As sexual misconduct in the academic sciences has gained more media attention, the Science Soapbox team headed down to Washington, D.C. to chat with Congresswoman Jackie Speier about how, and why, she’s brought the issue to the House floor.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier is the U.S. representative for California’s 14th district. She has a history of combatting sexual harassment in hallowed institutions, from the military to the House of Representatives. Her attention has more recently turned to academia, and the sciences in particular.
In June, Rep. Speier introduced the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) Campus Sexual Violence Act to strengthen prevention and enforcement efforts against sexual harassment and violence on campuses. In January, the congresswoman sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education that made public the sexual harassment record of Dr. Timothy Slater, a University of Wyoming professor of astronomy. The previously sealed report detailed several sexual harassment violations while Dr. Slater was at the University of Arizona.
Slater’s case — which is just one of many that have recently come to light — underscores an urgent need for increased transparency in matters of sexual misconduct. So in this episode, we lend Rep. Speier our soapbox to discuss her proposed legislation, the plight of women in STEM, and what the academic community can do to remedy the situation.
Here are some of the links and references mentioned during the show:
- The HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act, for anyone curious to check out the bill itself
- U.S. lawmaker’s plan to combat sexual harassment by scientists could get complicated, Science Magazine article on the Timothy Slater case raised by Representative Speier, including his comments following public allegations
- Congresswoman reveals prominent astronomy professor’s history of sexual harassment, Mashable article taking a deeper dive into the Timothy Slater case, including statements from both Dr. Slater and his wife
- Investigative report into complaints against Dr. Slater at University of Arizona, Representative Speier sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education based on this report, which you can read here
- Slater’s case isn’t the only one that’s caught the public’s attention. University of Chicago professor Jason Lieb, Caltech professor Christian Ott, UC Berkeley professor Geoffrey Marcy, and AMNH paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond.
- There’s been a lot of coverage of the now infamous Tim Hunt “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…” statement, but we’d recommend taking a look at this BBC piece for an overview of what happened, Julie Beck’s piece in The Atlantic for a look at the broader culture that allows such ridiculous comments to readily flow out of many a scientist’s mouth, and Professor Athene Donald’s ideas piece in TIME for a more sympathetic take on Hunt’s comments from a woman in science.
This episode was recorded on February 12, 2016 at the U.S. House of Representatives and on February 16 in the Rockefeller University Science Outreach Lab at Rockefeller University. Special thanks to Visager for music and to Mike Kepka/San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris for the photo.