Tag Archives: “innocent until proven guilty”

Ethics Quiz Of The Day: What’s None Of Harvard’s Business?

Now we own you.

Boy, Harvard is getting like the Candyman (no, not Willy Wonka, the horror movie version): mention its name enough times, and it appears behind you, with mayhem on its mind.

A case filed in federal court by a Harvard University student, “John Doe,” argues that the school overstepped  its authority by investigating him for a rape allegation lodged by a non-student in a city where police declined to prosecute. He contends that Harvard did not have the authority to open an investigation into sexual assault allegations levied by a non-Harvard student regarding an incident that did not take place on University property. “Doe” demands that Harvard end the investigation and pay him $75,000 in damages, as well as compensate him for any costs incurred during litigation.

Doe’s suit states that, during summer 2017, Doe and “Jane Roe” ( the unnamed woman he allegedly raped) were both working internships in Washington, D.C. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department investigated the alleged assault but ultimately decided not to prosecute the case. “Roe” has filed a civil suit against the Harvard student.

The University’s Office for Dispute Resolution opened an investigation into Doe in October 2018

Harvard University’s policies related to sexual and gender-based misconduct, readable here, apply only to misconduct perpetrated by students while on campus or in connection with University-recognized activities. The  guidelines followed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are more expansive, as it states that the school  may hold all students to the expectation that they behave in a “in a mature and responsible manner” no matter where they are.

“It is the expectation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that all students, whether or not they are on campus or are currently enrolled in a degree program, will behave in a mature and responsible manner. Consistent with this principle, sexual and gender-based misconduct are not tolerated by the FAS even when, because they do not have the effect of creating a hostile environment for a member of the University community, they fall outside the jurisdiction of the University Policy.”

Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, new Title IX guidelines proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and released by the department last month stipulate that schools are not required to open investigations into alleged acts of sexual misconduct that took place outside the bounds of a school “program or activity.”

Doe’s suit charges Harvard with breach of contract and breach of covenant of faith and fair dealing. In allowing him to attend classes in exchange for “substantial amounts of money,” Harvard created a reasonable expectation that Doe would earn a degree from the school. One possible result of an ODR investigation would be expulsion.

“Harvard has breached, and is breaching, its contractual obligations by subjecting Mr. Doe to a disciplinary process that—in the ways, and for the reasons, set out above—is arbitrary, capricious, malicious, and being conducted in bad faith,” the complaint states. ODR informed Doe that the investigation is based on Roe’s allegations. In an email submitted as an exhibit in the lawsuit,  ODR’s senior investigator wrote that the College Title IX coordinator filed the case, then reached out to Roe to ask her to participate as a complainant in the investigation. Doe asked Harvard to temporarily suspend the investigation pending the results of Roe’s civil suit. Doe stated a simultaneous ODR investigation would have a “serious impact” on his ability to defend himself in the ongoing civil case, according to the complaint.

Harvard, noting that the D.C. police was not going to investigate the allegations, rejected the request.

Let’s put aside the law and Harvard’s policies for now, and stick to ethics.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

“Is it fair for a college to investigate alleged misconduct, including crimes, on the part of student, when the conduct occurs in a different city and local police have declined to take action?”

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Filed under Education, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The Bad Guys, Continued.

“Good morning,”

…he said through grimly clenched teeth…

1 My pledge. That’s it. I’ve had it. Every single time I read or hear a reference to how women accusing men of sexual assault or harassment have a “right to be believed,” and anytime I read or hear someone quoting such a reference with approval, I’m going to point out in the strongest possible terms how sinister, unethical, and certifiably stupid this is. If you want to believe Dr. Ford’s dredged up memories of a party—somewhere—where she was jumped and groped by two drunk teens, go ahead. You do have a right to believe anything, including in the Hindu elephant god,  the brilliance of Sean Hannity, and the virtue of Bill Clinton: I don’t care. Be gullible. Asserting that women have some special chromosome-based right to be judged 100% reliable when they make damning and destructive accusations against men violates all standards of logic, ethics, equal protection, fairness , justice and common sense, and threatens tangible harm to innocent citizens and society. It needs to be condemned, and those making it must be condemned until this insidious, ideologically-spawned Big Lie is killed, squashed, burned and vaporized for all time.

For some reason, the tipping point for me was not the nauseating conduct of the Democratic Senators yesterday, which included a dramatic multi-NO! from perhaps the worst of them—well, after Diane Feinstein—Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, the one who told Jake Tapper that the very fact of being a conservative is sufficient to disqualify Brett Kananaugh from any presumption of innocence. Stalin reasoned like that. That Hawaii would elect such an un-American, totalitarian-minded fool—she is more ignorant than evil, I think, but I could be wrong—to represent the state is enough to make me resolve to vacation elsewhere when the tropical breezes beckon. What a disgrace she is, and any voters who would allow someone like that to have access to power.  But no, what made me snapo was a small note in today’s paper about how Rep. Leonard Nance’s race to be re-elected to his New Jersey Congressional seat was seen as threatened because he “seemed to cast doubt on Ms Blasey’s allegations” in remarks to a group of college Republicans.

What the hell? Her allegations are over three decades old, she never spoke of them until a SCOTUS nominee she opposed was about to be confirmed, she has no corroboration or evidence whatsoever, and the man she accused uncategorically denies her story under oath. There is nothing but doubt in this controversy. If you don’t see doubt, then you are a bigot, a hopelessly close-minded ideologue, or incapable of rational thought. Continue reading

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Noonish Ethics Warm-Up. 9/27/18: “You’re The Bad Guys,” Cont.

Hi!

1. Unethical in its simplicity. An esteemed commenter insists, “Any witnesses who allege that Kavanaugh assaulted them should be allowed to testify.” This is either naive (incompetent) or intellectually dishonest. The Democratic Party’s stated objective is to delay a confirmation vote until after the Fall election, in the Hail Mary hope that the Senate will flip to them. There should be no question that the party, now thoroughly corrupted by a mindset holding that anything—lies, character assassination, perjury, misrepresentation, defiling of due process—is justified if it will protect abortion rights and its own power, would manipulate such a rule for political benefit, would recruit an endless series of politically motivated accusers if it could accomplish the objective of running out the clock.

The “any witnesses” flaw was amply demonstrated by yesterday’s fiasco. “New Kavanaugh allegations!” my late TV news screamed. By this morning, the entire story had fallen apart, and yet that ridiculous account (an anonymous woman claimed she was assaulted on a boat in Newport by a drunken “Brett” and friend, so an anonymous man beat them up) added to the designed false impression that multiple, verified, credible witnesses were confirming that Brett Kavanaugh is, as that same esteemed commenter has suggested, a serial sexual predator.

A witness whose claims are raised in a timely manner (that is before hearings begin allowing time for investigation and a response from the accused), whose account meets minimum standards of plausibility, whose accusation involves conduct relevant to a nominee’s fitness to serve, and whose story did not occur so long ago that verification or rebuttal is impossible, should be allowed to testify.

Those qualifications eliminate all of Kavanaugh’s accusers, as well as Anita Hill. Continue reading

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Last Minute Sunday Ethics Smorgasbord, 9/23/18

Good night.

1. Hotel ethics. My hotel in Boston happily offered a bargain rate, but didn’t explain why they had a bargain rate: it is under remodeling and construction. No restaurant. “Hinky” cell phone service (translation; cell phone calls cut off mid call. Also, the remodeled rooms have some bugs to work out. I thought I was going crazy because I couldn’t find an outlet for my computer by the desk. Oops! It’s across the room, in a dark corner. The desk clerk had to hunt for it. “I guess we have to fix that,” he said, abashed. I guess.

Hotels under construction never tell you they are under construction, but they have nice “pardon our dust!’ signs, and others that say, “We are making a better hotel experience!”  Maybe for the guests next month, but I’m here now.

2. “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”  [ Is this the most famous and useful quote from a really bad movie?] I really thought, stupid me, that the conduct of Democrats and “the resistance” in the Brett Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck couldn’t get any more unethical or revolting after my long update post this morning. After all, it’s a Sunday! Don’t the Unethical rest? Obviously not:

  • Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Ha) wrapped up an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month award on Sunday by telling a stunned Jake Tapper that she didn’t believe conservatives deserved a presumption of innocence, or, apparently, due process. But these are the un-American totalitarian values that progressives are promoting today. Does the public understand what this will mean for the country?

Asked by Tapper if she would concede that Kavanaugh deserves to be proven guilty before he is presumed guilty, Hirono said that a conservative judicial philosophy reduces his credibility. “I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” Hirono said.”His credibility is already very questionable in my mind. …  When I say that he’s very outcome-driven, he has an ideological agenda, and I can sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplify his, in my view, inability to be fair.”

Would that Jake, who is one of the fairer broadcast journalists, had the guts and integrity to ask, “Wait—your party ran Hillary Clinton, who helped get her husband elected by intimidating his sexual assault victims, your party lionized Senator Kennedy, who left a young woman to drown rather than deal with questions regarding why he was with her late at night on a remote road, your party’s deputy chairman has been credibly accused of domestic abuse, Harvey Weinstein was one of Hillary’s major contributors in 2016, and you’re saying that Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility is questionable? And you’re arguing that a judge with no blemishes on his record should be presumed guilty because he’s not fair? Do you not see the irony in that?” [Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!] Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

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