Academia

What Happens When You Decline Pre-Reeducation

|


Alexander McPherson, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at UC Irvine, is not the world's biggest fan of AB 1825, the 2004 California bill signed into law by, *cough*, Arnold Schwarzenegger forcing any state employer with more than 50 workers to subject its supervisors to sexual harassment training. So when McPherson continued to tell UCI that he "refused, on principle" to be trained, they were like, "That's cool, this is a university after all."

Ha ha, not really (and not really funny, either).

Last month, the university finally followed through, sending me a letter announcing that my laboratory and the students I oversaw were to be immediately turned over to other university officials and faculty. I continued to refuse to take sexual harassment training, and do so now.

Why so stubborn, professor?

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.

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.

The imposition of training that has a political cast violates my academic freedom and my rights as a tenured professor. The university has already nullified my right to supervise my laboratory and the students I teach. It has threatened my livelihood and, ultimately, my position at the university. This for failing to submit to mock training in sexual harassment, a requirement that was never a condition of my employment at the University of California 30 years ago, nor when I came to UCI 11 years ago.

Read McPherson's whole cri du liberte here.

This kind of stuff drives me plum loco. Sexual harassment is already plenty illegal in California; the forced training is because lawmakers were chagrined to discover that criminalization hadn't eliminated every stray ass-grab and Kojak-style boss. More importantly (to me, anyway), is the pile-up of government-enforced behavioral oaths, whether it's to swear to uphold the state constitution (another University of California specialty) or to pretend that marijuana is a dangerous drug. I hope McPherson has an active legal defense fund.

Cathy Young wrote about campus sexual harassment politics for reason back in 1999.