Dear SWS Members:
As many of you know, our discipline is having a public reckoning with the issue of sexual harassment and abuse. As the #MeToo movement has shown (and as many of us already know), no industries are immune from the problem of those in power abusing it to harass those in subordinate positions. This issue within the field of sociology is not a new one and there have been conversations about this for years. In fact, SWS was initially founded because of the lack of support for women and nonbinary people in ASA. It seems old issues die hard.
I’m writing this note to remind everyone that SWS has resources in place to support survivors of all forms of sexual violence including sexual harassment. These resources are available to all members—faculty, students, applied sociologists, and retirees. The Discrimination and Academic Justice Committee will take confidential reports of harassment, gather information, and in some cases can offer written statements of support that can go to department chairs, deans, provosts, presidents, or other supervisors. If you are or have experienced harassment in academia, I’d encourage you to contact one of the Discrimination and Academic Justice Committee Chairs (Katie Acosta at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Shweta Adur at: email@example.com) to let them know your situation and see how they can help. You could also call our Executive Officer, Barret Katuna at: 860-989-5651, if you do not want anything documented in an email; Barret can arrange for calls with Shweta and Katie.
Another option is the SWS Mentoring Program. Danielle Currier (contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org) coordinates this and takes care to match mentees with mentors who are willing to provide help in whatever areas mentees need. If you’re dealing with sexual harassment or abuse within the academy, this service may be of help. You can request a mentor who can help you to think through your options and consider what course of action works best for you.
A third resource is financial support from SWS. This is also available through our Discrimination and Academic Justice Committee. The SWS Natalie Allon Fund was established specifically to provide legal fees for SWS members who are protecting their rights by fighting discrimination cases based on sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual orientation. It also provides legal fees for cases of discrimination that disproportionately affect women.
Finally, some of our members are also serving on the working group for the ASA to develop suggestions, best practices, and new guidelines to help stop harassment at meetings. The working group is still convening, but hopefully their suggestions will change some of the meeting norms and practices that allow harassment to occur, and help establish a reporting policy that is structured to meet survivors’ needs. Please consult the Summer Meeting program for more details.
I expect we will have further discussion of this issue and its ramifications at the Summer Meeting later this week in Philadelphia. One item on Council’s agenda is to discuss various standing policies (or the lack thereof) that pertain to this issue. If you’ll be at the Summer Meeting, please feel free to share with me your thoughts, feedback, and insights about how SWS can best marshal our resources to address this problem. If you will not be at the meeting, please feel free to contact me directly with your thoughts, or to reach out to any Council Members with them. You can have a Council Member communicate your thoughts anonymously or with your name attached—whatever suits you best. If you would like to be connected with a Council Member via phone, please email Barret and she can arrange for a call.
If you know of someone who is dealing with an issue of past or current sexual harassment and abuse and that person is not an SWS member, please let them know that SWS is here as a resource. This issue is bigger than our membership, but we can take this opportunity to lead and partner with other organizations like the ASA to establish necessary change.
Adia Harvey Wingfield