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Touchy Professors and Institutional Disinterest

Whilst we’ll never know the full story, the recent BuzzFeed article outlining complaints against well-known planet-hunting Astronomer Geoff Marcy by several former UC Berkeley students is representative of a much larger problem.

Although I’m disappointed it’s Marcy at the center of this, I’m saddened more by the knowledge this is the tip of the iceberg. This seems particularly so within Academia, the perfect environment for providing young, eager-to-please students for those with power to prey upon, safe in the knowledge in the unlikely event one of their victims chooses justice over their career (which will likely implode the moment they lodge a complaint), they’ll probably face minor consequences at most.

It’s not just Academia of course. Any environment with significant power inequities between individuals – be they managers and workers, teachers and students, adults and children, political leaders and interns – presents these opportunities for exploitation, as the weaker player lacks reasonable avenues for refusing unwanted advances without jeopardising an important (for various reasons), relationship, and in many cases their reputation, future employability, perceived trustworthiness and career. Worst-case – they expose themselves to legal consequences and years spent in court.

In terms of Academia, I do wonder whether so-inclined individuals are partly attracted to the vocation by the potential to satisfy their sexual desires through the abuse of their power, or whether the environment ‘grows’ them into what they become through constant positive reinforcement of their earlier, less overt sexual advances which aren’t ever formally challenged. 

Either way, what does seem clear is that universities and colleges – as indeed corporations – lack sufficient motivation to adequately and fairly protect those on the wrong end of the power equation. Research grants, government funding and reputations are at stake, and just like in business: workplace harassment is a nasty little secret best kept quiet. Victim blaming, disbelief and failure to act seem default positions by the hierarchy, allowing the ‘touchers’ (for want of a better word), of the world to carry on with impunity, whilst the female student body warn each-other about the touchy professor they should avoid, knowing there’s nothing they can do about him without sacrificing one or more of their own.

Human relations are complex. College students have likely hooked up with their Professors since universities were first established (and yes I know these originally excluded women). But the power-inequity means the student lacks the choice, and the failures of the administrations to act only reinforces the teachers’ delusion their conduct is acceptable, or at least accepted. There needs to be open and frank conversation about this so we can provide the powerless with permission to express their wishes, and clear expectations of being taken seriously when those wishes aren’t respected. 

Switch (back) to JIRA Mobile view bookmarklet

JIRA from Atlassin has a mobile view (in recent versions), which is optimised for use on a mobile device, supporting various actions such as setting comment security and so-forth.

Although it’s easy to switch from Desktop view to Mobile view (using the link at the bottom of the issue), going back to Mobile view isn’t so easy.

The following bookmarklet will modify the current page URL, replacing the word ‘browse’ with ‘plugins/servlet/mobile#’, thus reloading the page in mobile view. 

if your JIRA plugins are located at a different path, adjust the bookmarklet accordingly.

The bookmarklet code is simply:

javascript:(function() {window.location=window.location.toString().replace(‘browse’,’plugins/servlet/mobile#issue’);})()

On iOS in Safari, create a bookmark to any page, then edit the bookmark to point instead to the text shown above (javascript blah blah). When you paste the code, you might find some characters are replaced. If they are, edit the bookmark and carefully check each character to ensure it matches the above exactly.

To use this bookmarklet, when viewing a JIRA issue in desktop mode, click your Bookmarks button, then tab this bookmarklet. The page will be re-loaded in mobile view.

If it doesn’t work – check the text again. It has to be exact. If it still doesn’t work, don’t ask me – I made this and it works for me :)

See Dr Pamela Gay in Melbourne on September 12 and 13

Much to my delight, Dr Pamela Gay of AstronomyCast / CosmoQuest is coming to Melbourne, and thanks to some wonderful crowd-fundees, Swinburne University, Science on Top and Embiggen Books, you can come along to hear her speak.

There are two public events scheduled for Melbourne. The first is at Embiggen Books on Thursday 12th September at 7pm, and the second is at Swinburne University in Hawthorn on Friday 13th September at 6:30pm.

Bookings are essential for both events.

Tickets for the Embiggen presentation, a panel featuring Dr Gay, Dr Alan Duffy and science writer Sean Elliot, are available here for $20, although at the moment I’m writing this there are only 4 tickets left. Takings from this event will be donated to CosmoQuest.

Bookings for the Swinburne event, a public lecture by Dr Gay entitled “CosmoQuest: Science inside (powered by you!)” are free and can be made here.

After Melbourne, Dr Gay will head up to Sydney to participate in some events with the Australian Skeptics. Keep an eye on their website for information.

Special thanks also to New Zealand Skeptics for loaning Dr Gay to us following your national convention.


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