We've all had to sit through some hour-long, mind-numbing sexual harassment training seminars before—what, asking if the carpet match the drapes is offensive?—but we've all done it. Because we have to. And, you know, chances are, some of us are actually pervy creeps that need to be told what is and isn't okay.
Distinguished UC Irvine professor and molecular biologist Alexander McPherson has stirred up some controversy lately with his staunch refusal to attend the university's sexual harassment seminars, despite a state law passed in 2004 requiring sexual harassment training for all places of employment with over 50 workers.
And reading his op/ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times, I sort of understand the guy's rage against modern society's obsession with being PC. But only at first. He starts: "First of all, I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment."
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Okay. But the big red flag goes up when McPherson writes, "I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. "Fulfilling this requirement," said the statement I asked them to approve, "in no way implies, suggests or indicates that the university currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student or any person under his supervision during his 30-year career with the University of California."
Which would basically absolve McPherson from any potential past instances of harassment. RED FLAG, PEOPLE. RED FLAG.
That possible "stigma" statement would only make sense if select employees were actually singled out for the training, but the training is a campus-wide requirement, not to mention state-wide. All this fuss actually has brought the focus on McPherson, sexual harassment and attached said stigma.
What this actually comes down to, sadly, is the complete belittlement of the possibility that sexual harassment really does occur—no single (self-obsessed) person is exempt—so why not do everything within reach to prevent it?