#MeToo controversy erupts at archaeology meeting | Science

#MeToo controversy erupts at archaeology meeting | Science

A flyer referencing David Yesner’s attendance at the Society for American Archaeology’s annual meeting was displayed in a woman’s bathroom at the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico on Saturday.

Lizzie Wade

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—The annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) here was roiled by a #MeToo scandal this past weekend, when an archaeologist banned from his university’s campus for sexual harassment attended part of the meeting. Some of his accusers were also present: They used the buddy system to avoid running into him alone and missed the conference sessions they most wanted to see, according to one of the accusers, Norma Johnson, an archaeology graduate student at the University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA).

Many archaeologists were outraged that the accusers’ meeting was spoiled and that meeting organizers did not immediately eject the alleged harasser. They said the situation exposed blind spots in SAA’s new antiharassment policy, instituted for the first time this year. “We do not have anything in place … to ensure that meeting attendees can be protected from aggressors from previous situations,” SAA President Joe Watkins said in an interview with Science.

Furious archaeologists took to Twitter denouncing SAA’s inaction, and by Monday morning, more than 1500 had signed an open letter calling for change. “This is the exact dismissive culture that facilitates and even promotes abuse. It’s inexcusable. I will not be renewing my membership … until significant changes are made,” said bioarchaeologist Gwen Robbins Schug of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Bioarchaeologist Kristina Killgrove of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill posted a letter resigning her position as chair of the SAA media relations committee and also said she would not renew her membership.

This controversy highlights what can happen when a society “has not done the groundwork of having contingency plans for just such an occasion,” Katie Hinde, an anthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe and co-author of the 2014 Survey of Academic Field Experiences study in PLOS ONE, wrote on Twitter. But few, if any, societies have such plans. All the same, Hinde said in a statement to Science, “A situation that demanded leadership to act with alacrity, sensitivity, and transparency, instead revealed an organization whose capacities can be best characterized as inept, traumatizing, and opaque.”

The controversy was focused on the presence of archaeologist David Yesner, who worked at UAA for decades before retiring in 2017. According to reporting by KTVA in Anchorage, Yesner was scheduled to receive emeritus status when formal complaints against him “rushed in.” A Title IX investigation found nine women’s accusations (including Johnson’s) of sexual discrimination, assault, and harassment by Yesner to be credible, according to an investigative report commissioned by UAA and dated 15 March. Accounts included that he stared at students’ breasts, took and saved inappropriate photos of students, and assaulted a student in a public shower during fieldwork. On 8 April, Yesner was banned from the UAA campus, events, and all other university property, according to an email sent to all students by the university police. On 12 April—2 days after the SAA meeting began here—the Alaska Anthropological Association in Anchorage revoked Yesner’s membership and 2014 Professional Achievement Award and banned him from its annual meeting and other events.

Yesner registered on-site for the SAA meeting and was allowed to attend. Johnson first spotted him on 10 April and was shocked: She had been checking the list of attendees for weeks to make sure he wasn’t on it. She and two other Title IX claimants teamed up to accompany each other to poster sessions where they were scheduled to present, as well as symposia Yesner was likely to attend. “That’s how we spent our entire conference—looking over our shoulders,” Johnson says. “None of us got to see [the sessions] we wanted.” On 11 April, freelance journalist Michael Balter (a former correspondent for Science) escorted Yesner out of the meeting, an event that drew widespread attention to the situation, especially on Twitter. Yesner did not respond to Science’s requests for comment and declined an interview for KTVA’s report. Johnson filed a report about Yesner on 12 April but never received clarity on what actions SAA took. (She would have filed a report earlier, she says, but she didn’t know it was an option.)

SAA appeared caught off guard by the controversy….

Original Article Source…


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