Politics June 4, 2018: Out-of-touch with #MeToo, Bill Clinton faces backlash over defiance about not apologizing to Monica Lewinsky

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Out-of-touch with #MeToo, Bill Clinton faces backlash over defiance about not apologizing to Monica Lewinsky

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: The Today Show Screenshot

The #MeToo movement is making men everywhere reckon and confront their actions but not former President Bill Clinton. Clinton appeared in a joint interview on NBC’s Today Show on Monday morning with mystery author James Patterson for their new book “The President Is Missing” when Weekend co-host Craig Melvin confronted the former president about former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Melvin shocked a seemingly unprepared Clinton asking him if he ever personally apologized to Lewinsky. In the #MeToo public apologies on rote have become the norm, the let the aggressors, mostly men, find a way for the public to forgive them as a means to salvage their careers. Clinton is now facing a backlash for his defiant response from both liberal and conservatives, men and women, proving although Clinton is living in 1998; the rest of the world is not when it comes to the scandal that nearly brought down his presidency.

Melvin asked Clinton if he would have dealt with the scandal resulting from the fallout from his affair with Lewinsky differently in the time of the #MeToo and “Through the lens of #MeToo now, do you think differently or feel more responsibility?… Did you ever apologize to her [Lewinsky]?” Melvin also asked the former president whether he should have resigned amidst the scandal that led to him being on the second president ever impeached in American history. Clinton was impeached on charges of obstruction of justice and lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky. Clinton responded with the same arrogant defiance that he maintained as the scandal unfolded. Responding to whether he personally apologized to Lewinsky, and “Do you feel that you owe her an apology?” Clinton answered Melvin, “I do not. I have never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public. I felt terrible then, and I came to grips with it.”

Clinton became agitated and defensive saying he would not have done anything different in this #MeToo climate, arguing he too was a victim, punished enough for his actions. Clinton told Melvin, “No, yes. And nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt. But you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this. And I bet you don’t even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me. They were not insensitive of that. I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the ’80s. I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were overrepresented in the attorney general’s office in the ’70s for their percentage of the bar. I’ve had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left. You are giving one side and omitting facts.”

When responding to whether he should have resigned, Clinton conveniently referred to the allegations President Donald Trump is facing. Attacking Melvin, Clinton accused, “A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work, I think partly because they’re frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office and his voters don’t seem to care. I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.” Democratic New York Senator and former Clinton ally Kirsten Gillibrand caused shock waves when this past November when she told the New York Times she believed Clinton should have resigned during the scandal in 1998. It was the first time a high-ranking Democrat, indicated Clinton should have resigned.

Clinton has escaped the leper status that is so common against men accused in the #MeToo era, not only because of the power of being a former president but also because of his public apology to the nation on August 17, 1998, where he acknowledged his affair with Lewinsky. Clinton then admitted, “Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.” That speech, however, consisted of Clinton’s same defiance, never did he say he was sorry or apologized for his actions, he only admitted he misled and he regrets them. Kathleen Hayden in CNN wrote an article, “Analysis: More Apology, Mr. President, And Less Politics, Please,” where Hayden said, “The speech was laced with legal doublespeak and a sharp, defiant edge.” Time even called it a “stony-faced White House address.”

One month later at the National Prayer Breakfast Clinton finally admitted, “I sinned.” Finally, Clinton publicly apologized. Clinton expressed in his speech, “I don’t think there’s a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everyone who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine — first and most important, my family, my friends, my staff, my cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.” That was the only time Clinton apologized to Lewinsky or anyone, for his actions that put in the country in a crisis for no reason, and the pain and suffering that those involved went through and continued to go in through in the aftermath especially Lewinsky. Right or wrong, his apology has given him a pass with a majority of the American public and most probably the main reason he was spared from being convicted by the Senate in their impeachment vote, and let him escape being forced to resign from the presidency in 1998.

The #MeToo has revisited not only the prevalent sexual abuse and harassment that was pushed under the rug but also the meaning of consent especially when there is a difference in power between the two parties. The lopsided power in employment, at universities, relationships between bosses and employees and professors and students particularly. In light of this, Lewinsky, who persistently claimed it, was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky is not the only one reconsidering the relationship and President Clinton’s actions, so is the media.

Recently, Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky emphasized, “If I have learned anything since then, it is that you cannot run away from who you are or from how you’ve been shaped by your experiences. Instead, you must integrate your past and present. As Salman Rushdie observed after the fatwa was issued against him, ‘Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.’ I have been working toward this realization for years. I have been trying to find that power — a particularly Sisyphean task for a person who has been gaslighted.”

Unlike Clinton, Lewinsky realizes how the #MeToo movement era changes how one looks at the Clinton era scandal. Lewinsky acknowledged “Until recently (thank you, Harvey Weinstein), historians hadn’t really had the perspective to fully process and acknowledge that year of shame and spectacle. And as a culture, we still haven’t properly examined it. Re-framed it. Integrated it. And transformed it.” On the reconsideration of her relationship with Clinton, Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)” It impossible to believe a recent university graduate and former White House intern had a choice in her relationship with the president of the country and most powerful man in the free world. The more powerful one, no matter what, always directed the direction of the relationship.

Lewinsky wrote the article in honor of the 20th anniversary since was thrust into the spotlight by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Lewinsky recounted meeting Starr for the first time, and seeing him “as a human being.” She was “paving the way” for Starr to apologize, telling him, “Though I wish I had made different choices back then. I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too.” All Starr did was respond, “I know. It was unfortunate.” Lewinsky never described how she felt like that he did not apologize, as Clinton did not. After the Today Show interview aired, Lewinsky tweeted “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.” She also reposted her February Vanity Fair article, saying, “worth reposting this today from @VanityFair.”

Since the #MeToo movement began in the fall of 2017, with the outing of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, powerful men in all industries; entertainment, journalism, politics academia, and business have seen their stars fall as women came forward accusing them of sexual assault or harassment. Legal vindication came with actor Bill Cosby finally being convicted in April of his sexual assaults and Harvey Weinstein’s arrest indictment on felony rape charges at the end of May. The movement has given women once silenced and their credibility destroyed by these men, a voice, and power, now a simple accusation is enough to destroy and turn the tables on the men. Somehow, for all the accusations of misconduct, Clinton has escaped this fate and he has been continually favored despite his gross abuse of power.

The #MeToo movement has seen very little similar apologies whether sincere or not, there has been little “genuine repentance” as Clinton said was necessary. To apologize is to admit defeat and that one is wrong, an almost impossible task for powerful men, who always believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. Public apologies have become the norm, but very few have been genuine and concerned for the victim. Mostly, these men have been looking for a way to salvage their careers, public apologies can help, especially if they show enough remorse as Clinton did. Rarely, however, do they feel the need to apologize privately it serves no purpose on the global stage; the lack of true remorse renders it unnecessary for most aggressors.

Online publication the Perspective wrote an article “on the public apology” describing the different times and repercussions for victims. Author Malkie Khutoretsky writes, “On the heels of #MeToo movement, public apologies for sexual misconduct are being issued on a loop.” The publication listed the benefits and drawbacks of a public apology, and concluded, “A public apology for sexual misconduct is owed as an admission of guilt and a step to healing. But who does the public apology benefit more, the abuser or the victim of sexual abuse or harassment?” As much as the public wants to grade the apologies, what is worse is never receiving an apology that even remotely acknowledges any wrongdoing at all. It shows that the aggressor does not even believe he was wrong at all in his actions.

As someone who has had a #MeToo experience having gone through harassment and retaliation and the everlasting fall out in my life both personally and professionally, I believe any apology has a value and a power. I would have appreciated any recognition that what this man, who was in a position of power, did to me was wrong, and that his conduct was not only wrong towards me but morally wrong considering his position. Although he hypocritically supports the #MeToo movement and religiously believes in forgiveness, I know he would never apologize, because like other men in power and like Clinton, unless their careers are in peril they would never admit they were wrong, and this one always believes he is right. Unfortunately, the same arrogance to makes these men act in the first place makes them unable to feel the remorse necessary to make a private apology and admit any defeat.

An April 2018 article by the Associated Press asks just that, “Can there be forgiveness, second chances in the age of #MeToo?” According to experts, there can be forgiveness if the apologies are genuine and recount exactly what they did wrong to their victims. The article’s author Michelle R. Smith claims, “Forgiveness must be possible if society wants to reduce instances of sexual misconduct, but experts say, it will take work and willingness to change from both the perpetrators and society at large.” Jennifer A. Thompson, an assistant professor of applied Jewish ethics and civic engagement at California State University also believes it is possible. Thompson explains that in the Jewish tradition, “You have to go to the person you hurt and ask, ‘What can I do to make this right?’” Thompson believes that model of redemption could work in the age of #MeToo.

Lesley Wexler, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law concurs, and believes in “restorative justice.” Wexler told the AP, “Part of what should be happening here is personal. Making amends to the victim, restoring the victim. And a separate part is acknowledging that the nature of this harm isn’t just the individual, you are a community. That suggests you also need to be public about what specifically was wrong and what you can do better.”

The interview comes barely a month after Town and Country rescinded their invite to Lewinsky for their philanthropy summit because Clinton would be giving an introduction. The outcry in the news and social media was almost as bad this time around with Clinton’s defiant remarks. Op-eds called Clinton out for not learning anything from the #MeToo movement and sticking to his politics as the usual mantra that was criticized when the scandal broke in 1998. The backlash to the former president’s remarks comes from both liberals and conservatives in the news and social media. Lewinsky was right in the social media age; she has been receiving all the support she needed and lacked while the scandal unfolded and the aftermath. As she wrote in Vanity Fair, “If the Internet was a bête noire to me in 1998, its stepchild — social media — has been a savior for millions of women today.”

Even before Clinton was asked about apologizing to Lewinsky, CNN anchor Jake Tapper and NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd criticized the former president on Todd’s “1947: The Meet the Press Podcast” on Thursday, May 24. Todd remarked, “It galls me that the former president hasn’t even simply apologized to her for ruining her life… Her life is never the same. He ruined it. He got to move on. I’ve never understood why he couldn’t simply apologize to her.” Tapper added, “It’s crazy, it’s crazy,” stating that Clinton “owes her the apology.”

On Twitter, commentators left and right attacked Clinton for his response. Conservative writer Amanda Carpenter tweeted, “Clinton says he apologized to “everyone in the world” and that he left the WH severely in debt because of the scandal. But that’s, in part, because they all lied about it for so long!” MSNBC NBC News Political Analyst Elise Jordan remarked, “Bill Clinton manages to make #MeToo about himself and evades @craigmelvin when asked if he ever apologized to Monica Lewinsky. Thanks @craigmelvin for asking an important and obvious question that WJC should be able to answer.” “Blue writer” Teri Carter concurred, “Bill Clinton STILL refuses to take responsibility for what he did to Monica Lewinsky. He has the “but what about me me me me me” complex.”

National Political Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC Steve Kornacki, observed, “His tone here — combative, aggrieved — really hasn’t changed in 20 years. This is the same Clinton the nation saw in that 7/98 primetime address in which he admitted the affair but stressed that “presidents have private lives.” While New York Times opinion contributor Maggie Haberman mocked, “Bill Clinton gets asked if he ever apologized to Lewinsky. He responds by saying Starr investigation was unfair.”

In news media, the commentators were not any more forgiving. Red State’s Sarah Quinlan writing “Bill Clinton has not learned anything from the #MeToo movement” for USA Today, claimed, “In the midst of the #MeToo movement, it would have been impressive and powerful for Clinton to demonstrate he had learned from the movement.” Emily Jashinsky’s article “Bill Clinton confronts #MeToo with smirks, arrogance” In the Washington Examiner, claims, “(Bill) Clinton seems to have missed the mood of the public, and expects to laugh and deflect his way through tough questions like it’s nothing, because for two decades his party dismissed those questions too.”

CNN political commentator SE Cupp wrote an op-ed on CNN, aptly titled, “Yep. Bill Clinton is still a monster.” Cupp opened her article, saying, “Former President Bill Clinton has just revealed the ultimate lessons he’s learned in the 20 years since his sordid affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to his impeachment: precisely, exactly none.” Cupp was immensely critical of Clinton’s response, “The president, grinning boyishly, insisting he did the right thing, boasting about having never delivered a personal apology to the young intern he once took advantage of in the Oval Office — is like watching a con artist brag about pulling one over on an unsuspecting family. The man is frighteningly, pathologically incapable of shame.”

CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza believes Clinton should apologize personally to Lewinsky in his article, “Bill Clinton still gets it wrong on Monica Lewinsky and #MeToo.” Cillizza called Clinton’s response “a remarkable — and remarkably bad — quote.” Cillizza pointed out, “Apologizing in a public setting — with the obvious dual intent of clearing the decks politically — isn’t the same thing as reaching out to Lewinsky personally to say sorry.” He believes Clinton “seems much more interested in how he was, ultimately, validated by the public than in talking about whether or not he should have apologized to Lewinsky.”

Cupp was right, Clinton’s “demeanor on NBC would make anyone wonder about his sincerity, then or now.” In this changing world, Clinton needs to acknowledge that he should apologize, but without any political gains on the table, he chooses not to keep up his charade of regret. Then Americans were taken in by that same charm that seems grossly out of touch with the changing times. The “genuine repentance” the former president claimed to have in September 1998, was a farce just to garner sympathy from the American public, who were easy patsies, sucked into his continuing web of deceit. Clinton’s response proves he sounds like all the accused men of the #MeToo movement; he was just looking out for his own survival, always.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a over dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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Politics May 10, 2018: Town and Country apologizes to Monica Lewinsky for uninviting her to summit over Bill Clinton, is it enough in the #MeToo era?

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Town and Country apologizes to Monica Lewinsky for uninviting her to summit over Bill Clinton, is it enough in the #MeToo era?

By Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS

Flickr

When is an apology enough? A day after former White House intern and anti-bullying advocate Monica Lewinsky “cryptically” announced on Twitter that she had been uninvited to a social change event by a magazine because former President Bill Clinton would be attending, the magazine apologized. On Thursday, May 10, 2018, Town and Country magazine apologized to Lewinsky via Twitter with a short concise message. Lewinsky’s tweets have gone viral with thousands of retweets and likes. The situation exploded so much that Clinton’s press secretary also commented on Twitter. The reprehensible and insulting act by the magazine was so archaic in the age of #MeToo movement that brings about the question was it enough to make amends?

On Thursday, Town and Country gave a quick apology to Lewinsky on Twitter, writing, “We apologize to Ms. Lewinsky and regret the way the situation was handled.” The public has not received the apology very well with many responding to magazine injustice chastising them. In her tweets, Lewinsky did not name there magazine instead, Huffington Post revealed Town and Country was the magazine that snubbed her from their invitation-only philanthropy summit. The apology was hardly enough and from their online publication and Twitter yesterday they were quite excited about having Clinton at their summit. Lewinsky must have agreed it was not enough, because she did not respond on Twitter.

The event, Lewinsky was referring in her tweets to was posh Town and Country magazine’s fifth annual philanthropy summit in New York at Hearst Tower. The magazine described those who were attending as “activists, game-changers, and leaders across the field of philanthropy, education, healthcare, and gun control.”

The magazine tweeted early in the day about Clinton’s attendance, writing, Welcome to the 2018 #TandCPhilanthropy Summit! Watch LIVE as @BillClinton of @ClintonFdn introduces @Emma4Change … https://t.co/IoNfCmwIFU — TOWN&COUNTRY (@TandCmag) May 9, 2018. Clinton introduced March for Our Lives panelists, which included including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, shooting survivors and gun control advocates students Emma González and Delaney Turr for the panel, “Rewriting the History of Violence.” The magazine has since listed a video of the former president’s introduction.

After trying to separate himself from the scandal that nearly brought down his presidency and led him to be only the second president ever impeached, Clinton quickly had his press secretary Angel Ureña disassociate him from the uninvite. Ureña took to Twitter on Wednesday evening, writing, “President Clinton was invited to address the Town & Country Philanthropy Summit. He gladly accepted. Neither he nor his staff knew anything about the invitation or it being rescinded.” The tweet, however, insultingly failed to mention and acknowledge Lewinsky by name. The most important point was to make Clinton unaware of the situation to the public, reminiscent of when he was president.

On Wednesday, Lewinsky wrote on Twitter, “Please don’t invite me to an event (esp one about social change) and — then after I’ve accepted — uninvite me because Bill Clinton then decided to attend/was invited. It’s 2018. Emily Post would def not approve.” Lewinsky then posted that it was a magazine that disinvited her, adding they offer to let her write an article in their publication. Lewinsky tweeted, “p.s. … and definitely, please don’t try to ameliorate the situation by insulting me with an offer of an article in your mag.” The original tweet has gone viral with over 170,000 likes.

Twenty years later and the whole issue with the disinviting is reminiscent of the bullying in the news when the scandal broke in 1998. Whereas Lewinsky was not believed at first, Clinton retained high poll numbers as she was vilified. Even after Clinton admitted he lied to the American public, he escaped impeachment, while Lewinsky became late-night fodder. She escaped the public eye for years, re-emerging in 2014 as a Vanity Fair contributor, where she wrote about the scandal and subsequent bullying in the article entitled “Shame and Survival.” She has since worked as a writer and anti-bullying advocate focusing particularly on cyberbullying and online harassment because she calls herself “patient zero,” the first to suffer from cyberbullying on a wide scale. In a 2015 TED Talk Lewinsky, expressed, “What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.”

The #Metoo has revisited not only the prevalent sexual abuse and harassment that was pushed under the rug but also the meaning of consent especially when there is a difference in power between the two parties. The lopsided power in employment, at universities, relationships between bosses and employees and professors and students particularly. In light of this, Lewinsky, who persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement.

Recently, Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)” It impossible to believe a recent university graduate and former White House intern had a choice in her relationship with the president of the country and most powerful man in the free world. The direction of the relationship was always directed by the more powerful one, no matter what.

Since the #MeToo movement began in the fall of 2017, with the outing of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, powerful men in all industries; entertainment, journalism, politics academia, and business have seen their stars fall as women came forward accusing them of sexual assault or harassment. Legal vindication came with actor Bill Cosby finally being convicted in April of his sexual assaults. The movement has given women once silenced and their credibility destroyed by these men a voice and power, now a simple accusation is enough to destroy and turn the tables on the men. Somehow, for all the accusations of misconduct, Clinton has escaped this fate and was favored despite his gross abuse of power.

Town and Country’s apology was almost as bad as offering Lewinsky a consolation prize for uninviting her to write in their publication. The #MeToo movement has seen many superficial apologies meant to spare reputations as opposed to genuine ones meant to actually make amends. In general, in this climate, they have not been well received by the victims or the public. Clinton has escaped the leper status and given another chance, not only because of the power of being a former president but because of his apology to the nation on August 17, 1998, where he admitted “I sinned” with his affair with Lewinsky and apologized to her for his actions. Right or wrong, his apology has given him a pass with a majority of the American public and most probably the main reason he was spared from being convicted by the Senate in their impeachment vote, and let him escape being forced to resign from the presidency in 1998.

The #MeToo movement has seen very little similar apologies whether sincere or not, there has been little “genuine repentance” as Clinton said was necessary. To apologize is to admit defeat and that one is wrong, an almost impossible task for powerful men, who always believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. An April 2018 article by the Associated Press asks just that “Can there be forgiveness, second chances in the age of #MeToo?” According to experts there can be if they are genuine and recount exactly what they did wrong to their victims.

The article’s author Michelle R. Smith claims, “Forgiveness must be possible if society wants to reduce instances of sexual misconduct, but experts say, it will take work and willingness to change from both the perpetrators and society at large.” Jennifer A. Thompson, an assistant professor of applied Jewish ethics and civic engagement at California State University also believes it is possible. Thompson explains that in the Jewish tradition, “You have to go to the person you hurt and ask, ‘What can I do to make this right?’” Thompson believes that model of redemption could work in the age of #MeToo.

Lesley Wexler, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law concurs, and believes in “restorative justice.” Wexler told the AP,“Part of what should be happening here is personal. Making amends to the victim, restoring the victim. And a separate part is acknowledging that the nature of this harm isn’t just the individual, you are a community. That suggests you also need to be public about what specifically was wrong and what you can do better.” The same can apply to Town and Country, they need to genuinely apologize to Lewinsky, they need to do better or else they sound like all the accused men of the #MeToo movement, just looking to save themselves.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Politics May 9, 2018: In the #MeToo era Town and Country magazine uninvites Monica Lewinsky from event because Bill Clinton attends

In the #MeToo era Town and Country magazine uninvites Monica Lewinsky from event because Bill Clinton attends

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Wikipedia Commons

The age of #MetToo is not enough to change the age of old views of sexism and abuse of power. History keeps repeating itself for former White House intern Monica Lewinsky as she yet again is at the receiving end of discrimination because of her past involvement with former President Clinton. On Tuesday, May 9, 2018, Lewinsky took to Twitter to announce she had been disinvited from an event on social change because Clinton would now be attending. Lewinsky tweeted about the incident but did not name the magazine, hosting the event, which is believed to be Town and Country and their philanthropy summit.

The affair and resulting scandal led Clinton to be only the second president impeached. Twenty years later the #MeToo movement has been outing sexual abuse and harassment from men in positions of power who abused it, then silenced these women or tarnished their credibility. It is shocking in this era for this type of preferential behaviors to still occur nevermind past an event on social change.

On Twitter Lewinsky wrote, “Please don’t invite me to an event (esp one about social change) and — then after I’ve accepted — uninvite me because Bill Clinton then decided to attend/was invited. It’s 2018. Emily Post would def not approve.” Lewinsky then posted that it was a magazine that disinvited her, adding they offer to let her write an article in their publication. Lewinsky tweeted, “p.s. … and definitely, please don’t try to ameliorate the situation by insulting me with an offer of an article in your mag.”

The tweet has gone viral, with the original tweet been retweeted over 4,500 times and liked over 27,000 times. The second post was retweeted over 400 times and liked nearly 5,000 times. The comments, however, have not all been supportive, with many taking her issue with her bringing up Emily Post’s rules of etiquette considering her affair with Clinton. The bullying in itself is symptomatic of the era of social media but disregards the change in philosophy the #metoo movement has brought about.

In 1998, almost every time President Clinton was mentioned in the news so was Lewinsky then 24 years old. For over six months from the time Matt Drudge broke news of the Clinton-Lewinsky involvement until mid-August when the president finally admitted to the affair and apologized and then with the September release of the Starr Report, throughout the fall when House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton for “high crimes and misdemeanors” perjury and obstruction of justice through to early 1999 when the Senate finally acquitted Clinton, one could not read or watch the news without Monica Lewinsky being discussed, analyzed, mocked and ridiculed. Lewinsky became involved with Clinton in November 1995, when she was a 22-year-old White House intern and the “encounters” and affair continued on into 1997. The relationship became public knowledge through the taped revelations of informant Linda Tripp in the midst of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case after Clinton had asked Lewinsky to lie in her deposition for the case about their involvement.

Twenty years later and the whole issue with the disinviting is reminiscent of the bullying in the news when the scandal broke. Whereas Lewinsky was not believed at first, Clinton retained high poll numbers as she was vilified. Even after Clinton admitted he lied to the American public, he escaped impeachment, while Lewinsky became late-night fodder. She escaped the public eye for years, re-emerging in 2014 as a Vanity Fair contributor, where she wrote about the scandal and subsequent bullying in the article entitled “Shame and Survival.” She has since worked as a writer and anti-bullying advocate focusing particularly on cyberbullying and online harassment because she calls herself “patient zero,” the first to suffer from cyberbullying on a wide scale. In a 2015 TED TalkLewinsky, expressed, “What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.”

The event, Lewinsky was referring to was posh Town and Country magazine’s fifth annual philanthropy summit in New York. The magazine tweeted early in the day about Clinton’s attendance, writing, Welcome to the 2018 #TandCPhilanthropy Summit! Watch LIVE as @BillClinton of @ClintonFdn introduces @Emma4Change … https://t.co/IoNfCmwIFU — TOWN&COUNTRY (@TandCmag) May 9, 2018. Clinton was to introduce Parkland shooting survivor and gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez.

Among the other panels at the summit, was “Activism as the New Philanthropy,” “Rewriting the History of Violence,” “The Politics of Patronage,” “The Future of Cancer Care,” “Conscious Capitalism,” and “How to Make Philanthropy a Family Tradition.” Among the attendees and panelists was a mix of advocates and celebrities. According to Town and Country, they consist of “Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Pulitzer Prize, Tony-, Emmy-, and Grammy Award-winning composer, lyricist, and actor will headline the event along with his family. Additional panelists and speakers include model Karlie Kloss, television anchor and O, The Oprah Magazine editor at large Gayle King, actor Bradley Cooper, entrepreneur Sean Parker, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.” The magazine also honored “ Chef and food activist José Andrés, the James Beard Foundation 2018 Humanitarian of the Year.”

The #Metoo has revisited not only the prevalent sexual abuse and harassment that was pushed under the rug but also the meaning of consent especially when there is a difference in power between the two parties. The lopsided power in employment, at universities, relationships between bosses and employees and professors and students particularly. In light of this, Lewinsky, who persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement.

Recently, Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)” It impossible to believe a recent university graduate and former White House intern had a choice in her relationship with the president of the country and most powerful man in the free world. The direction of the relationship was always directed by the more powerful one, no matter what.

The fact that 20 years later, Town and Country and the social media is still acting the same towards Lewinsky, shows that the #MeToo movement is not advancing women’s plight and credibility as much as they believe. No matter if Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and other celebrities, politicians, and journalists fall as result; Bill Clinton is still coasting on the power of the presidency. Democratic New York Senator and former Clinton ally Kirsten Gillibrand caused shock waves when this past November when she told the New York Times she believed Clinton should have resigned during the scandal in 1998. She was right, he should not still have the esteem after his treatment of women not only Lewinsky but including an accusation of rape from early his political career.

Clinton, the aggressor is being treated like a victim, needing Town and Country to impose a restraining order to protect him from Lewinsky. The mentality and preferential treatment are reprehensible, not only is it reminiscent of 20 years ago, but in an era long before the feminist movement, and Lewinsky is still bearing the Scarlet Letter A, while Clinton is revered. For the #MeToo movement to truly cause change, situations like this should never occur and all women should oppose it and speak out against such second-class treatments.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

April 23, 2018: McGill students and principal resolve professor sexual misconduct issue?

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McGill students and principal resolve professor sexual misconduct issue?

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

In an anti-climactic end, McGill University students have resolved their complaint with the university’s administration over mishandled complaints of professor sexual misconduct. On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) leaders met with Principal Suzanne Fortier where they decided an action plan to move forward. The headway comes after three weeks of SSMU leaders and McGill students protesting the way the university officials have been handling complaints against five professors in the Faculty of Arts accused of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with students.

The meeting was not all planned. SSMU Vice President of External Affairs Connor Spencer and other SSMU executive leaders crashed a meeting Principal Fortier that was exclusively for the incoming and outgoing SSMU presidents. Spencer only discovered there was a meeting because the news medias contacted her. Spencer spoke to CBC News telling them about her surprise. Spencer recounted, “I found out about it because media contacted me last night asking to talk to me after the meeting with student leaders, to which I responded [that] I had no knowledge of such a meeting, and they must have gotten the date wrong.”

Spencer had been the voice of the protest and movement against the administration. She headed the walkout, was the first listed in the open letter signature and was the one who spoke to the media to get the message to the public. SSMU’s outgoing president has not been vocal about this issue. Spencer was upset that in order to be at the meeting she and other student leaders had to crash the meeting to get their voice heard on the issue. Spencer told CBC News, “It’s really sad that those of us who are doing this work had to crash this meeting.

The meeting commenced with “high tension,” but progress was made. Spencer explained it helped to be able to speak face with the administration. Spencer told CBC, “By giving us space to express what students were concerned about, we were able to leave on a much more neutral footing and an understanding of where each side is coming from.”

The outcomes were far different than the hardline demands the students had been requesting, there will be no external investigation or even investigation as Concordia conducted after the student outcry in January. Neither will any of the five professors be put on leave or not teach next fall. What the SSMU leaders were able to secure were meetings to discuss the issue every two weeks. The administration also promised they would address professor-student relationships, a key issue. The McGill Senate consisting of “faculty, staff, students, administrators and board members” would decide on the policy.

After weeks of dodging and refusing to publicly comment to the media, McGill finally issued a statement, Wednesday evening. The administration expressed, “Everyone acknowledged that they are pursuing a common objective — to ensure that the campus is and remains a safe place for all members of the McGill community — and are committed to the principles of procedural fairness.”

The meeting occurred a day after McGill student leaders filed a complaint against the university with the Quebec Ministry of Higher Education. On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, both undergraduate and graduate student societies, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) joined forces for a letter and sent it by email to Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David about the university’s administration officials mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints.

The student’s letter amounted to a complaint against the university saying, they were in violation of Bill 151, that requires all universities in Quebec to have an integrated sexual violence policy, including dealing with professor-student relationships, which at the center of the controversy at McGill. For a week now the SSMU has been warning administration officials about this next move, but the university has failed to heed to demands. The letter to the Ministry of Education came after the SSMU published an open letter, the students staged a walkout, and they held a town hall meeting closed to the public and media.

McGill students were also supported by the faculty in their fight against the administration. About 150 professors signed an open letter and sent it to administration officials on Monday, April 16, 2018, supporting the students’ grievances against the administration. The 148 professors made it clear that they support the SSMU’s call for an external investigation, their timeline to have it completed by June and the establishment of a single sexual violence policy covering both misconducts by students and faculty. The professors, who signed came from all the university’s faculties, not just Arts.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week after publishing an open letter to the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexually violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000 students walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Three weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the SSMU published an open letter addressed to the administration calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have been dealing sexual violence and harassment complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by over 2300 students and over 100 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts.

McGill students wanted an investigation conducted by a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They wanted the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wanted the findings by this June. They were also demanding McGill to have an inclusive sexual violence policy that addresses professor-student relationships and misconduct complaints against professors.

For the past few years, there have been rumblings about five professors that have misused their positions among both the students and faculty. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok. Students have been writing anonymous accounts of the misconduct for years in the McGill Daily. This past year, however, the protests are louder because one of the accused professors are up for tenure, which led to student letters to his department and a grassroots protest movement this past fall semester.

Despite the knowledge of the misconduct, students, however, are and have been discouraged from filing complaints by the Faculty of Arts. The complaints process at McGill has not and still does not deal with complaints against professors, especially those who engage in relationships with students, despite a revised sexual violence policy passed in 2016.

McGill students have been looking to Concordia for inspiration and to show McGill, an investigation is needed and a policy enforced to address professor-student relationships. Seeing the quick action at Concordia, made McGill’s students take an active and official stand against the administration’s lax treatment of professors who abuse their power.

Although, Spencer is declaring a victory, what the students received from the administration pales to their demands. The external investigation by a third-party going back five years, which was central to the student’s demands is long forgotten. There is no immediate ban on professor-student relationships. So far no word on the five professors teaching next fall semester, and what happens to the professor who was bedding his students as he was up for tenure? They will keep up their careers as the students, who suffered under them live with the fallout of their actions. McGill is handing the students a raw deal, there will not be any quick action for an investigation, and a new policy like Concordia, nor swift dismissals.

Exam period destroyed the pace of the movement, with students more concerned about exams and marks than justice, even the news media lost interest, with only CBC News following through to the end. No matter what concessions until those professors lose their powerful posts, there will be no justice. Otherwise, next year they will be again trolling for the next target. Next fall, the students have to demand more than what they received and not cower, McGill owes their students to feel safe, not create a playground for professors on the make.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Education April 17, 2018: McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

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McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill University students are getting some support from their professors in their fight with the administration over sexual misconduct by professors in the Faculty of Arts. About 150 professors signed an open letter and sent it to administration officials on Monday, April 16, 2018, supporting the students’ grievances against the administration. The letter comes after the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter demanding an external investigation, and staged a walkout protesting the administrations’ inaction over the misconduct of five professors in the Faculty of Arts. Tomorrow, Tuesday April 17, McGill students will be hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the issue.

The 148 professors made it clear that they support the SSMU’s call for an external investigation, their timeline to have it completed by June and the establishment of a single sexual violence policy covering both misconducts by students and faculty. The professors, who signed came from all the university’s faculties, not just Arts. They declared, “We stand in support of the students who have come forward with their experiences and with the student representatives and advocates who have supported these students.”

The professors wrote in the letter, “As teachers, we have a commitment to upholding a learning environment where students feel safe, supported and able to challenge themselves. It would be in violation of this duty for us not to add our voices to those of the students.” The professors also acknowledged that professor-student relationships should be prohibited. They wrote, “We believe that sexual relationships between students and faculty who are in a position to influence their academic and professional progress should be banned.”

The professors also reminded the administration that the issue affects the entire McGill community and the universities reputation. The professors pointed out to the administration, they have to “publicly acknowledge the fact that this issue affects the entire McGill community and the university’s reputation.”

The professors claim that the university has to keep in check professors that abuse their power because it also affects other faculty members. They indicated, “The lack of transparency concerning how complaints are handled against faculty members, who abuse their positions of power in this way, creates a toxic work and learning environment, and often places an invisible burden on other faculty members.”

History professor Shannon Fitzpatrick spoke to CBC News about the faculty’s open letter. Fitzpatrick finds it troubling that the administration is ignoring students complaints. Fitzpatrick told CBC, the administration is “actively shutting down a line of communication. That to me goes against the university’s mission of critical inquiry into social problems.”

Last Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week after publishing an open letter to the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexually violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000 students walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the SSMU published an open letter addressed to the administration calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have been dealing sexual violence and harassment complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by over 2000 students and over 85 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts.

McGill students want an investigation conducted by a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June. They are also demanding McGill to have an inclusive sexual violence policy that addresses professor-student relationships and misconduct complaints against professors. Now the SSMU has added a threat to motivate the administration; they act by Monday, April 23, or the SSMU will file a complaint at the Quebec Ministry of Education that McGill is in violation of Bill 151, the law requiring a single sexual assault policy for Quebec universities.

For the past few years, there have been rumblings about five professors that have misused their positions among both the students and faculty. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok. The McGill Daily in their article, “We have always known about McGill’s predatory professors” wrote that the survey they conducted confirmed decades of sexual misconduct and that students have used a word-of-mouth system. The Daily sent out this survey April 9, receiving “dozens” of testimonies from the word-of-mouth system going back to 2008 according to the article. Unfortunately, professors have been blurring the lines for many years before at McGill, and there have been more than the five at the heart of students’ protests now.

Students have been writing anonymous accounts of the misconduct for years in the Daily. This past year, however, the protests are louder because one of the accused professors are up for tenure, which led to student letters to his department and a grassroots protest movement this past fall semester.

Despite the knowledge of the misconduct, students, however, are and have been discouraged from filing complaints by the Faculty of Arts. The complaints process at McGill has not and still does not deal with complaints against professors, especially those who engage in relationships with students, despite a revised sexual violence policy passed in 2016.

McGill students have been looking to Concordia for inspiration and to show McGill, an investigation is needed and a policy enforced to address professor-student relationships. Seeing the quick action at Concordia, made McGill’s students take an active and official stand against the administration’s lax treatment of professors who abuse their power.

Tomorrow students are going to continue their protest with a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting will allow students “to share stories, concerns, thoughts and questions” and to discuss what else the SSMU can do to convince the administration to act. The event is closed to the public and the media, and can only be attended by current McGill undergraduate and graduate students.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 11, 2018: McGill students protest enough is enough to the administration in walk-out over professors’ sexual misconduct

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McGill students protest enough is enough to the administration in walk-out over professors’ sexual misconduct

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill University students are taking their protest to professors’ inappropriate behavior going unchecked to the next level. On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week after publishing an open letter to the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexual violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000 students walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

The Facebook event entitled, “McGill and Concordia Student Walk-Out over Handling Complaints” stated the united protest’s purpose, “We all demand an acknowledgment of the extent of the problem. And we demand change.” The hashtags for the walkout was #EnoughisEnough and #NoMoreOpenSecrets, referring to the five professors, whose misconduct is called an open secret among students and other faculty members. Students chanted, “we will not be silenced” and “this will not blow over.”

The students also held up eye-catching signs, which read, “Who are you protecting?” and “Do you care about survivors?” Many had common taglines from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual violence and harassment including, “Enough is enough,” “Time’s up,” and “No More Secrets.” Other signs eluded to the professors’ misconduct, saying, “No I don’t want to go office hours at Gerts,” the bar in McGill’s student society building, where one of the accused professors holds his office hours.

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has been leading the calls and protests against the professors’ misconduct. Spencer spoke to the crowd and asked them, “Can everyone here who has been warned or heard of an abusive professor during their time here please raise their hand.” Practically everyone present raised their hands, to which she replied: “That, is why we are here today.”

Last Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the SSMU published a letter addressed to the administration calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have been dealing sexual violence and harassment complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by over 2000 students and over 85 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation to look at complaints for there past five years and for McGill to have an inclusive sexual violence policy that addresses professor-student relationships and misconduct complaints against professors.

For the past few years, there have been rumblings about five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”
Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. The complaints process at McGill has not and still does not deal with complaints against professors, especially those who engage in relationships with students, despite a revised sexual violence policy passed in 2016.

McGill students have been looking to Concordia for inspiration and to show McGill, an investigation is needed and a policy enforced to address professor-student relationships, Seeing the quick action at Concordia, made McGill’s students take an active and official stand against the administration’s lax treatment of professors who abuse their power. This past January at Concordia University, former students, and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.” Despite decisive action now, Concordia students have been complaining for years, writing a letter in 2015, that the administration ignored, while students feared these professors harassment and predatory behavior.

Spencer told CBC’s Daybreak why the SSMU wanted Concordia students involved. Speaking to host Mike Finnerty, Spencer said, “I think McGill is trying to work within its own bubble. That’s why it’s important we bring Concordia, and what happened on their campus, to our campus.” Asma Mushtaq, academic and advocacy coordinator for the Concordia Student Union spoke to the Montreal Gazette why it was important to get involved. Mushtaq told them, “Concordia has allowed for open secrets to persist and fester for too long.”

The two universities’ students have different requests of their respective administrations. At McGill, students want an investigation conducted by a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June. Now the SSMU has added a threat to motivate the administration; the act or they will ask the Quebec Ministry of Education to intervene.

At Concordia, where an investigation is already underway, the students want to be involved and their voices heard. They also wanted recommendations from the independent Our Turn Report included in Concordia’s revised sexual violence policy. The report graded the sexual assault policies at different campuses with recommendations.

McGill’s administration has yet to respond to the SSMU’s latest tactics. Concordia’s officials were quicker to comment. The statement claimed that they do want student input in the investigation, and wants them to participate “through any avenues open to them,” saying their “Their input is vital to the work we are doing.” McGill’s Spencer, however, said it best in thanking students, who walked out today, declaring, “This is not over,” as much as professors and administration officials want, the students are not going to continue to live in fear as certain professors continue their abuse of power and hunt for their next victim among the student body.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 8, 2018: McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors 

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McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Montreal universities are now being drawn into the #MeToo movement forced to confront years of sexual harassment and assault that was pushed under the table. First, it was Concordia University, now McGill University is getting barraged for their handling of complaints. On Thursday, April 4, 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have dealing sexual violence complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,500 students and over 50 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation. The letter and calls are a long time in the making as students and professors have been writing and commenting about the actions of these professors in the Faculty of Arts, who engaged in so-called consensual and unwanted inappropriate behavior against students for years.

The president of SSMU and its societies and five vice presidents addressed the letter to Principal Suzanne Fortier, Provost Christopher Manfredi, and Dean of Students Chris Buddle. The letter recounted the situation at the university but did not name any professors, although students have been naming the professors in unofficial capacities for years. Neither does the letter describe the professors’ actions, although the chatter is quite loud on online forums, personal blogs, and the student press, everyone on campus knows who these offenders are.

The letter claims, “These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first-year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviors of certain professors. It has also been the case that student representatives over this past year have brought up these concerns multiple times to many different members of the administration. It was clear that the majority of the administration who were met with knew which professors students are concerned about. And despite our expressing anxiety over the safety and well being of a particular student in one case – no action was taken.”

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University had a press conference on Thursday, April 5, clarifying the allegations. According to Spencer, there are five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. Spencer told CBC News, “Everyone’s aware of where the problems are, and no one’s doing anything to address it, year after year.” Spencer explained to the Globe and Mail, “Everyone knows the names of the professors and it’s shared among students.” The problem has been happening for at least five years with these specific professors. Spencer recounted that female students have been warning incoming students with a list of professors “whose classes I was not to take.” Female students were warned to never be alone with these professors. Spencer told the Globe and Mail, “If she did take their courses, she was told never to go to their offices ‘if I wanted to keep myself safe.’”

Despite everyone in the university, from the students to the administration know about the problems, the administration refuses to take any actions, because of the lack of formal complaints. Spencer recounted to the Globe and Mail, “We’ve spoken about specific cases with administrators in meetings and still nothing has been done, even though they know that these are reoccurring issues.” Spencer told the Montreal Gazette the SSMU wants the university to take the problem seriously, “We are hoping with this open letter to change the culture of understanding and show (the administration) they need to investigate when there are serious problems that compromise the safety and well being of students … whether or not there are official complaints.”

The SSMU’s letter is a means to force the administration to launch an investigation. The SSMU letter also asked for a remedy to the ongoing problem, their solution a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June.

The SSMU made the request in their letter, “We understand that the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty that has a problem with professors who abuse their power, and we hope that an external investigation into Arts will set a precedent so that in the future McGill will act when they become aware of departmental issues and that above all they will begin to prioritize the safety of their students before the legal liability or reputation of the institution.”

When asked to respond by the press Vice-Principal Louis Arseneault (Communications and External Relations) declined to comment. Arseneault only gave a generic politically correct response in a statement, saying, “McGill University has put in place staff, resources, policies, and opportunities for individuals and groups to come forward with their concerns and complaints. These are matters we take very seriously. Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or ‘predatory behavior’ that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.” Arseneault cited privacy laws in the investigation, stating, “Because of Quebec law concerning privacy, the University cannot disclose when it is conducting investigations, nor reveal any results. Thus, the fact that results are not disclosed is not evidence that investigations did not occur or that they were faulty.”

Provost and Vice-Principal Manfredi also sent a personal response to Spencer, insisting, “Every report and complaint of misconduct that contains sufficient details is investigated.” Manfredi told Spencer, “As you know from your own work on the Sexual Violence Policy Implementation Committee and from McGill administrators’ ongoing, direct engagement with SSMU executives – yourself included – McGill has in place extensive resources, skilled staff, and robust policies to address matters of sexual violence and to support survivors.”

Despite the university being on defensive as to investigating sexual misconduct complaints, the process deters students from filing a complaint or if they start they usually stop. As Spencer pointed out, “it’s so labor-intensive and retraumatizing.” As with women who file complaints against men in positions of power many are worried they would not be believed. The university has also in past situations attempted to discredit claims that are filed as a deterrent for students filing complaints. The complaints process is also steeped in confidentiality, it is meant to help the students, but does more to protect an accused faculty member.

Student Geneviève Mercier-Dalphond writing in a March 2016, McGill Daily article entitled, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships A follow-up investigation of McGill’s policies on sexual harassment” discussed the problems confidentiality in the process causes. Mercier-Dalphond explained, “On a broader level, it sends a message that normalizes student-professor relations, and sets an example for other professors that they can get away with this kind of inappropriate behavior.”

In December 2016, McGill revised their sexual violence policy, Policy against Sexual Violence, to comply with Quebec’s new Bill 151, requiring schools to have a consolidated sexual violence policy (SVP) including addressing professor-student relationships by 2019. The new SVP deals with violence by the whole McGill community, especially students and operates under the Student Code of Conduct. The policy can “reprimand, expel or suspend a student.” The new policy was three years in the making, and was supposed to have a “survivor-centered approach.” Additionally, the policy “establishes measures that McGill will adopt with respect to prevention, education, support, and response to sexual violence.” The university also created a new sexual assault center, “dedicated to sexual violence education and response.”

At the time the new policy was passed by the university senate; the students still had misgivings about how complaints would be handled under the new rules. Erin Sobat, the vice-president of university affairs for the SSMU during the 2016-17 academic year commented at the time to CBC News, “What it doesn’t do is address the disciplinary process past the process of filing a report.” Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures.

The new policy also failed to address professor-student relationships, and complains against professors; a central problem at the heart of the complaints against one of the professors the open letter is directed. The new SVP says very little about these relationships, writing, “an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student,” and agreeing they cannot be consensual. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint about “harassment, the violence of coercion.” The complaints are then processed through the Regulations Relating to Employment of Tenure-Track and Tenured Academic Staff. Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The process is so complicated that it dissuades students from filing. Connor explained to the Montreal Gazette, “You have to consult at least six documents full of policy jargon after you’ve just experienced a trauma, and you are not really sure about wanting to do this, anyway. That would discourage anyone from coming forward.”

In December 2017, the McGill Tribune editorial board wrote an opinion piece opposing the lack of policy for such complaints entitled, “McGill’s sexual violence policy lacking on professor-student relationships.” They emphasized what an important gap this is in policy since these relationships cannot be consensual. The board pointed to the conflict of interest with such relationships and indicated why. The board expressed, “Of more dire ethical concern is the question of consent in these relationships. The power differential between students and professors is enormous—whether acting as an intro-course lecturer or a master’s research supervisor, a professor has substantial control over their students’ success at McGill, and, by extension, their career prospects upon graduation. Given this compromised capacity to object to unwanted sexual advances, it is unethical for a professor to initiate any relationship with a student directly beneath them.”

The #MeToo movement is altering the definition of consent, especially there is a difference power between the two parties in evolved, such as professors getting involved in relationships, and sexually with their students. Students who believe they are getting involved consensually with professors seem to forget, with such a power difference, these relationships can never truly be consensual, because there is no equality. Mercier-Dolphand in the McGill Daily explained, “The student’s power in this dynamic is not comparable, and talking of equality between consenting adults, in this case, ignores the power differential on which the relationship is built.”

Recently, even former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

A former Associate Dean of Arts at York University, Shirley Katz wrote a policy paper on the very issue published in University Affairs in 2000, entitled “Sexual Relations Between Students and Faculty.” To Katz, there cannot be consent because of professors’ “power over students” as the nature of the role. Katz concludes the power difference is always there making consent in the traditional way impossible for students. Katz wrote, “because the professor’s powers affect the student’s life in a significant way, […] the student cannot say no to the relationship, so her consent is actually coerced compliance.”

Jason M. Opal, associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill commented in the 2015 McGill Daily article, “Let’s talk about teacher,” a student’s anonymous recount of her sexual relationship with one of the professors accused of inappropriate behavior. Opal concurred the power dynamic affects consent. Opal wrote there are “profound inadequacies of ‘consent’ as a moral and social category.” Continuing, he said, “consent is better than coercion: that is the best thing we can say about it. Opal concluded that the professor-student relationship is “inherently problematic, usually exploitative, and often predatory.” The unequal predatory nature is the reason professors involved have to face sanctions and punishments from the university because they have an obligation to protect their students.

Some of the accounts coming from McGill describe sexual relationships, but they are not the only inappropriate ones. Others blur the line, friendships and emotional relationships that can tether on sexual harassment or impropriety but avoid the messy sexual dynamic that is easier to prove crossed a line. Even if broken boundaries are easily proved, the university has not been kind to students filing complaints against professors after such relationships. They are not given the same weight as unwanted and forced sexual harassment and assault committed by other students. Universities have been enacting policies that prohibit any personal relationships between students and professors, especially if they are in a position to grade them for some timer already. McGill has yet to address the issue even after revising their sexual assault policy.

Students had a right to be concerned about the revised SVP seeing what is transpiring with the five Arts professors and the way complaints have been brushed aside. The SSMU has been working on an additional policy covering misconduct from students in McGill’s clubs and societies. Closing the “loophole” would make students more comfortable making complaints against fellow students. It would allow the SSMU clubs and societies to remove or sanction someone that has a complaint filed against them, even banning them from the SSMU building. Additionally, it would provide mandatory training in defining and preventing sexual assault for all SSMU associated university clubs and societies.

For over two years there have been rumblings of complaints of transgressions by professors in the Faculty of Arts, particularly, the Department of Political Science, incidentally Provost Manfredi’s old department and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Apparently, there are claims that there is a serial sexual harasser in the department of political science and a serial lothario in the Institute of Islamic Studies. This professor in the Islamic Studies is a central reason for the students and SSMU’s uproar over the university’s mishandlings of professors’ inappropriate behavior.

Former McGill political science professor Stephen Saideman, who taught at the department from 2002 to 2012 wrote about the actions of a professor in his department. Saideman repeatedly wrote about this particular professor in a number of blog posts. In his blog post entitled, “McGill’s Shame Continues” from March 2016, he specifically revealed that this professor was teaching Middle East and peacebuilding studies in the department. Saideman explained in his post why he did not expose the name of the professor. The former McGill professor commented, “I have repeatedly referred to a particular serial sexual harasser […] but obliquely so. Why obliquely so? Because I am not sure what the consequences are for me of violating the confidentiality agreements of a place I used to work and because I didn’t want people to speculate about who received this guy’s unwanted attention.”

A student did successfully file a complaint this particular professor; however, the so-called punishment was hardly enough to deter him from continuing harassing students. Saideman recounted, “[the University] did find in favor of the student, and the provost found that something inappropriate happened at the time, but that it did not fit the definition at the time of sexual harassment. I do believe this is a failure on the part of that provost.” All the university did be change the professor’s office to one where he can be monitored and prevented him from taking on graduate students. In barely any time, the department lapsed, he was back in his old office and supervising graduate students, even female ones.

In 2016, Saidemen claimed the major problem with the complaints process was confidentiality and the university refusing to name guilty professors. During his time at McGill Saideman used to discourage students from studying that area, as the only means of deterrence he could do. Saideman told the McGill Daily, “The core problem is how McGill has handled it. It was all treated confidentially, which has the effect of protecting the perpetrator…. the job of the University is to protect students.” Saideman was surprised that he was still teaching, saying, “I simply don’t understand why McGill has not fired him yet.”

Another story that brought out the problem of the professor accused of sleeping with his students was an anonymous article in the McGill Daily of a student recounting her nearly two-year affair with this professor, the one supposedly from the Institute of Islamic Studies The article published in September 2015 was entitled, “Let’s talk about teacher I slept with my professor and here’s why it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The explicit article described how this professor-student relationship developed from office-hour meetings to a working and sexual relationship that tore this student apart with the conflicting roles they played. In her recount, the working relationship played a prominent role in their developing relationship. The working relationship was the legitimate way for them to spend time in his office behind closed doors; a common excuse professors use to justify publicly their inappropriate involvement with a student. After the second year, the student discovered he had been sleeping with other students as well she was not the only one, but one of many.

The student described this professor as she saw him after everything ended, “He was a predator. He was a manipulator. He was a liar. He was using young women as vessels for self-validation. He was abusing his power, and he had no intention of stopping.” She also discovered this professor, “slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable” other female students. The complaints process was daunting and these students feared retribution and reprisals that are so common so they did file. The article published nearly three-years-ago indicated that at that time there were problems also with five professors in different departments, “who had reputations of either serially harassing or sleeping with their students.” The student recounted, “Where some professors were concerned, students spoke of the incidents like they were common knowledge.”

At that point, there were no formal complaints filed against that professor. This fall the students were fed up with this Islamic Studies’ professor at the heart of this scandal as he was up for tenure this academic year, so they initiated their own grassroots protest. At the start of this academic year, stickers were posted in the women’s bathrooms with the Islamic Studies professor’s name, warning other female students. According to the McGill Daily, “Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behavior from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.” The professor in question responded with a denial, saying, “Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that is categorically untrue and constitute defamation. I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

The university administration seemed to have backed up the professor with Angela Campbell, the Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) writing a defending statement that admonished the students who revealed the professor publicly. Campbell stated, “The University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” Continuing Campbell expressed, “Survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Additionally, in the Winter 2017 semester the 2016-2017 executive leaders of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) Sent an open letter objecting to the professor to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. The letter read, “We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.” WIMESSA asked the department not to grant the professor tenure, writing, “It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded. As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

The program director never publicly responded, and this year’s WIMESSA executives issued a statement. The statement backtracked and avoided mentioning the particular professor. The executives wrote, “In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute, we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

It is too easy for the lines to be blurred in academia. For professors they are presented with wide-eyed naive students in awe, many enamored with the professors’ charm, sophistication, and brilliance, and they easily take advantage of the situation. Many of the young faculty members are often less than then ten years older than the students they teach, for others they never want to see themselves as older than the students. They behave as friends, buddies cross the line into sexual harassment, sexual relationships, but the power dynamic is always there. Professors and students never equal and it is inappropriate for them to think it is even possible.

Research has proven that power alters the minds of men, making them believe they have the right to behave in the controlling manner that leads to sexual harassment and assault. They believe they have a privilege to behave the way they do and many fail to see how wrong they are. The #MeToo movement in a short six months has swept through the entertainment industry, politics, business, and journalism. The movement gave a voice and credibility to women who for years had experienced harassment, abuse, and assault in the hands of men in positions of power and then suffered in silence fearing reprisals.

Now it is sweeping academia, but there are setbacks. Tenure has always given professors an extra boost in their power, giving them an air of invincibility. Tenure has and is still protecting professors preventing universities from firing professors who behave inappropriately with students. Professors, however, believe universities owe their students to deal with the accused professors, not just fire them, which would allow them to continue their behavior elsewhere. The SSMU’s open letter wants an investigator to examine tenure and tenure-track professors as well, to see if complaints against professors are presented to the tenure committee and to see whether tenure status “can be reassessed following formal complaints against a faculty member.”

The students realize tenure cannot be overturned and the system changed overnight, but they do believe there should be consequences for tenured professors. Spencer commented to the Montreal Gazette, “Right now if a prof has tenure, they are untouchable. Some of the profs (who are the subjects of repeated complaints) have tenure and some don’t. For the ones who do have tenure, why would anyone bring a complaint forward? … It’s not about, one complaint, therefore fire them, but we need to explore what a procedure for processing complaints against a tenured prof looks like.”

In Montreal, there have already been cracks in that invincibility. This past January at neighboring Concordia University, former students, and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.”

The events at Concordia inspired SSMU to take action now, and force the university to confront the way they have been dealing or not dealing with complaints against these five repeat offending professors. Spencer commented the press, “We were told that it couldn’t happen, and then we looked over at our neighbor and they were doing it, so we didn’t accept that anymore…I thought, ’If not now, then when,’ If something doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.