Students and staff allege sexual abuse and harassment by NYU academics in anonymous Google form

NYU had 13 submissions

Last month, Dr. Karen Kelsky made a public Google spreadsheet entitled “Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsource Survey” for women to share their experiences of sexual harassment. The document has been circulated widely and contains submissions from across the U.S. and Europe. New York University represents 13 of the 2,100 allegations on the list, which makes the university the fifth institution with the highest number of incidents reported.

Anyone who has any sort of higher education knew it was only a matter of time before academia was outed for sexual harassment. It’s an age-old cliche of a sexual fantasy —the school girl-teacher relationship. Wherever a power structure exists, so too does harassment.

But, where these offenders used to be brushed off and labeled as “pigs,” today it appears that a new moral standard has risen. Women are tired of simply accepting “some men are pigs” as fact, especially given the esteem they hold in the academic world.

“The academy is like Hollywood not just because there are so few professional opportunities compared to the thousands of desperate aspirants, but also because a few powerful men control access to careers for junior women and use that power to extract sexual access,” Kelsky said.

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One NYU student recounted a vulgar incident she had with a fellow postdoc.

“I was swimming at night and a male postdoc I only met that night for the first time exposed himself to me and asked me to touch his penis. I refused, left, and reported it to my colleagues (male), who recommended I do nothing.”

A few weeks later, the same incident happened to another female postdoc. When the two reported it to the professor in charge of the perpetrator, he promised to make sure the perpetrator would not be allowed to work with female students in the future. He did not, however, take action against him.

Another NYU student wrote that she had dinner with a professor with whom she planned to co-edit a food studies book. He drank an entire bottle of wine to himself, after which his actions became inappropriate.

“He put his hand on my leg; I moved it. This repeated many times, maybe ten. He tried to hold my hand as we left the restaurant. Invited me back to his place because his wife and child were away."

After this, he tried to kiss her, followed her on her way home. To escape, she hailed a cab into which he proceeded to attempt to force himself. She succeeded to push him off. She never got to co-edit that book with him and the school suggested he “be more careful when drinking with students.”

Other students lamented that they often need the approval and recommendations of the offending professors in order to earn their doctorates, and thus do not feel they are in a position to complain.

Many women want the public to realize that these comments are less about the rude annoyance they pose but rather more about the attempted assertion of dominance over the women they exploit.

“These men perpetuate an uncomfortable atmosphere for women, make us insecure about our self-image and our accomplishments, and have the power to pass on their opinions to others,” an NYU student wrote in the document.

David Brooks of the New York Times puts it best in his article Lovers, Prospectors, and Predators: “Harassment is not just sex and it’s not just power; it’s a wicked mixture of the two. Harassers possess what psychologists call hostile masculinity; they apparently get pleasure from punishing the women who arouse them.”