SoCal Professor Takes Stance Against Sexual Harassment (Seminars)

Illustration for article titled SoCal Professor Takes Stance Against Sexual Harassment (Seminars)

UC Irvine's Alexander McPherson has a long and storied career as a molecular biologist, including bringing in more than $20 million in research funds since joining the faculty in 1997. He's also an enormous prick. Even though California passed a law in 2004 requiring that all businesses employing more than 50 people provide sexual harassment training, by asking him to comply with the law, McPherson says the university "impugned my character and cast a shadow of suspicion on my reputation and career." In fact, he's so pissed he wrote an OpEd about it in the LA Times today, which, honestly, probably does more damage to his reputation than attending a 2 hour seminar on harassment ever would.McPherson's issue with the law is twofold: he thinks it's stupid; and he's never harassed anyone, so he shouldn't have to learn how not to.

First of all, I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment.


Having been through sexual harassment training, and having been sexually harassed, let me say: some bosses recognize it, and some don't, some respond well when you bring it up, and some don't. So even if we're giving him the benefit of the doubt that he's the Best Boss Ever, would it kill him to go to a freaking class that delineates the law and his responsibilities as a supervisor? But McPherson isn't actually mad that it might or might not be a waste of time, he's pissed at all this PC-bullshit raging in California, having missed the memo that hating on political correctness is soooo 1998.

What's more, the state, acting through the university, is trying to coerce and bully me into doing something I find repugnant and offensive. I find it offensive not only because of the insinuations it carries and the potential stigma it implies, but also because I am being required to do it for political reasons. The fact is that there is a vocal political/cultural interest group promoting this silliness as part of a politically correct agenda that I don't particularly agree with.

Apparently, earning how not to sexualize the workplace is "repugnant and offensive," and participating in a seminar that everyone — both men and women — are required to attend carries a "stigma". McPherson's "compromise" plan was for the UCI to give him special treatment:

I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. "Fulfilling this requirement," said the statement I asked them to approve, "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."

According to the Orange County Register piece, McPherson expects to have to retire if the situation isn't resolved to his benefit, and soon. I'm sure, $20 million in funding or not, he's made himself quite popular at UCI. After all, his stance against learning anything he doesn't already know is always the attitude you want out of an educator. UCI Prof Risks Job By Refusing Sexual Harassment Training [Orange County Register] The Sham Of Sexual Harassment Training [LA Times]


Stunning how a molecular biologist lacks any logic.

1) Do sexual harassers know they are sexual harassers? Not all the time and even when they do, I doubt they broadcast it. So it isn't as if we can go by his assertion that he does not sexually harass people and therefore should be excluded from this requirement.

2) State laws make you do stuff all the time. It isn't as if paying state taxes is dispositive evidence that you agree with where all the tax dollars are going. If it is a law and you are required to comply with it, no court is going to use your compliance as evidence that you are a sexual harasser. Your lack of compliance may be evidence that you are a douche. That is probably not actionable.

This guy makes my skin crawl...