At this point in human existence, everyone should know the basic rules of comportment when participating in a virtual meeting with coworkers. The rules are simple: mute yourself when you are not speaking; make sure you are not doing anything untoward; and do not, under any circumstances, find yourself in a position where you are nude. Though these rules should be second nature by now, another man has decided they are not for him and has been forced to resign.
Joshua Wolf Shenk, the editor-in-chief of the Believer magazine and artistic and executive director of the Black Mountain Institute, has resigned from both of his positions following an incident on a work call in February, the Los Angeles Times reports. Shenk apologized to his staff in his resignation letter, writing that he made “a dumb, reckless choice to disregard appropriate setting and attire for a Zoom meeting. I crossed a line that I can’t walk back over. I sorely regret the harm to you — and, by extension, to the people we serve. I’m sorry.”
Truthfully, the only appropriate setting and attire for a Zoom meeting is anywhere that’s relatively quiet while you are fully dressed. Shenk did not get this memo. From the LA Times:
According to Ira Silverberg, a literary agent and editor who is acting as Shenk’s advisor, Shenk was soaking in a bathtub with Epsom salts during the meeting to alleviate nerve pain caused by fibromyalgia.
He had chosen a virtual background to mask his location and had worn a mesh shirt. When Shenk’s computer battery died, he got up to plug it in, believing the camera was off. But the video kept running. According to Silverberg, Shenk reported the incident immediately.
Techincally, a bathtub fits the “quiet” requirement as outlined above, but the mesh shirt and the fact that he was otherwise undressed isn’t great. The choice to use the virtual background to mask the fact that he was sitting in the bathtub, also not great. The mesh shirt is a nod to propriety, but still, not enough. Wearing real clothes and not being in the bath during a Zoom call is the correct move. But other details from the report raise at least one to two eyebrows.
The Black Mountain Institute is a literary arts organization that exists within the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Following the incident, two of the witnesses reported it to the university’s Office of Equal Employment and Title IX. The complaint was dismissed once Shenk resigned, but according to Silverberg, who is acting as Shank’s advisor during this trying time, his resignation had been in the works for a while. UNLV’s Title IX office did not clarify anything about the complaints, saying that it “doesn’t discuss personnel matters.”
Shenk’s rapid apology and immediate resignation after the fact coupled with the fact that his transition from a leadership role had been in the works raises concern, but so far, there’s nothing to prove that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Still, Shenk joins the ranks of another important man, Jeffery Toobin, who whipped his dick out on a Zoom in 2020 and got fired for doing so. He does not deserve sympathy for this move, though some tried. Toobin’s history is peppered with unsavory and sexually inappropriate behavior, but as for Shenk, nothing of note has come to light at this time. How lucky for him to join the ranks of all the men in history who are simply incapable of behaving appropriately and consciously with their penises.