Unmutual at UC Irvine

Remember the case of UC Irvine professor Alexander McPherson, the refusenik who lost his lab-supervisory duties because he refused to submit to California's mandatory-by-law sexual harassment training? Now it turns out that university officials are going the extra mile by notifying his funders that the protein crystallization specialist is officially noncompliant.

"The point is it's an inanity, and they're trying to kill my grant because I won't participate in that inane process," McPherson told The Scientist. "Does that make sense? Not to me."

The Scientist also unearthed this nifty letter [PDF] from a UCI provost detailing all the marvelous punishments that await all managers who refuse to be trained.

* Removal of supervisory responsibilities over TAs, RAs and Postdocs (already in place at the Irvine campus).
* Delaying implementation of merit increases or promotions, without changing the effective date (i.e., once training is received the merit increase or promotion would be retroactive).
* Reporting the names of non-compliant faculty to Chancellors, EVCs, Deans and Regents.
* Freezing budgets of departments with non-compliant faculty.
* Denying internet access.

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  • ||

    Denying internet access.

    Is this what happened to Gaius Marius?

  • EJM||

    Unmutual at UC Irvine

    Bonus points for the "Prisoner" reference.

  • ||

    OK, but has he also refused the debasing piss test?

  • ||

    I find it amusing that this is where the prof decides to make a stand. Go to the seminar, ignore the idiotic nonsense and continue to do business as usual. Take a book to read so your time is not completely wasted. This one indicates sensitivity.

  • Shannon Love||

    The last time I looked, no one had actually demonstrated that sexual harassment "training" actually reduced sexual harassment. Indeed, some people think it increase complaints, and possibly actual harassment.

    From personal experience, I think it destroys trust and team cohesion. Men suddenly begin to view female coworkers as dangers to their career. Men come out of sexual harassment training with the fear that any female can destroy their careers by choosing to take offense to some innocuous comment. After all, one of the canon's of sexual harassment training is that you don't have to intend to harass or offend someone to be guilty of doing so.

    Sexual harassment training is one of those ideas that look good on paper but which breakdown in the complexities of real world human interaction.

  • ||

    Employment's a bitch, ain't it?

  • ||

    If this were a private employer would anyone here care? More likely you all would be saying "the company has unlimited power over its employees". But since it involves a state government institution anything they do to their employees is evil by default.

  • Lucas||

    While I agree with him in spirit, I think he's sort of an idiot. Yes, sexual harassment training is stupid, and it's a waste of time. But I suspect that he has spent way, way more time and effort refusing to take it than taking it. For example, I recently had to take an Illinois State Employee Ethics Test, as mandated by gov. Blagojevich. It was a waste of my time, but it was only a waste of 20 minutes. On the other hand, not taking it would probably have involved answering several emails and eventually being fired. The scales tip strongly in one direction.

  • ||

    For example, I recently had to take an Illinois State Employee Ethics Test, as mandated by gov. Blagojevich.

    Which would enhance your prospects more, a high score or a low score?

  • Paul||

    Wow, the list practically reads itself with a faux German accent. Did everyone else get that?

  • libertarian democrat||

    Many would support the businesses RIGHT to fire them, but it doesn't mean we wouldn't insult them for the idiocy of such a move. I think that public universities have a similar right, personally, but I also think it's dumb.

  • mr simple||

    These seminars are nothing more than a way for the institution to cover themselves in case of a harassment charge. They get to say "We can't be liable, we had a seminar!" Everyone knows they're worthless but they cost less than a settlement or two.

  • anarch||

    I recently had to take an Illinois State Employee Ethics Test, as mandated by gov. Blagojevich. It was a waste of my time, but it was only a waste of 20 minutes.



    It will creep up. The Illinois State Employee Epistemology Test, the Illinois State Employee Logic Test... Comprehensives, Dissertation; soon you'll have time to call your own, mark my words.

  • + anarch\'s proofreading test||

    have no time

    I got an extension.

  • thoreau||

    I would say that there are some genuinely hard questions in the area of harassment, and people would do well to spend time thinking about these questions.

    HOWEVER, I have yet to see evidence that the training sessions typically offered actually address these hard questions in a way that better prepares people to deal with complicated situations. Typically, they either insult your intelligence by stating the obvious, or scare you by hinting (without actually saying) that virtually anything can get you in trouble.

    Not so different from lab safety training, which includes a mix of the blindingly obvious (don't drink hazardous substances), the just plain wrong (they typically don't know what is what in the lab), and over-kill (any spill at all, even something as simple as rubbing alcohol used for cleaning equipment, must be reported).

    These training sessions aren't intended to help people deal with complicated situations, subtle but toxic behavior, or dangerous lab equipment that really does require careful handling. Rather, they're designed to give the administration the cover of saying "See, we told you so!"

  • db||

    Sexual harassment training reduces employers' liability for any future sexual harassment occurrence. It also provides a basis for terminating an employee accused of sexual harassment. "Hey, it's company policy not to sexually harass...punishable by means up to and including termination...see ya!"

  • Matt Welch||

    But since it involves a state government institution anything they do to their employees is evil by default.

    For me, it's more that it is a state law governing all employers with 50 workers or more. I managed to dodge the requirement at the L.A. Times, thank Gaia.

  • db||

    Hey, anyone know why I can't post with Firefox, but Internet Explorer works OK?

  • me||

    I think McPherson is being disingenuous. He knows that the university needs him to take the course so as to protect against harassment lawsuits (as mr simple and the article point out). So if he doesn't take the course the university will (of course) take action to minimize their exposure to harassment lawsuits in other ways -- like relieving him of all sorts of duties (as laid out quite explicitly in the October letter mentioned in the article).

    Now the university's action may still may extreme -- the story suggests other universities haven't pursued the issue as aggressively -- but McPherson is clearly standing firm to make a point. The question is how much he's willing to sacrifice for it.

    It's too bad his own counteroffer letter couldn't be made part of the standard set of forms in the harassment training. If you remove the aside in the first line about taking the course under protest and allow each reader to fill in a blank for number of years of service, it seems like something everyone should fill out.

  • Firefox posting here||

    Try again and/or figure something else is causing the problem.

  • anarch||

    I don't quite see how that list neutralizes the threat an un-trained agent poses. Isn't the U. now even more exposed?

    Oh, can I say "exposed" here?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    More likely you all would be saying "the company has unlimited power over its employees". But since it involves a state government institution anything they do to their employees is evil by default.

    The Amazing SusanM the mindreader, ladies and gentlemen!

    you should take that shit on the road or on Letterman. There's millions to be made, I tells ya, MILLIONS!!!

  • Naga Sadow||

    As has been stated above by individuals, I understand his point. I even sympathize with his point of view. He's still an idiot though. Tradeoffs are a fact of life and he seems to suck at making decisions along those lines. I've bartended for years and I'm still made to attend alcohol awareness seminars at least once a year. I've worked in numerous casinos and I'm still made to attend problem gambling seminars. EVERYONE is made to atttend the gambling seminar and it is always made clear that it is a liability issue not an employee performance issue.

  • ||

    "Rather, they're designed to give the administration the cover of saying "See, we told you so!""

    I'm sure insurance companies have something to do with it.

  • ||

    gaius marius continues to post on his blog.

  • ||

    So when we reach libertopia are you guys going to ban me from rating up accounts who don't have mandatory sexual harrassment training?

    Because, little secret here, the only reason anyone has that crap (and diversity training, and ethics training, and workplace violence training et al) are because guys like me charge more for SML and EPL coverage if they don't. Hug your underwritersm people

  • Shuttergeek||

    "I don't quite see how that list neutralizes the threat an un-trained agent poses. Isn't the U. now even more exposed?"

    The only way to "neutralize" the threat would be termination, but I imagine tenure makes that impractical.

    Meanwhile, they would like to show some consequences for the refusal. The exact consequences are probably a combination of trying to mitigate the risk (no TAs) and punitive measures allowed under tenure rules of the institution (delaying promotion benefits).

  • VR||

    Jack-
    I'm in the military and I have to put up with mandatory training and ridiculous ads and posters and messages from high ranking officers about this type of crap all the time.
    I'd put my hours of sensitivity and behavior training per year up against anyone's.

    How does the insurance industry or liability attorneys figure here?
    I'm betting my money on the "Something must be done!" meme...

  • ||

    The insurance industry does a ton of business with the military actually, but I'm guessing in your case it's because the military has a shitty record of dealing with women. Hell I only tend to write base housing and "checkered loss history" is the polite term for those accounts

  • anarch||

    Thanks, Shuttergeek.

    But

    trying to mitigate the risk (no TAs)


    still seems to leave a lot of non-TAs exposed, which would give the offended a still greater grievance against the U. administration, who now knows what a non-compliant MCP he is.

    When someone refuses to submit to hygiene instruction, you don't just limit his washroom access; you deny it.

    Think of the ladies! Damn half-measures.

  • ||

    Hug your underwriters, people

    Hah! You can't fool me. That would be unwanted contact and the basis for a harassment complaint!

    And, lets not forget, the liability risk being managed here is entirely a creation of the state via its inane sexual harassment and hostile workplace laws.

  • ||

    These seminars are nothing more than a way for the institution to cover themselves in case of a harassment charge.

    Bingo! We have a winner.

  • ||

    These seminars are nothing more than a way for the institution to cover themselves in case of a harassment charge.

    --mr simple



    Yes, and they do this essentially by teaching complete newbies how to avoid blindly walking into a harassment charge.

    After all, one of the canon's of sexual harassment training is that you don't have to intend to harass or offend someone to be guilty of doing so.

    --S. Love


    True, but in my experience, it's rare for someone to be really punished for a first offense of truly "accidental" harassment. The guys who I see get punished are the ones who repeat behaviors that they are too stupid or stubborn to accept are not welcome, despite their lack of malice.

  • cunnivore||

    You guys are fucking kidding, right?

    Yet another post boo-hooing over a sucker on the public tit who is getting his balls busted over this, while continuing to draw a salary. If this guy were working for a private employer, I'll admit the list of things that would happen to him would be short, consisting only of the word "FIRED". Are you guys going to update us again and again on the stories of all those people, or are you now of the opinion that being a public employee should somehow give you greater priveleges than those of us whose wages don't come from taxes?

  • ||

    libarbarian, doesn't your second point pretty much nullify your first?

  • Charles||

    Are you guys going to update us again and again on the stories of all those people, or are you now of the opinion that being a public employee should somehow give you greater priveleges than those of us whose wages don't come from taxes?

    Of course public employees get greater privileges! And they should! The government has to respect constitutional rights in a way private employers never should. A brief list of things that private employers should be allowed to do that state or federal government should not be able to do:

    -require drug testing (while drug use remains illegal, at least) without any warrant or warning
    -random property searches on company grounds
    -require silence or agreement on particular issues related to politics, religion, or creed
    -hire big-breasted women for that reason alone

  • cunnivore||

    Charles, when you start arguing that getting paid from taxes gives you more rights than ordinary people, it's time to go back and re-check your premises.

    The BoR restricts the govt's action when it plays a coercive role. The employment relationship between public employee and government is not a coercive one -- this guy could quit his job and look for another if he doesn't like UC's policies -- and as we keep telling the liberal ombudspersons of H&R, firing someone is not a coercive act.

  • Paul||

    (any spill at all, even something as simple as rubbing alcohol used for cleaning equipment, must be reported).

    The government considers Formula 409 a 'hazardous material'.

  • cunnivore||

    Men come out of sexual harassment training with the fear that any female can destroy their careers by choosing to take offense to some innocuous comment.

    Puh-leeze. Last I checked I am a man, and such training sessions produced no such fears, however much sleepiness they did. Maybe you're just hanging around with pussies.

    After all, one of the canon's of sexual harassment training is that you don't have to intend to harass or offend someone to be guilty of doing so.

    That's just boilerplate to eliminate the "I didn't realize she'd be offended if I called her a slut" defense, sort of like we have the "ignorance of the law is no excuse" doctrine to prevent similar defenses in criminal matters. The standard is that you say or do something that a reasonable person would consider offensive. So if your comments are truly innocuous, and your coworker flips her lid over them anyway, you're not going to get in trouble.

  • Just curious||

    if your comments are truly innocuous, and your coworker flips her lid over them anyway, you're not going to get in trouble

    Do you introduce yourself at work as cunnivore?

  • ||

    Here's what he should do. Go to the training, and figure out ways to sexually harass people without technically violating the rules. And then do it every opportunity.

  • cunnivore||

    Do you introduce yourself at work as cunnivore?

    No way. I strictly follow the adage, "don't get your meat where you make your bread," so there's no point in advertising.

  • Head||

    don't get your meat where you make your bread

    Harrassment training in a nutshell, ladies and gents...

  • dissenter||

    You are misguided. Once upon a time, the standard in the law was "how would the average reasonable person respond". This has long ago been replaced by "why didn't you consider how the most unreasonable and hypersensitive person would react?"

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