tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
Today is the fifth anniversary of my post "Emotional Labor Day", chronicling how I was constructively dismissed from the computer science Ph.D program at Portland State University because of sexual harassment.

Thomas Dubuisson, the grad student who sexually harassed a fellow student in front of me, left the program not long after that to take a job at Galois, a software company in Portland. He still works there now. He still has a career in the research field the three of us all started in -- and is welcomed by that field -- whereas his victim and I lost our careers.

The victim of the harassment left the program several years later after trying extremely hard to make it in a program that continued to show active hostility to her for being a trans woman.

HASP, the research group that the three of us were all part of dissolved; I can't help thinking that the loss of several grad students played a part. When faced with the choice of including a student who made a rape threat, and the recipient of that threat along with a student who spoke out to say that rape threats are unacceptable, they showed that they believed the student who made the rape threat to be more of an asset to the group. They also went out of their way to say that they believed calling out rape threats to be worse behavior than making them. The HASP faculty were willing to sacrifice their group to protect rape culture rather than discipline a harasser and keep the group threatened by his behavior together.

In the intervening five years, lots more stories like ours have come out. It turns out that it's the norm for universities to silence harassment victims and protect their predatory faculty members and grad students. While there is more awareness now of the role of universities in recreating and reinforcing rape culture, that awareness hasn't yet been accompanied by action -- at least, not action on the part of people with institutional power. The ever-increasingly profit-centric academic realm continues to make it clear that those of us who are devalued due to our gender, sexual orientation, class, race, or disability have little value to contribute, regardless of our ability to teach or do research.

And I'm still paying the bill, literally, for the program I got kicked out of without a degree; I'm still paying off the student loans I took out while I was at Portland State to cover the cost of student health insurance and other medical expenses, as the university didn't consider the research that graduate students did for low wages to be work and thus didn't provide us with employee benefits. Grad school isn't for people like me who've had no financial support from parents since the age of 17. At age 35, I have no savings and I don't expect to retire -- all because I made the mistake of thinking that a person like me could have an academic career. But those careers aren't for me -- they're for people born to wealthier parents, into more acceptable bodies.

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Tim Chevalier

September 2017

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