Sexual Harassment Accountability

Accountability for Sexual Misconduct May Vary

Sexual misconduct stories, such as the one the Associated Press reported recently, don’t just “shake senior ranks” of the FBI.  They shake everyone with a social conscience.  Such workplace harassment is absolutely intolerable in an era where women are expected to aspire in the workplace to careers, just as men.   What bothers me is that there are institutions, such as the FBI, that are opaque to external inspection.  And there are other institutions, such as the U.S. Congress, where misconduct is minutely scrutinized.

We have the example of poor Al Franken, the former senator from Minnesota and by all accounts a very able lawmaker, who really was hung out to dry for transgressions that apparently would have passed unremarked in the FBI.  (“He touched your arm!”)  Franken, of course, resigned at the first whiff of scandal, and many progressive Minnesotans viewed his haste to make amends as an undue expression of remorse, given how scarce on the ground liberal senators were to become.

Virtually all university and college teachers today acknowledge that even touching your students, in however an unassuming manner, can result in the academic death penalty.   The Congress, universities: these are transparent institutions.  The student newspapers scream, the Dean investigates immediately, and you, baby, are toast.

Impunity for Sexual Harassment

But the less translucent the institutions get, the greater the degree of impunity for sexual harassment.  The police and the army are notorious for this:  It takes a lot to bring about an in-house investigation that gets beyond he-said/she-said, and  public inquiries are unwelcome on the grounds that it “tends to weaken the institution.”

It will surprise no one that the FBI is now under the media magnifying glass.  Harassment is apparently routine at senior ranks, and it is mainly swept under the rug.  No wonder that women vote with their feet by leaving the organization, just as they often resign their army posts and their police commissions.  These are organizations that enjoy privileged positions as the protectors of society, in a way that members of Congress — sooner scorned than admired —  and academics, with their cushy jobs, do not.

“Your teaching load is four hours?  Oooh, that’s a lot.  Four hours a day.”

“No, it’s four hours a week.”

Transparency in the FBI

It’s not just part of a progressive agenda, but an element of civilized society that women be able to work free of sexual harassment.  Since the days of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI has always been inscrutable.  Time for it to become scrutable.

 

 

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