Ted said something along the lines of, “By golly, that works!”

SO … that night, we had our annual philosophy party with students and professors at a professors house. (By the way, I later learned this counts as a school event).

I was talking and making smart-ass (i.e., lame) philosophy jokes with other grad students and suddenly the mood changed. Ted was standing behind me. I turned around to acknowledge him and include him in the circle. He praised my work.

If it ended there, everything would be fine. There would be no story to read here.

But after praising my looks–my dress, my lips, my eyes, my legs–(yes, you read that correctly), he told me how much he wanted to take my dress off me. Then he put both hands on my cheeks and kissed me very forcefully on the mouth.

I immediately went to the bathroom. Did that really just happen?  Three students later came forward as witnesses.

I took the weekend to cool off. I hung out with my football watching friends. Maybe he was drunk? No, it doesn’t excuse it, but #$^*, I’d known the man for four years, why would he do this NOW? (Oh, naivety.)

So next week, we had our Greek translation group on Friday morning. All four of us showed up, ready to take on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Zeta.

That was fine.

Then I met Ted (alone, door open) in his office to go over where I was in my work.

Again, that was fine. I had made more progress. I left  feeling pretty positive about my work in understanding Stoic logic and hard determinism.

I went back down to my office to grade or work or something. He came downstairs to my office to recommend I look at a paper online. I remember it was a paper by W.V.O. Quine, someone  who was a prominent professor of his at Harvard.

I found the paper online, turned my head to Ted to let him know I found it … and from behind, he groped me quite … um, adamantly … ?  Intimately?  And kissed me (if shoving your tongue in someone’s mouth counts as kissing) — and then left.  Quickly.

I closed the door to my office, which automatically locked.

I was in shock.

I knew at this moment I HAD to report his behavior. I knew that this meant I couldn’t work with him. I know that I couldn’t finish my work at the university where I had already invested so much time.

I knew everything had changed.

My office mate (and good friend) came in (one of the witnesses) and found me curled up in a ball, crying.

He took one look at me.  “He did it again, didn’t he? You have to report it.”

I begged him to give me a half hour to process it, to calm down. But he didn’t give me that time and reported it himself.

So I was called down to some room without windows.

What were you wearing?
Was he drunk?
Have you had sex with him?
Did you lead him on?
Did you say anything suggestive to him?
How many people in the department have you slept with?

Yes. In 2005, I was actually asked these questions at a State University in Florida.
All my witnesses were asked them too.  Some of them told the “fair and impartial” investigators off.
I was numb and stupidly answered the questions … I just happened to be “lucky” that I hadn’t had sex with anyone in my department, or for that matter, the school. I could not be the  “slut” they seemed to think I must have been.

I was told in February (yes, FEBRUARY) that they made a decision. Ted would no longer be alone with women with the door closed (Uh … door was never closed) and I’d have to go elsewhere without Letters of Rec except one from the dean.

I couldn’t fight it. Other philosophy profs said “I could have told you this would happen.” (Thanks.) and, “Well, you must have done something to deserve it.”

I was supported by other philosophers, but they weren’t tenured so their pull in the department wasn’t as strong. Still, I shall never forget their basic human decency and not treating me like a paraiah.  I was even told by the head of the department that he wished I came to him first so we could address it. It was “obviously a misunderstanding”. (I learned later that this move on his part was also illegal.)

Ted’s wife worked in the department too. No female has ever completed their Ph.D with him. Only males. The females leave with their masters degrees; other professors couldn’t seem to understand why this was the case. “She was so bright and promising.”  I heard several times about my female predecessors.

And I found out later this was not the first time he had done this. How the hell did he still have a job? He’st now professor emeritus  and I’m making the most with my degree, but I’d be much happier if I was just allowed to pursue what I love.

I’m not bitter. I just fail to believe that sexual harassment laws are being enforced as intended, particularly in the academy.

As for the three witnesses who stood by me, they all left the school within two years. One finished his Ph.D elsewhere, and two left with an M.A. the next year; one teaches, one  practices law. Both have law degrees.

All supporters of me during that time were male.

But that’s the overall make-up of the field.

 

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9 thoughts on “Well, I didn’t expect this.

  1. I work at a University and I am not surprised by your story. I have seen brilliant men get away with ridiculous behavior because of their exceptional brilliance in their niche. I guess academic freedom has its privileges…what a terrible shame

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  5. That makes me sick. It sounds like he did what he could to keep women out of the field – and men free from women who might challenge them.

    I’m reading this after hearing about the Colin McGinn case. I think women is philosophy departments could get the help of women from the rest of the university and beyond if necessary to prevent sick fucks from keeping their jobs while the women are forced out. I may be too optimistic, but I think it is important to get more women in the field. ‘Philosophy’ has for too long been basically the ‘Philosophy of Men’, or even ‘The Sexist Male Philosophy of Life (and how to keep women disenfranchised)’.

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