Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Closing Thoughts on the Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

by Dr. Nicole M. Elias and Dr. Maria J. D’Agostino:

In January 2019 we invited public administration scholars to contribute to our spring blog series, Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia. We asked bloggers to respond to the following questions: What does #MeToo mean for the world of higher education? What are the issues, dynamics, power structures, and practices that are taken for granted and make sexual harassment and sexual assault so prevalent in higher education? At the time, we were not certain what types of blog submissions we would receive. The responses were eye-opening and thought-provoking, ranging from personal #MeToo experiences to structural and policy recommendations aimed at mitigating sexual harassment, assault, and gender inequity.

The blog contributors acknowledge that the culture in academia, especially in academic departments, needs to be recognized and addressed in order to move from reactive to proactive #MeToo solutions. As the anonymous contributors illustrate, their choosing to be anonymous is mainly linked to their untenured status, department culture of silence, and potential repercussions of speaking out. These contributors are not alone in their experience, and the culture of silence is one that resonates with many women in academia. This pervasive culture sustains sexism, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault in higher education.

Several practical suggestions have been made to move forward in order to break this silence and create safe, civil workplaces, particularly by moving us from a reactive to a more proactive approach to addressing #MeToo. David Shapiro emphasizes the barriers to reporting #MeToo incidents: “A detailed itemization of reasons not to report publicly need not be exhaustively recited (e.g., personal relationship with the offender, fear of retaliation, lack of belief in the helpfulness of the criminal justice system). In fact, BJS statistics for years 2015 and 2016 suggest that almost one-half of serious violent victimizations, including sexual assault, are not reported to the police. Unfortunately, obstacles to reporting may not be limited to the U.S.” As suggested by Shannon Portillo, senior colleagues need “to recognize that they set the tone for what is acceptable and tolerated, and who is seen as belonging to our field. Let’s all ensure that the stories about our field are the ways that we lift each other up and push the scholarship forward.”

One practical approach to address sexual harassment in academia, as discussed by Mohammad Alkadry, is the use of climate assessments as a means of exposing perpetrators before a victim comes forward. This tool would be used as a means to diagnosing organizational “health.” Similarly, Sean McCandless, makes several recommendations for individuals, including querying ourselves about our roles in creating safe workplace environments. Gender responsive budgeting is another avenue  proposed by Shilpa Viswanath. She explains that gender responsive budgeting serves as a tool for reducing the number of sexual assaults. Such an approach highlights that in order to prevent #MeToo incidents, we need to recognize budgets are a reflection of our values and biases, and as such we should use resources to communicate priorities for addressing inequity.

Another practical idea communicated by the contributors referred to addressing the embedded social practices that inhibit inclusion. One example, is Sean  McCandless’s suggestion to incorporate diverse and inclusive readings in course syllabi to emphasize the values of women, in general and to the field, as well as making diversity and inclusion the cornerstone of teaching. Such changes are important as they contribute to questioning deeply embedded biases and taken for granted practices in academia. As professors of future public servants this is a powerful opportunity to change structural and organizational practices. On a similar note, Richard Gregory Johnson advocates for inclusiveness via ally building. This approach entails coming together as a unit across social class, race, gender, etc. but also collaborating in professional organizational spaces in order to increase opportunities for mentoring and career growth for underrepresented scholars. As articulated by Amanda Olejearski, faculty, including women faculty, have to lead by example. She presents a metaphor for women in academia: “It’s like the turtle approach. Keep your head down, and you won’t get in trouble.  But the only way for a turtle to make some headway is by sticking her neck out. Women mentoring one another takes many forms, sometimes the neckless turtle, but sometimes we stick our necks out for each other.  In this era of #MeToo, we stand taller as we stand together.” Clearly, the #MeToo era is not without risk in academia, where reputation matters and stakes are high. Perhaps a way forward is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as suggested by Rod Colvin,  to provide redress for the voices of everyone affected by sexual impropriety and misconduct, and provides the space “to speak openly, honestly and frankly about the complexities of power, gender inequity, and sexism” in order to “remediate ongoing and decades-old incidents between individuals.”

From these rich contributions, where do we go from here? Next steps should include sharing knowledge to address #MeToo. From formal outlets like conference panels and workshops to informally sharing personal stories, knowledge, and resources via social media or dialogue. Second, we need better tools to address #MeToo in academic institutions. Often, our responsibilities and options are ambiguous or unknown. To provide better tools, we should be explicit and proactive. This can take the form of events on campus that empowers students, faculty, and staff. Finally, academia is just now beginning the formal study of #MeToo. In addition to the practical work, we need to apply a scholarly lens to the topic. Given the deeply personal and sensitive nature of #MeToo topics, we should think seriously about what a scholarly agenda for #MeToo looks like. This is uncharted, yet critical, territory.

These are broad first steps, but as scholars we can do more. Along with identifying practical steps and setting a research agenda, we should reflect on the #MeToo movement itself. Specifically, the question of who is not included in this conversion and how can we bring them in? Marginalized populations that fall beyond traditional, heteronormative, white identities are often silenced. Thinking outside of gender norms and recognizing racial dimensions of #MeToo by exploring intersectional identities and questioning how #MeToo can be applied differently to different demographics is a key scholarly task. These are not easy tasks, however. The Reference Tool developed by  AWPA-WPS  beginning to tackle these issues by promoting work on substantive topics targeting underrepresented groups, sharing resources for research and teaching from underrepresented scholars and practitioners, and diversifying resources used in teaching and practice.

We want to thank all of our blog contributors to this series who have added much-needed perspectives to these challenging topics. To continue the scholarly dimension of this conversation, Public Administration Review will publish our “#MeToo in Academia: Understanding and Addressing Pervasive Problems” Viewpoint Symposium in 2020.  

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Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

What’s Next: After the accusal, we still need reconciliation

me too printed paper wall decor
by Dr. Roddrick Colvin

It is March 24, 2025, and  Professor Smith has just received her reconciliation notification as she hurries to teach her public administration class at Big State University. Although she expected the notification to arrive this day, it nonetheless caught her off guard. It wasn’t the first time she received a notification, nor was it the first time she had interacted with the Office of the State Attorney General or their Division on Truth and Reconciliation (DTR), charged with addressing cases of sexual impropriety at work and other public settings.

In the past, she had offered support and testimony to friends, family, and co-workers via the encrypted online application on cases of sexual harassment and misconduct. She had also participated in scores of online training exercises, webinars, and “open dialogues” that were part of the Division’s work. Still, this reconciliation notification caught her a little off-guard. 

Unlike her previous interactions with the DTR, Smith had never been asked to submit testimony about her personal experiences. This time she was being asked to recount events from nearly 20 years ago when she was a graduate student. Back then she was forced to rebuff several advances from Professor Xavier – a tenured professor – in her Department before she graduated. While the advances were considered mild by today’s standard, over time, Smith came to understand the inappropriateness of his behavior, and the effects it had on her and other individuals in the Department. She came to understand that his advances created an environment hostile to learning and working, but did not consider them to be life-altering incidents. 

Smith had never discussed these experiences from graduate school. In fact, her testimony was being solicited by the Division at the request of Professor Xavier. He was using DTR’s proactive program to seek out and redress misdeeds that he had committed during his career as a professor and hoped Smith would participate in the process. Smith, for her part, had taken the online tutorial about the purpose and goals of ‘truth and reconciliation,” provided testimony about her experiences with Xavier, reviewed the testimonies of others affected by Xavier’s behavior (including Xavier), and now she was ready to select her preferred remedies and corrective actions. As she was satisfied with Xavier’s efforts to acknowledge and correct is behavior, she chose to accept his apology and archive her experiences. When asked by a colleague about her experiences with the DTR and Xavier, she said, “Look, I remember when the ‘Me Too’ movement started, we spent a lot of time and energy sorting through claims of inappropriateness and being made uncomfortable, from actual sexual misconduct. It was tedious, inequitable, and time-consuming. We needed a way to let the accused and accusers come forward and be heard outside of the criminal justice system and outside of the court of public opinion. The DTR provides that system. As my mom always said, when we know better, we do better … Xavier knows better, now he can do better.” 

A systematic and transparent approach to addressing sexual impropriety and other hostile incidents is possible if we accept the following as true.

First, the ‘me too’ movement has been an undeniable force for good by giving voice to individuals who might not otherwise have their voices heard about the nature of sexual impropriety, including assault. 

Second, by calling out and holding accountable individuals (mostly men) who have used their power and position to take advantage of others, no field or occupation has been immune to this social movement. Thus, we can expect more people to come forward and seek redress.  

Third, despite various laws and policies, our current systems do not adequately prevent, protect or redress much of the bad behavior that spawned the ‘me too’ movement. This includes much of our criminal justice system which onerously places the burdens of proof on accusers, uses narrow definitions which cause many issues to fall outside of the law, and applies arbitrary statutes of limitations on many of the activities that are considered crimes. 

As the ‘me too’ movement exposes bad actors and behaviors within our academic field, our professional discipline, and society in general, our approach and response should be more systematic, transparent and orderly. 

I propose something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission would be a forum for the accused, accuser, and bystanders. This is not a place for victims and survivors of illegal sexual harassment, assault or violence. We retain the criminal justice system for those cases. This forum is for any encounter that needs a resolution but falls outside of our criminal justice framework. It captures the voices of anyone affected by sexual impropriety and misconduct, which includes all of us. 
Beyond turning our attention to this important issue, the ‘me too’ movement has created an opportunity for us to create a system for redress that we probably needed long ago. We need a system that allows us to speak openly, honestly and frankly about the complexities of power, gender inequity, and sexism. We need a system that can remediate ongoing and decades-old incidents between individuals. We need a system that supports and encourages everyone to come forward and bear witness to the misdeeds of the pasts, included those who perpetrated misdeeds. 

The incidents that occurred between Smith and Xavier are not uncommon. Unfortunately, we have never really had a system to properly adjudicate such cases. Now is our chance to create a new system; a system that allows for real truth and reconciliation with our past. 

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About the author:

Roddrick Colvin
Associate Professor of Public Administration
San Diego State University

Roddrick Colvin is an Associate Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University, where he teaches courses in public administration and criminal justice. His current research interests include public employment equity, police officers’ shared perceptions and decision-making, and lesbian and gay civil rights. His research has appeared in a number of scholarly journals, including the Review of Public Personnel Administration, Police Quarterly, and Women and Criminal Justice. He is also the author of the book Gay and Lesbian Cops: Diversity and Effective Policing (Lynne Rienner Publishing, 2012). Dr. Colvin earned undergraduate degrees in political science and philosophy at Indiana University–Bloomington, a graduate degree in public administration at Seattle University, and a doctorate degree in public administration at the University at Albany (SUNY).

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

The Turtle Approach to Academia in an Era of #MeToo

person woman laptop office
by Dr. Amanda Olejarski:

Associate professors are in a weird space in the academy.  We know enough to mentor our graduate and doctoral students— and maybe help junior faculty find the bathroom.  But we still need mentors ourselves #fullby40.

Issues of gender bias in evaluationsthe mommy penaltythe baby before tenure question gender wage gap in academia  are just some of the pressures facing female faculty members. Fortunately, many senior female faculty members, like the group over at @awparocks, embrace a supportive mentoring environment lightyears beyond the advice they received.  Think back to some of the career advice you’ve received over the years, in light of #metoo—   was it gendered?  Disheartening?  Make you consider an #altac career?  Female faculty are more empowered than ever, and we have to attribute some degree of our success in advocating for ourselves to the #metoo movement.  Leading by example enables all of us to be stronger, to be more confident in advocating for ourselves, our mentees, and our mentors. It’s like the turtle approach. Keep your head down, and you won’t get in trouble.  But the only way for a turtle to make some headway is by sticking her neck out.  Women mentoring one another takes many forms, sometimes the neckless turtle, but sometimes we stick our necks out for each other.  In this era of #metoo, we stand taller as we stand together.    

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About the author:

Amanda Olejarski
Associate Professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration at Westchester University

Dr. Amanda Olejarski is Associate Professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration at West Chester University. She teaches courses in the MPA and DPA programs. Olejarski’s research interests include administrative discretion and communication, normative public policy implementation, and organizational learning and motivation. Her research has been published in American Review of Public Administration, Administration & Society, Public Integrity, the International Journal of Public Administration, and the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management. She recently published her book, Administrative discretion in action: A narrative of eminent domain. Olejarski serves as President of the Keystone State ASPA Chapter and as Chair of NASPAA’s Pi Alpha Alpha governance committee.  She is MBTI certified from the Myers-Briggs Foundation and certified in Public Performance Measurement from the National Center for PPM. Originally, from N.J., Olejarski lives in King of Prussia, PA, with her hubby, son, and their cats. She enjoys patio gardening, and she loves Wawa.

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Reclaiming Space/ Reclaiming Voice: Resisting Sexism in the Academy

by Anonymous Authors:


“You won’t believe what he said to me. Please don’t tell anyone. Please don’t say anything to him.”

Sexism takes many forms, and as a result impacts individuals, communities, and work spaces differently. As women working in a space where sexist discourse was often used in the protected space of an advising session, a private conversation, or a classroom to minimize and marginalize women, we found it critical to think purposefully about how diverse tools can be deployed in varying contexts.

Sexism in academia is well-documented. Cole & Hassel’s recent edited volume, Surviving Sexism in Academia, provides a wealth of evidence that sexism is alive and well in the halls of higher education. In the opening chapter, Maldonado and Draeger outline the contours of how sexism is manifested in the academy, illustrating that “sexism can take the form of acts, attitudes, and institutional structures.” In other words,combatting sexism necessitates a multifaceted response, one that acknowledges systemic power, raises consciousness, and emphasizes diversity (10-11). Building off of this work, we argue that because the formsthat sexism takes to structure space and silence voices may shift over time, the responsemust reclaim space and voice in similarly multi-modal and adaptive forms.

A bit of background. We are both not-yet-tenured women in academia; we both entered the field/s of political science/ public policy/ public administration as professors just before the #metoo hashtag went viral on twitter in 2017, calling attention to sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. We thought—maybe now, finally, our concerns will gain traction! But alas, we remain anonymous as the backlash has been powerful. 

Yet, this post is not about the #metoo movement on a national scale, but about how calling attention to sexism, in all its forms, including but not limited to sexual harassment and sexual assault, comes at a cost—a backlash that requires adaptability and resilience—or, we suppose, a willingness to relocate or withdraw from academia(sadly). More specifically, this post serves as (brief) casestudy in responding to sexism and effecting change in academia through leadership and mentorship that is grounded in a feminist reflexivity. Social change, after all, is rooted in reflexive learning that is grounded in solidarity, intersectionality, and critical praxis (Freire).

What follows is a brief account of the persistent sexism—sometimes obvious, but often subtle— that we have encountered since entering the academy as faculty members at a mid-sized university. We outline the tactics we have used to respond; note that these tactics are both multi-modal and adaptive over time and audience. 

Our experience, anonymized

To start, it is important to acknowledge why we have chosen to write this as “anonymous and anonymous.” We have agreed to forego any recognition or credit, as we have been indirectly threatened with lawsuits for speaking out about our experiences. After all, as one colleague stated, and we paraphrase here: “we are putting their [the male faculties’] jobs at risk by talking openly about sexism.”

Sexism & Resistance 

Years ago, before we entered the scene, the context for women working in this academic department was defined primarily by words weaponized for marginalization. The marginalization dispersed through patriarchal directives (“advice” and “requests”) and patronizing commentary (“compliments” or “simple questions”) defined an environment in which women graduate students and faculty came to share their experiences in whispers, often in the bathroom.            

Not all of the men in the department thought or spoke this way. Some were appalled by hallway conversation, but still silent in response to “And of course I’m going [to this conference overseas], because they are paying for me to attend. I’m like a prostitute, pay me and I’ll come.”

The fact that conversations among women were whispered, shared in the bathroom or behind a closed office door, are testament to the marginalized status of women in the department. These conversations felt dangerous. “He’s going to write my letters of recommendation for the rest of my life,” said one student. “You cannot repeat this. I will lie and deny it,” said another woman. At the time, all of the tenured professors were men. They oversaw the dissertations, wrote the letters of recommendation, wrote the peer reviews for teaching, filed the tenure ballots.

This power dynamic encouraged the formation of layered protections for perpetrators. It reinforced perceptions that women were victims or resigned to the system, and in so doing women made themselves complicit in reinforcing sexism. Like many other settings, women were not likely to report harassment due to the risk. But in this department it was really more complicated than this. Women maintained and demanded silence of others (“trust”?) when they did share our experiences. 

Women in the department, before we arrived, recognized and resisted sexism through communities of trust, but were unable or unwilling for any number of reasons to speak out—there were just too few women and too few vocal allies. The culture of the department was one of silence.

Eventually, some changes began to unfold and the sole-tenured woman in the department was hopeful (as she reported to us years later)—maybe there would be real change. An ally became chair. Frustrated with the silence, but also wanting to protect identities, he invited various offices around campus to speak to the department about climate and how it could be improved. The department heard presentations from HR (EOE) and the school’s Diversity office. Specific instances and names were excluded from all conversations. Speakers addressed issues in generalities, ineffectively. Over time, it became clear that no amount of conversation or information would challenge the behavior, much less the structures that protect it. The entitlement that served as the foundation for all of this sexism was girded by a strong sense of self-righteous indignation but also by power differentials, and the layers of protection those create. 

After a training on how to enhance diversity while maintaining quality candidates led one male colleague shouting “I guess we just don’t hire white men here!” (please note that at the time the department had only one T/TT woman), finally, a TT woman was hired (Anonymous #1)!

Mentorship & the “women in academia” reading group

With one newly-hired TT woman and one tenured woman, we started a “women in academia” reading group. Our women graduate students were facing myriad challenges. There was the sexist discourse in our department, and the structures and sexism rampant in academia. We wanted to give our students the tools for success despite the obstacles. So we read about sexism in course evaluations, and had a workshop on how one can communicate teaching excellence in a portfolio despite gendered quantitative evaluations. We read about gendered citations and instructional readings, and how to incorporate women scholars in our classrooms and in our publications. We read about imposter syndrome and how we can recognize and combat it.

The “women in academia” reading group, which met at monthly intervals, provided a formal setting to (1) communicate strategies for pursuing teaching excellence in a context that relies on evaluation metrics which are known to be gendered, (2) present tools for identifying and overcoming imposter phenomenon [or syndrome], (3) explore techniques for interrupting sexism in the classroom and the workplace, and (4) determine ‘best practices’ for transforming spaces to be unwelcoming of sexism.

In addition to creating a formal setting for structured mentoring, the formation of the reading group also had the unintended consequence of opening up additional space for informal, unstructured mentoring. This informal mentoring was not a replication of previous responses, where safe spaces allowed women to discreetly divulge their stories but in doing so ultimately protected the status quo; this was a venue for women to share and learn to navigate shared experiences of sexism in the department. Following the first meeting of the reading group, several women graduate students individually expressed to women faculty how grateful they were to hear that they were not alone in their experiences. In many instances they were uncomfortable publicly disclosing events, but sought assistance in how to navigate them; women faculty were able to identify shared concerns and connect these with readings offering techniques to address them. These informal, unstructured mentoring sessions also revealed to women faculty inadequacies of the academic program in preparing graduate students for professional success. Women faculty then returned to formal, structured mentoring to determine preferences for alternative program features, and present these alternative program features to faculty in consideration for adoption. Group mentoring via formal structures and individual mentoring via informal structures, together, provided a mechanism for breaking the silence, exposing sexism, and preserving the safety of those in precarious positions. Most importantly, the “women in academia” reading group was adaptive–moving back and forth between formal and informal mentorship. 

It was during this time that we heard from a trio of women graduate students. They had had enough. Their male peers were interrupting them in classes. One was told she was “cute when she did math.” One was repeatedly called “sweetie,” and when she objected was told “you’re cute when you’re angry.” Another, on her way to reading group, was asked, “Are you reading Fifty Shades of Grey?” The question was posed in front of a Woman of Color there for a job talk. One was told she would never get to TA the quants class. That’s not for girls, was the insinuation. The chair spoke with a few perpetrators individually, focusing on the unprofessionalism and sexism. He sent an email to the graduate students clearly indicating such behavior was unacceptable, unprofessional, and would not be tolerated. Faculty were cc’d.

In response the department again invited the diversity office to come in and conduct diversity workshops for the graduate students. At one point, a senior male colleague suggested it was “enough,” and we ought to stop “talking about climate and focus on professional work.” He was reminded that we were not dealing with an isolated case but with an environment. “Sexism in the workplace isa professional issue.” He agreed. In one of the workshops, the students collectively came up with climate priorities: Respect, Honesty, Trust, Empathy. A few days later a student returned to their space to find “STFU” [shut the fuck up] written on the board next to the priorities. When senior male scholars do not think of the productivity setting as an issue of professional development, neither will their protégés. 

Modeling Power & Building a Critical Mass

Later that same fall, our newly hired, TT woman professor was sexually harassed. She (Anonymous #1) reported it to Title IX at the request of the faculty. Title IX investigators asked her what she was wearing. Behind closed doors, male colleagues insinuated that it was her fault. The offender was found “not guilty” of violating university policy, but was verbally admonished for his behavior – it was inappropriate and should not happen again. Our last meeting of the reading group that year focused on sexual harassment in academia, and the failures of Title IX.

While ultimately unsuccessful, use of the university Title IX complaint process worked as both a behavior modeling tactic – in that it specifically drew on institutional processes to call attention to inappropriate behavior in lieu of silencing it as had previously been done – and as a mentoring tactic. Title IX and internal complaint processes are particularly complicated to navigate; few in the department had prior experience with them and could not offer advice with regard to ‘best practices’, let alone offer perspective on the timing and steps involved in the process. Having experienced the process, the woman faculty member was able to assist graduate students in navigating it for themselves as the need arose. 

With each wave of backlash, we found new footing and pushed forward; though a bit more angry and jaded, we persisted in pushing for a department the reflected the values that the members of it claimed to support.

There was also positive news; another search committee that year also hired a woman — we were up to three! For those who think a “critical mass” is important for mobilization, we were nowhere near it, but certainly closer than we had been. More importantly, perhaps, this round of hiring was not nearly as openly sexist as it had been previously.

That spring, the university’s campus-wide climate study results were unveiled. The chair used those as a launching point for a faculty meeting. The study revealed the impact of sexism and racism across the campus. Now with data to support the claim that sexism existed in our department, the chair said, “This is US.” One male colleague, an ally, said as we left the room “now thatwas leadership.” Later that evening, at a bar, in front of (now two!) newly-hired junior women faculty members, the formerly deflecting and rejecting full professors proclaimed the chair was “too harsh” and out-of-line. “The N is too small.”

Just months later, our department hosted another training, this time on how microaggressions marginalize. The facilitators emphasized the “impact, not intent” message. One full professor silently stared at his screen working on a syllabus. Another argued “it’s so much worse at other places;” “it’s much better than it used to be!” Deflection and rejection were the highlights of that meeting.

Ignorance of the problem was slowly replaced with disdain and hostility for attention paid to it. Nonetheless, “We used to just exist. Now we exist with agency,” said a female grad.

Reclaiming Voice/ Reclaiming Space

The informal and formal meetings among a growing number of women in the department provided a space for mutual support, and also (over time) created a space for shared action. Years of pursuing things the “right way” through proper procedures and top-down trainings had only gotten us so far. In the safe space of the reading group we felt heard and valued, but in the department we were still marginalized and silenced. 

Then, after one of the newly hired women faculty members’ office was vandalized with a drawing of penis on her wall, another’s car tires were slashed (likely unrelated incidents), and the third forced to relocate her office to avoid her harasser, we organized a campaign to call attention to the pervasive sexism–this time using grassroots activist tactics.

We again asked the women in the department to give examples of how they have experienced sexism within the department–we anonymized the stories (both victim & perpetrator) and posted them on a small area inside the department. The goal: transform the space from one that was unwelcoming for women into one which is unwelcoming of sexism. 

Prior to the organization of this activity, silencing women’s voices in the department had become routine; this silencing came in several forms, most commonly by questioning their ability to be ‘objective’ and rejecting their experiences as meaningful or reflective of larger issues of sexism within the department. There was a distinct lack of willingness to carry-on a broad discussion regarding the structures of marginalization in the department, especially those which targeted women. Women faculty in the department needed a mechanism to publicly share their experiences and expose the patterns of sexism, and this mechanism needed to be simultaneously quiet and deafening. They were also cognizant of the precarious position that participating in such an activity – which publicly exposed inappropriate behavior of many senior men in the department (although anonymously) – may place junior faculty in. Finally, they considered how such an activity could be a mentoring tool, allowing women graduate students to share their own experiences, hear about the (potentially similar) experiences of other women, and present these events in a manner which highlighted a collective approach to reclaiming space. 

Toward a Reflexive Feminist Leadership Model of Resistance

The tactics we employed were rooted in critical praxis, wherein we were committed to developing among ourselves and among our allies a critical awareness of our shared reality. We did so through reflection and action. Within our groups, whether in women faculty-only spaces or in shared spaces, we emphasized purposive dialogue and equality amongst participants. 
Reflecting on our cumulative experiences—the good, the bad—there are a few relevant takeaways—lessons learned.

1.  The tactics that we employed were adaptive, responding to the changing dynamics of the department (climate and structure).

2.  Our ongoing attempts to respond to and address sexism in the department were met with varying levels of backlash from men in the department. Some members of the faculty dug their heels in and resisted change, suggesting that we were wrong-headed in our concerns. Tactics such as the anonymous notes were viewed as a direct attack on our colleagues, and, to some, was viewed as unnecessarily antagonistic. Others minimized the action as “being dramatic.” There was a cost to taking on an adversarial role and demanding change. As individuals we have experienced the psychological stresses associated with working in this space.

3.  Although little has changed internally, we have created a close network of trusted allies. There is a shared sense of community, a sense of solidarity among the women in the department and a growing contingent of allied-men. This stems from our efforts to be self-reflective. The process of talking through problems and reflecting on the shared experiences as a group gave us a space to examine how our actions may inadvertently support (or in some cases fail to challenge) the existing power dynamic.  Our actions now carry intentionality with regard to identifying power imbalances and challenging their status through strategic, collaborative action.

4.  We were responsive to the needs and vulnerabilities of faculty and staff. This was vitally important, as only one of the women involved in this organizing effort was a tenured faculty member—the others were tenure track professors and doctoral students.

5.  Outside of the department, there has been some move toward change. Our work has been supported, at least verbally, by many across campus. Our willingness to take action has been celebrated, though often behind closed doors, as important but risky.

So, what next and what costs are we willing to incur? In other words, how will we continue to claim space and reclaim our voices within a department resistant to change in an institution that is slow to change? We don’t have the answers, but we do argue that in the process we must both resist sexism, adopting tactics that foster agency, and adapt to the ever changing backlash.


The multiple means by which sexism structures marginalization requires a multi-modal response. Yet, responding to or challenging these structures can place women in even greater isolation. The casepresented here  provides ample evidence of the ways in which pushback by those perceiving a loss of power as the space and voice of women expanded and redefined parameters, and therefore prompted adjustments and creativity by women and their allies. 

We offer that resisting sexism in the academy– especially in the #metoo era– must be reflexive.We suggest that we, as women faculty, look to feminist models of leadership that seeks to reclaim space and reclaim voice, while navigating backlash. We propose that a feminist leadership model should be manifest in mentorship as well as decisive activism grounded in solidarity.   

Works Cited

Cole, Kristi, and Hollie Hassel, editors. Surviving Sexism in Academia: Strategies for Feminist Leadership. Routledge, 2017. 

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury Academic, 2012 [1970].

Maldonado, Heather, and John Draeger. “Surviving Sexism in Academia: Identifying, Understanding, and Responding to Sexism in Academia.” Surviving Sexism in Academia: Strategies for Feminist Leadership, edited by Kristi Cole and Hollie Hassell, Routledge, 2017. 

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Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Discrimination Is Not For Anyone

woman protesting through a megaphone while standing on a chair
by Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III:

The purpose of this blog is to discuss my thoughts on the Me Too Movement. First, I must address my involvement with women’s rights through the years. I have been a supporter of women’s rights all of my life.  I watched my parents (mother and father) participate in civil rights organizations since the time of my youth.  I also watched my mother participated in the graduate chapter of her sorority which was founded on the principles of social justice and public service. 

I grew up in the East Bronx, New York with a keen sense of social justice and understanding the importance of community activism.  However, I did not know that I was a feminist until taking Dr. Marsha Tyson Darling’s class while being enrolled in graduate school at Georgetown University.  This was such a great realization for me to learn that men could be considered feminist as well.  Though, I understand that some women believe otherwise.  But as a Social Equity Scholar I know the value of allies.  For example, victories from the Civil Rights Movement were not won because only African Americans took to the streets.  Indeed, there were poor folks, Jewish folks, Asian folks, Hispanic folks, LGBT folks, priests and folks with disabilities.  All of these groups were on the front-lines, arm in arm with African Americans fighting for civil rights. 

 I have been following and supporting the Me Too Movement since it first emerged in 2017. This movement is no doubt important as society fights against sexual harassment and violence against women. The good fortune is that the movement is also spreading to other countries such as India where violence against women has been imbedded in the culture for decades.  

However, the movement must acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that women of color have been victimized by sexual abuse for years. Often, this violence was committed by male employers and/or husbands.  There has also been many articles written about women of color who clean offices at night only to be sexually accosted by their supervisors. These reports have also indicated that hotel cleaning staff, primarily poorer women of color, have been victimizedby male hotel guests who expose themselves while the cleaner is working. 

The tragedy beyond being accosted is that nothing is generally done with the perpetrators of the above situations.   This is because even in the 21stcentury, women of color, especially women of color from working class/poor backgrounds, with little education and who work low wage jobs, are seen as not having the same agency has White women from means and resources.  Therefore, the challenge with the Me Too Movement is that it could have been started years before if in fact someone would have taken the claims of Black and Brown women seriously.  Indeed it was not until high profile White female celebrities such Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow among others got involved with the movement that caused visibility.  It is admirable that these women came forward and shared their stories of abuse. Their stories are worthy of illumination. However, the voices of women of color and refugee women continue to besilenced even within the larger Me too Movement. Please note that I am not victim blaming privileged and/or high profiled White women.   However, what I am suggesting very clearly and concretely is that the effects of institutionalized racism, sexism and classism can continue to be observed even in a well-intentioned organization such as the Me too Movement. 

Going forward, women in higher education can take lessons from the Me too Movement and focus on coming together as a unit (across social classes, races etc).  The advantage of doing so will increase opportunities for mentoring and career growth. Society is no place near parity. Therefore, women need to take up places on organizational boards (public and private), assume leadership positions, such as academic department chairs, deans, provosts and presidents.  I am so proud to have been appointed the first African American Department Chair by the first female Dean in the University of San Francisco’s School of Management history (USF was founded in 1855 and the School of Management/College of Business was started 95 years ago).  

Finally, the value of ally building is important to everyone fighting for equity and inclusion.  This has got to be the case with women in academia as well, specifically ASPA. Working with such sections such as DSJ, Ethics, LGBT Alliance and the like will help to strengthen the bonds of the women’s section and foster a commitment to advancing not only women’s right but the equal rights of all disenfranchised communities as well. It is clear that no identity group can conquer the insidious nature of hatred alone. 

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About the author:

Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III
Professor and Chair for the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, School of Management
University of San Francisco

Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III is a tenured Full Professor & Department Chair for the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, School of Management, University of San Francisco. He is also Director of the Business Minor in the School of Management as well. Dr. Johnson also chairs the USF IRB Committee.  As a scholar Professor Johnson’s research centers on social equity within the fields of public policy, management, higher education and Human Resources Management.  He has been teaching in higher education for almost twenty years and is widely published with several peer-reviewed books and over two dozen peer-reviewed journal articles.  Professor Johnson holds graduate degrees from Georgetown University, Golden Gate University and DePaul University.  He holds membership in: Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society; Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society; Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society. Professor Johnson is also a life Member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. 

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

#MeToo, the Academy and Responsibility

woman with me too written on her shoulder
by Sean McCandless:

Since the #MeToo movement was founded to combat sexual harassment and assault, millions of women have identified and discussed their own experiences of assault. A perusal of “Academic Twitter” reveals that the academy, including public administration, has not been immune to the issues to which #MeToo points.

Advisors, colleagues, and friends tweet the hashtag, which prompt me to reflect on how workplaces can be hostile to differentness, including along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more. The academy has work to do. As an academic who identifies as male, there are things that I can do to help combat the hostile environments pointed to by #MeToo. To make another (and rather “meta”) point, I rely on sources written primarily by women and/or persons of color:

Be diverse and inclusive in syllabi. There are gender disparities in terms of who is assigned in course readings (see here and here). Readings by and about women (or, indeed, readings by and about persons part of any historically underrepresented group) need to be assigned more. Under-assigning readings by and about women could send the incorrect message that women are not important to the field. And a lack of possible publications to include in syllabi is not due to a lack of women writing. Recognizing the unique contributions of women in classroom syllabi is one powerful way to make a difference, particularly to acknowledge unsung heroes of the field, such as Frances Harriet WilliamsLaverne Burchfield, and many more. Being more diverse and inclusive in syllabi is also important for today’s doctoral students, who are tomorrow’s professors. Students, after all, are more likely to assign a reading in their own courses if they had once been assigned that reading. 

Make diversity, inclusion, and equity cornerstones of teaching. For decades, many students might have considered themselves lucky if issues of diversity, inclusion, and social equity were discussed in their courses, and academic programs can helpimprove coverage of diversity in the literature. There are lingering questionsas to whether these topics are assigned in some curricula at all. It is encouraging to see several texts (see hereand hereas two examples) that make these topics cornerstones rather than subjects discussed in passing. To be equitable administrators, students should be taught ways to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity and to learn counter narratives to hegemony. 

Embrace nervousness. Both instructors and students should become more proficient in understanding how injustices come about, how they are defined (and who defines them and power dynamics therein), and how to address them. Difficult discussions need to be had in classrooms about what causes prejudice. Nervousness about any issue of equity has to be overcome in order for new possibilities to be realized. As Mary Parker Follett once noted, conflict is necessary and should be creative so that multiple voices, recognizing the other’s interests as their own, forge new and more inclusive realities. 

Query ourselves. To me, public administration is about improving lives. From birth to death, public administration can improve the quality of life in ways that would not be possible if public administration were not present. Despite these goals, public administration has been culpablein creating and perpetuating injustices by treating some lives as less worthy than others. This is unacceptable, and public administration needs to admit wrong and take active stepsto promote justice. If we want change, we must directly counter prejudice to create true communities. But most of all, we need to query ourselves. We are not neutral social actors. We have to examine ourselves about our roles in creating safe workplaces. Querying (or even queering) our own privilege is a starting point. 

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About the author:

Sean McCandless
Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the 
University of Illinois 
Twitter: @seanmcc_pa

Sean McCandless works as an assistant professor of public administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield. His current research focuses on the roles played by LGBTQ campus center directors as frontline bureaucrats combatting youth homelessness. Sean serves as the chair elect of the Section on Democracy and Social Justice (DSJ) of the American Society for Public Administration; is completing a elected term as board member of the Public Administration Theory Network; and was twice an ASPA Founders’ Fellow (2016 and 2017) and also an ASPA International Young Scholar (2016). Along with Dr. Rashmi Chordiya (Seattle University) and Dr. Nicole Elias (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY), he has helped convene workshops on issues of social justice at ASPA-affiliated conferences. Finally, he and his mentor, Dr. Mary Guy, are currently working on an edited book on social equity, scheduled to be released by Melvin & Leigh in 2020.

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Gender Responsive Budgeting and the #MeToo Movement: Seeking Solutions to Sexual Violence on College Campuses in America

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper
by Shilpa Viswanath:

In September 2018, as part of the National Campus Awareness Month, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) situated in the United States Department of Justice, published survey statistics on sexual violence on American college campuses. Unsurprisingly, young women are victims of the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. According to the statistics, in 2017, one in 10 teens reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend and, one in 5 young women were sexually assaulted while they were in college.

Researchers, activists and journalists have significantly studied the risk factors of sexual victimization and intervention outcomes on college campuses, this blog post explores the administrative and budgeting challenges of implementing policies to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.  In this commentary, I argue on behalf of budgeting for sexual violence, not just exclusively on college campuses but, also earlier on in schools and later on in the workplace. While objective policy reports and strong legislations are an essential pre-requisite, mandatory budgeting for the implementation and sustenance of these policy solutions and legislations is imperative. 

In the recent decades federal programs and state laws have ensured steady funding to programs targeted at preventing sexual violence on American campuses. For instance, the OVW currently administers 25 grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and subsequent legislation. The OVW’s campus program claims to have awarded more than $131 million to colleges and universities since, 1998 to help them improve their prevention and response efforts. These programs are designed to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable The OVW even performs evaluations of the effectiveness of its campus grants and qualitatively measures successful outcomes

However, despite OVW’s efforts we know that funding alone doesn’t reduce the incidence of sexual assault.  There is evidence that colleges and universities that have received federal grant money are being increasingly investigated for Title XI violations. What then is the solution? 

Scope and circumstances resulting in sexual violence occur much before female students enter college campuses. Sexual violence is rampant across middle and high schools in America, and the statistics are staggeringly disturbing. 

K-12 school infrastructure in the United States is grossly ill-equipped to combat sexual violence, neither are there policies, nor is there streamlined government funding to middle and high schools. 

In addition, the very expanse of American school and college education is mindboggling.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) there are some 139,874 elementary and secondary schools and 7,201 post-secondary institutions as of 2016. From an administrative standpoint it would be unrealistic for the OVW to consistently administer and evaluate grant money to all these institutions. How then, do American schools and colleges wage warfare against proliferating sexual abuse on campus? The answer might be in Gender Responsive Budgeting.  

What is Gender Responsive Budgeting?

Public administration scholars argue that: social and economic structural differences between men and women cause marked differences in the impact of government resource allocation and expenditure especially, in sectors such as public health, public education, public transport and public childcare. Structural differences between men and women refer to: women earning and saving less at interrupted intervals, women being over-represented in the unpaid care economy, women having discontinuous work histories and, women disproportionately being victims of sexual violence. Hence, budget statements which are presented as ‘neutral’ financial aggregates can hardly be unbiased or impartial if the revenue and expenditure decisions have differential impacts on men, women, transgendered, disabled and minorities. 

Recognizing these inherent discrepancies in resource allocation, close to 80 countries around the world have implemented gender responsive budgeting at the federal, state or local levels since, 1985. Yet, the United States, despite its poor ranking on gender parity has remained agnostic to gender responsive budgeting and has refused to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – a landmark international bill that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world.

To fight sexual violence on college campuses, institutions might have to start accounting, acknowledging and appropriating resources for sexual abuse earlier in the education pipeline. The government might also have to mandatorily require budgeting for the prevention of sexual violence in both public and private sector organizations. It is time that school districts, state and the federal government recognize that the ‘experience’ of formal education is different for girls and women in America. To create a gender-neutral learning environment, we need to budget for the (obvious) incidence of sexual violence earlier on. 

Shilpa will be presenting her research on Gender Responsive Budgeting along with gender scholars Dr. Helisse Levine and Dr. Meghna Sabharwal at the ASPA 2019 National Conference in Washington D.C. If you happen to be at the conference this March 8-12th, do stop by to learn more about Gender Responsive Budgeting. 

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About the author:

Shilpa Viswanath
Ph.D Candidate at Rutgers University

Shilpa Viswanath is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University – Newark. Her doctoral thesis looks at Public Sector Unionism in New Jersey and is being co-advised by Dr. Norma Riccucci and Dr. Stephanie Newbold . Shilpa is closely associated with American Society for Public Administration’s – Section for Women in Public Administration (SWPA). In fall 2019, Shilpa will begin teaching at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse as an Assistant Professor of Public Administration.

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Supporting the #MeToo Movement with a Long-Overdue #UsToo Movement

group of people near wall
by Mohamad G. Alkadry, Ph.D:

Women and men in academia are entitled to a decent learning environment and a safe workplace where they can learn and work. Women and men are also entitled to equality in professional development and growth opportunities. The recent #MeToo movement has made many of us wonder when the movement will fully reach academia.

Sexual harassment and assault are mostly about power, and academia is generally not known for power-free departments and faculties. I was disappointed with the extent to which academia has been spared much of the #MeToo attention. I am also disappointed by the lack of substantial proactive action on the part of academic departments and units. 

The bravery of the movement earns my unreserved respect and I am glad to see this issue forced to the forefront of public attention. There is no surprise that some women face these terrible atrocities in what is supposed to safe workplaces. Women who have exposed such practices are brave and assume risks to their careers as well as within their own lives. 

The Anita Hill testimony during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not end the accused nominee’s court prospects. However, the testimony left an unmistakable impact on organizations in terms of dealing with sexual harassment complaints. Organizations then scrambled to add sexual harassment to their human resources policy manuals. Things appear quite different with the organizational response to the #MeToo movement. Organizations tend to wait for an allegation, and respond by firing the offender and/or they financially settle with the victims. We have reduced ourselves to the role of spectators waiting for the next spectacle of sexual harassment or assault story to break out. That is a reactionary approach.  

We, as a society, might be failing victims of sexual behavior and assault if we continue to rely exclusively on them to expose perpetrators of sexual offenders and harassers among us. In fact, in many cases, non-victims know who these people are and what they are doing. However, we don’t start paying attention until a victim comes forward. There may be a reasonable respect for victims’ privacy that discourages many of us from outing victims as we expose perpetrators. Nonetheless, allowing a known perpetrator to continue to survive in organizations is a bad outcome and there should be ways to reconcile protecting victims and exposing perpetrators. 

How can academic units be proactive about sexual harassment questions? There are many ways for us to do. Climate assessments are just a small example. They may be used to take the pulse of an organization. We can ask if someone was ever subjected to sexual harassment or bullying or assault in a workplace; we should also ask people in these climate studies if they heard of or know about such instances. If a climate assessment raises a red flag, we can investigate further and move to expose these perpetrators. Waiting for victims to come forward is an indicator of a sick organizational culture. Exposing perpetrators before a victim comes forward is the true sign of organizational health.

It is good that the #MeToo movement is getting perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual assault busted. However, a better measure of our decency as employers, as colleagues, and as a society is when we bust perpetrators before victims are ready to come out. Let us all look around and do our part to ensure that our organizations are safe workplaces. That is what an #UsToo movement would look like. 

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About the author:

Mohamad G. Alkadry, Ph.D
Professor and Head of the Public Policy Department 
at the University of Connecticut

Mohamad G. Alkadry serves as a Professor and Head of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. He previously held academic and administrative appointments, and was tenured at, Florida International University in Miami, FL, West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. 

He received his Ph.D. from Florida Atlantic University (2000) and his Masters of Public Policy and Public Administration from Concordia University in Quebec (1996). His undergraduate work was done at Carleton University in Canada (2002, 2004) and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. 

Dr. Alkadry has over 50 peer-reviewed articles, peer-reviewed book chapters, journal symposia. He is also co-editor and co-author of three books: Women and Public Service: Barriers, Challenges and Opportunities (2013, 2014),These Things Happen: Stories from the Public Sector (2002), andScaling Up Microenterprise Services(1998). His work appears in Review of Public Personnel Administration, International Journal of Organizational Theory and Behavior, Public Administration Review, Administration and Society, Public Integrity, Journal of Education Finance, Social Work in Health Care,Public Productivity and Management Review,Public Administration and Management,Administrative Theory and Praxis, among other journals. 

Dr. Alkadry’s practitioner experience includes service as a senior research associate at the Center for Urban Redevelopment and Empowerment (Florida Atlantic University) and as a Value-for-Money (performance) Auditor with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (Ottawa). Dr. Alkadry has authored in excess of fifty community and professional studies in areas of governance and public management. 

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Returning to the Roots of #MeToo and Unanswered Questions for Academia to Tackle

silhouette of man
by David M. Shapiro, CPA:

The ‘me too’ movement began as a collective voice to aid victims from low-wealth communities, yet its statistics do not directly and specifically address issues of wealth, income, and class.

While National Crime Victimization Survey statistics disclose an approximate per capita consistency of sexual assaults from 2015 to 2017 (i.e., 1.6; 1.1; 1.4 per 1,000, respectively), and EEOC statistics from 1997 through 2011 on sexual harassment disclose an uptick in no reasonable cause findings from 41.40% to 53% arising from sexual harassment charges filed over this period (with EEOC charges received declining from 15,889 in fiscal year ’97 to 11,364 in ’11), the likelihood of underreporting sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment in the workplace, imprecisely and noticeably persists at the grassroots level monitored by organizations such as ‘me too.’ Like much public data, drilling down into individual cases seems both impractical and undesirable, yet a distinction should be made between absence of a formal record and absence of an underlying act of sexual misconduct. 

A detailed itemization of reasons not to report publicly need not be exhaustively recited (e.g., personal relationship with the offender, fear of retaliation, lack of belief in the helpfulness of the criminal justice system). In fact, BJS statistics for years 2015 and 2016 suggest that almost one-half of serious violent victimizations, including sexual assault, are not reported to the police. Unfortunately, obstacles to reportingmay not be limited to the U.S.

Perhaps, the ‘me too’ movement has amplified otherwise silent voices in seeming opposition to the perception that some voices count more than others. Moving beyond the formal criminal justice system, including police, public prosecutors, and judges, the ‘me too’ voice is louder in concert with other voices not contingent upon support from this system of justice but amplified through informal mutuality of victimhood. However, while ‘me too’ serves to organize informally victims of reported and unreported sexual misconduct and gives them a social media platform, it does not mitigate information risk (i.e., assurance of integrity of the claim). Additionally, all categories of sexual-related wrongdoing are not equivalent: crimes are heterogeneous in their fact patterns and seriousness. A set of rules and effective process are necessary to analyze the relevant conduct apart from overbroad legal offense jargon that may serve to aggregate disparate data misleadingly and impair the development of theoretical and conceptual research about causation. 

The reports of victims are varied. Ultimate causes need to be identified and parsed out or inferred from proximate causes. For example, while unchecked executive discretion may cause one incident, another may be the immediate result of situational dynamics such as individuals working long together in invisible venues (e.g., business travel). While non-consensual sexual conduct is wrongful, superficially consensual conduct in fact (i.e., circumstances of assent) may be deemed non-consensual in law (e.g., sexual conduct against a minor). In particular, inequality in the relationship (e.g., instructor over student) may be an under examined factor of causation, and in general the data gathered from criminal justice sources may not adequately represent the problems. 

The original vision of ‘me too’ seems to be neglected: are there disparities in wealth, income, and class such that this broad power imbalance results in unequal protection under the law? Are the laws adequate both in scope of protection and range of enforcement? Are there proxies or instrumental variables from which to infer the frequency and severity of sexual misconduct in the workplace? Are there key variables such as social, economic, and political inequalities that influence reporting within the criminal justice system? Is mitigation of the risk of sexual misconduct more a managerial than a legal problem; if so, how would the public and policymakers become adequately informed about potentially proprietary data in the private sector; how are the managers to be governed without robust access to information by impartial and independent regulators and supervisors? The data accumulated and analyzed to date seem materially incomplete from which to draw clear solutions and changes to public policy.

I propose the following action items for academia, the most respected fact-finders in our society, investigating like a multidisciplinary task force:

Secondary research should be conducted, using systematic and other reviews of authoritative literature, to assess the limits, strengths, and deficiencies in existing policies and laws, both domestically and internationally. The problem(s) demands a clearer and more general formulation. As data sources vary by jurisdiction (e.g., the American states’ reports) and the problem of sexual misconduct seems to transcend not only American state boundaries but countries’ boundaries, there would likely be an abundance of literature demanding further analysis and reconciliation. Common factors needs to be parsed out of the disparate literature to develop a more transparent assessment of causality. Moreover, experts across jurisdictions, including institutions focused on sexual misconduct such as ‘me too,’ could provide insight beyond the statistics generated through official sources. Consideration may be given to identifying underexplored units of analysis such as the workplace, especially within the context of how policy and law are actually implemented and their effects on the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of reporting on sexual misconduct. Essentially, secondary research should not only integrate prior authoritative findings but interrogate these as well: substantial issues such as data deficiencies and policy limitations to remedy such deficiencies require identification and analysis across jurisdictions, determining what works (or not).  

Theoretical and conceptual research should be conducted, using case studies and other explorations of sexual misconduct inside and outside the workplace to postulate common factors heretofore covert or under-researched (e.g., effects of unchecked managerial discretion, effects of monopolization of the criminal investigative and prosecutorial processes, inconsistency and unreliability of accountability mechanisms such as internal watchdogs / auditors). The development of comparative case studies across jurisdictions, domestic and international, would likely provide a fertile source of information about sexual misconduct, including how it progresses, how it evades detection, how accountability is impaired, and so on. Comparative case studies may be especially important with crimes such as sexual misconduct where personal and professional boundaries are stretched, if not perverted. Broadly, sexual misconduct often implicates an overbearing aggressor and under protected victim. How accountability mechanisms did not succeed in the prevention or timely detection of many of these cases is an issue that demands in-depth interviews of a highly intimate nature that may fill out the bare statistics and data gathered to date. Essentially, theoretical and conceptual discussion should move beyond past statements: grassroots responses such as ‘me too’ may signify both policy and data failures. Problem solving may benefit from such analytical and creative restatement.    

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About the author:

David M. Shapiro, CPA
Fraud Risk and Financial Crimes Specialist

David M. Shapiro, CPA (inactive) is a Fraud Risk and Financial Crimes Specialist. He is also an expert generally on financial investigations and law enforcement. His extensive background includes work as an FBI (public sector) special agent / assistant legal advisor, assistant (public) prosecutor, and corporate (private sector) investigator. In brief, David has focused on conduct and financial crime risks.

David serves as a Distinguished Lecturer and Coordinator of the Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics program at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, instructing in the fields of inspection and oversight, fraud examination, and financial forensics (FEFF). He is the coordinator for the FEFF program. He has published articles in the areas of accounting, finance, and risk management. He recently wrote a special chapter for the book “How They Got Away With It: White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown.”

David was an expert management consultant, having completed assignments in the fields of risk management, fraud investigations, and investor due diligence in a variety of contexts, including mergers and acquisitions. To contact David please use his professional email address: or work telephone no.: (212)393-6882.

Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

The Commonality of #MeToo in Academia: Why we need to change

grayscale photo of man walking on street near buildings
by Shannon Portillo, Ph.D.:

As a graduate student I attended the Midwest Political Science Associate conference. It was my first academic conference, and I was excited to meet many of the scholars I had read in the field. I was fortunate to attend a dinner with quite a few senior scholars. After the dinner I was thrilled to be invited out for drinks with some of them. At the end of the evening, one of them insisted on walking me back to my hotel. I naively thought it was a faculty member being overly protective of a student in a city at night. Unfortunately, once we arrived in front of my hotel and I tried to say goodnight, he tried to force a kiss on me. Maybe he didn’t recognize the gross inequity in power in the positions we had. Maybe he was just acting on an attraction. He sent me into a spiral of questioning my own worth and intelligence. Maybe I would never be taken seriously as a scholar. Maybe I didn’t belong at that conference or in this field. Maybe there was something uniquely wrong with me. 

The power of the #MeToo movement founded by Tarana Burke is the power of storytelling. When Ms. Burke started the hashtag that eventually went viral with the help of celebrities, scholars, students, and women from every walk of life, she knew her story and her trauma were not unique. It’s the commonality in these stories that is truly horrifying and moving. 

I told a friend, a fellow graduate student, my story at the time, but I knew there was no complaint to file, no public outrage. I felt like an interloper in a field dominated by men. I didn’t want to speak out or seem high maintenance or call attention to my otherness in this space. As I progressed in graduate school and early in my career, I learned that other women had similar stories. There were whispers shared about scholars you shouldn’t be alone with or who the safe men really were in the field. I learned as best I could, and navigated the field based on whispers and guidance from strong mentors of all genders. I knew early on I wanted to become a leader in the field, I wanted to mentor future generations of scholars, and ensure that other students didn’t experience what I had. I don’t want to be a part of a field that is seen as only old, white, and male.  

Unfortunately, the #MeToo movement has shown that my story is not unique. Fortunately, the #MeToo movement has also shown that there are brave women willing to speak out, share their stories, and demand that things change. Public administration is not exempt from this moment. Our field must change. We should support women speaking up and sharing their stories. But, this moment is not just about women sharing their stories. We should encourage senior scholars of all genders to be strong mentors and create an environment where we don’t turn the other way when we hear whispers about our colleagues. This is a moment for senior colleagues to recognize that they set the tone for what is acceptable and tolerated, and who is seen as belonging to our field. Let’s all ensure that the stories about our field are the ways that we lift each out up and push the scholarship forward. 

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About the author:

Shannon Portillo, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice Chancellor 
KU Edwards Campus 
Associate Professor
School of Public Affairs & Administration
Twitter: @Prof_SP 

Shannon Portillo is Assistant Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Programs at the KU Edwards Campus and an Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. Dr. Portillo takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work pulling on organizational theories rooted in Public Administration and Law and Society to explore how rules and policies are carried out within public organizations. To date she has done work in a broad array of organizations including local government, the military, courts,  policing, and higher education. Using a variety of methods, she collects empirical data to assess how social, cultural and legal factors influence the day-to-day operations in these organizations. Teaching and research interests include social equity, social justice, organizational theory, and law and public management. Her work has appeared in Law & Policy, Administration & Society, Law & Social Inquiry, Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory and Public Administration Review among other outlets.