This sort of harassment in academia had little history of resulting in punishment. “If you think of maybe the last person on earth who would do this, you would think it would be the dean of one of the most prestigious law schools in the country,” John D. Winer, Sorrell’s lawyer, told The New York Times last year. Unfortunately, Winer is off the mark. The open secret in academia is how many women face sexual harassment on a regular basis. A 2015 survey conducted by the Association of American Universities at 27 elite private and public research universities found that roughly one in 10 female graduate students states that she has been sexually harassed by a faculty member at her university. Although some critics questioned the study’s methodology, suggesting it may have resulted in an overestimation, the results demonstrate that academia is by no means immune to the kind of harassment people are speaking out about in entertainment and media.
And the harassment can often be severe. A recent study of harassment complaints by graduate students against faculty members surveyed 221 reported cases at 210 institutions, the majority of which occurred since 2000, and found that the faculty harassers accused were more often accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and that more than half of the cases studied—53 percent—involved alleged serial harassers. In the law, the humanities, and the sciences, the stories are legion. So when will colleges and universities face their #MeToo moment?