The President of MIT emailed me

It is rare that I get an email from the president of MIT, Rafael Reif. So I was excited to see something from November 29. Was there an important engineering or scientific breakthrough achieved at MIT? Another few Nobel Prizes were pulled out of a drawer? A challenge on which my particular experience was required?

Here’s how the email begins…

In the last several weeks, the nation has once again seen evidence that sexual harassment is pervasive. I am deeply disturbed by the revelations of misconduct elsewhere – and I know it also happens at MIT. [emphasis added]

[This does raise one question: Unless he himself is perpetrating harassment, how does he know?]

The president of a school that costs roughly $ 70,000 per year to attend in person says that maybe people would be safer doing an online degree for minimal $ $ at Western Governors University:

When it comes to sexual harassment, assault and related misconduct, a community like ours presents a particular set of risks: a 24/7 environment that brings together people across a broad range of ages, incomes and backgrounds, many of whom have power over others – power to make being at MIT miserable, power enough to make or break a career. [emphasis added]

Why incur these risks if one can do a degree in 2.5 years from the comfort and privacy of one’s home? And at a much lower cost?

People who have been harassed are likely damaged goods:

For many who suffer sexual harassment, the experience seriously damages their lives, their aspirations, their confidence and their careers. In some cases, the “remedy” can be damaging too.

Maybe there is a way to predict the gender ID of those who are likely damaged?

Let me now state the obvious. Most harassers are men. As a result, the men in our community must play a particularly important role in leading and driving the necessary change in culture. [emphasis added]

Suppose that an employer is willing to assume that most men are heterosexual and therefore most people who have been harassed identify as women. Further suppose that the employer is willing to believe the president of MIT regarding the “serious damage” that has been suffered by these women and that “sexual harassment is pervasive” (see first paragraph). Would it not make sense for an employer to hire women only as a last resort? Why take the risk of being stuck with an employee who is seriously damaged?

Readers: What do you think? Is there a logical way to read the above as encouraging people to pay up for an on-campus education? Or as encouraging profit-minded employers to hire women?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog