Annual Meeting Preview: The Academic #MeToo Movement: Scholars, Advocates, and Solutions to the Problems of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Academy

This session takes place on Saturday, April 6, at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is solicited by the Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies of the Western History Association (WHA-CARES)

Chair and Commentator: Elaine Nelson, University of Nebraska at Omaha
• Catherine Clinton, University of Texas at San Antonio
• Marcy Norton, University of Pennsylvania
• Erika Perez, University of Arizona
Simona Sharoni, Merrimack College
Karen Tani, University of California, Berkeley

The Academic #MeToo Movement: Scholars, Advocates, and Solutions to the Problems of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Academy

In 2018, Scientific American declared that academia had abjectly failed when it came to addressing the problems of sexual harassment.[1] In light of what it referred to as the “rot” suffusing academic institutions, the publication provocatively asked, “Is it ethically responsible to tell victims to report harassment to their institutions and their Title IX offices?”

The well-documented failures of our nation’s college campuses to redress the problems of gender discrimination, sexual violence, and sexual harassment led many to call on actors and institutions outside of the academy to play a larger role in finding solutions.[2] In response, professional associations in the sciences and humanities have drafted sexual harassment policies, developed educational programs, advocated for policy changes at the campus, state, and federal levels, and offered support systems for their members.[3] In 2018, the Western History Association added its name to this growing list of academic organizations by creating a new standing committee – the Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies (CARES).

Led by José Alamillo (California State University, Channel Islands), S. Deborah Kang (California State University San Marcos), Jennifer McPherson (Purdue University), and Erika Pérez (University of Arizona), CARES is committed to promoting a safe working and learning environment for WHA members. To this end, CARES has focused on upholding standards of professional conduct through the drafting of a new sexual harassment policy for the WHA; supporting survivors through a new website containing advocacy, educational, legal, and self-care resources; and educating members of the historical profession through regular conference panels on the topics of gender discrimination, sexual violence, and sexual harassment in the academy.

CARES will continue to pursue its educational mission during the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) by sponsoring a panel, “The Academic #MeToo Movement: Scholars, Advocates, and Solutions to the Problems of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Academy.” Its focus will be on faculty, including historians, law professors, and women’s studies scholars, who have actively pursued solutions to the problem of campus sexual harassment through their research, teaching, and advocacy. Karen Tani, Professor of Law at Berkeley Law, will discuss her own research on the workings of Title IX on our nation’s college campuses. Drawing upon her classes at University of Arizona, Erika Pérez, Associate Professor of History and Affiliated Faculty of Gender and Women’s Studies, will illustrate ways in which faculty can bring difficult discussions about sexual violence and sexual harassment into the classroom.

Marcy Norton, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, will trace the origins and impact of the Feminist Historians Collective. A 1200+ member Facebook group formed in the wake of the revelations regarding Harvey Weinstein, its founders successfully advocated for major institutional changes within the American Historical Association (AHA) with respect to the issue of sexual harassment. As the President of the Southern Historical Association in 2016, Catherine Clinton, the Denman Endowed Professor in American History at the University of Texas at San Antonio, delivered a presidential address, “The Southern Social Network,” that inspired the creation of The Cassandra Project, a non-profit educational initiative to combat sexual harassment within history departments in the South. Simona Sharoni, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Merrimack College will discuss her path-breaking work as the co-founder of Faculty Against Rape, the first organization created by faculty for faculty experiencing sexual violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation in their workplaces.

On a personal note, I would like to urge all of you to attend this panel. Campus sexual harassment is one of the most pressing crises of our day. The 2018 National Academies of Sciences report on sexual harassment in the academy observed “the academic workplace (i.e., employees of academic institutions) has the second highest rate of sexual harassment at 58 percent (the military has the highest rate at 69%).”[4] Changing this shocking statistic requires that each of us take steps to improve the working and learning environments on our campuses.

S. Deborah Kang, Chair
Committee on Assault Response and Educational StrategiesWestern History Association


[1] The 500 Women Scientists Leadership, “When It Comes to Sexual Harassment, Academia Fundamentally Broken: Why Everyone Should Read the National Academies’ Sexual Harassment Report,” Scientific American Blog, August 9, 2018,

[2] For a recent example, see National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2018), 9.

[3] A partial list includes the American Geophysical Union, the American Historical Association, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, and the Western History Association.

[4] National Academies of Sciences, Sexual Harassment of Women, 1-2.

Posted: January 7, 2019
Tagged: Conference, OAH Works, Previews, Around the Profession