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Episode Info: That sexual harassment, bullying, but also academic misconduct such as advisers plagiarizing their student’s work, happen in academia has never been a big secret. Rumors and scandals over the mistreatment of students, grad students, postdocs, and so on, have been accompanying my whole career. So called ‘whisper networks’ warn each other to stay away from certain professors. And, where power differentials between members of a community are so large, abuse of power is probably not completely preventable. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! However, many cases may indeed be preventable, and so may be many of the negative effects on everybody involved in such a scandal. A common theme in such cases across time and space appear to be that the officials at institutions are doing a really bad job at handling it.  For this episode, my guest Alice Hertzog and I spoke about the typical mistakes made in treating cases of abuse of power on the side of the institution investigating the allegations, and what can be done to improve. And by doing so I hope we are also giving victims of harassment the chance to think through their options for handling their situation. Alice is a PhD student at the ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where she studies population movements in a particular region in West Africa. She is founding member of Speak Up in Academia, an independent grassroots peer-to-peer support association for victims of abuse at the ETH. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. In “Speak Up”, members of ETH came together to find ways to improve the institutional culture at their institute. The main issues had been cases of sexual harassment, bullying, and scientific malpractice that the institution did not handle well. One specific case underlying the foundation of Speak Up happened in the architecture department. There had been a crowd-funding effort to cover legal costs on behalf of the victims. But then the president of the ETH decided to cover those costs. The left over money then could go into founding Speak Up in Academia. In addition, the founders of the Association were able to identify resources, such as psychological and legal advice from professional volunteers, during that case. So, Speak Up is now able to make these resources available to others facing similar problems. The main problem is that there is no established procedure at the ETH to investigate allegations of abuse of power. Instead, people come up with an ad hoc procedure that is different every time. And it is often dominated by the lawyers of the accused. This kind of unprofessional conduct is time consuming, and causes a lot of damage to everyone involved: mentally, financially and in terms of reputation of the institution. It is also deterring people from speaking up when they face or witness abuse. We ...
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