Sexual Harassment Statement for my Department

(Originally published 4 March 2016; this version sent to all department members on 14 October 2016; text added 17 Oct 2016)

Dear Members of the EPS Community,

Last spring, I sent a letter to the department concerning sexual harassment, and I want to share a slightly edited version again for two reasons.  First, every fall, we welcome new members into our community, and I want to share the information with them.  Second, there is widespread discussion of these issues in the media. Although the following is a rather long letter, please read the whole letter. This is what you’ll find:

  • A legal definition of sexual harassment and a statement that sexual harassment is not acceptable
  • Some ideas for working together as a community to reduce harassment of all types
  • What to do when harassment occurs
  • Faculty have an obligation to report all incidents of harassment, irrespective of when the harassment occurred.
  • Special concerns about harassment in the field

Please join me in working toward a community that is safe for everyone.




Dear Members of the EPS Community,

As a scientist committed to equitable treatment of all people and as Chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the numerous recent revelations of sexual harassment by faculty members at various universities.

First, sexual harassment is legally defined as unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when a person’s submission to such conduct is implicitly or explicitly made the basis for employment decisions, academic evaluation, grades or advancement, or other decisions affecting participation in a university program. Sexual harassment also includes sexual conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it unreasonably denies, adversely limits, or interferes with a person’s participation in or benefit from the education, employment or other programs and services of the university and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find to be intimidating or offensive (from the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has been an unfortunately common occurrence within academia for its entire history, often without consequences for the perpetrators. In the past year, accusations of sexual harassment against a number of professors and others in authority have been particularly public. In some cases, there have been almost no consequences for the perpetrators even when documentation of harassment is compelling. In a few cases, professors have been forced to resign over sexual misconduct. Social media responses to these cases have emphasized the importance of there being real, meaningful consequences for professors who behave inappropriately, and I see this as a significant opportunity to reduce the frequency and severity of sexual harassment in academia. More universities, including the University of California, are emphasizing building a culture where sexual harassment is unacceptable. Many faculty, staff and administrators at UC Davis are dedicated to protecting our students from unwanted sexual advances, including me and others in our department.

Reducing the likelihood of sexual harassment starts by building a local community of trust, respect, and openness. As chair of the department, I want you to know that I take creating a supportive, equitable environment very seriously, as do many others in our community. Legally defined sexual harassment is absolutely unacceptable. So are other sexual or hateful behaviors that offend or intimidate members of our community even if they do not meet the legal definition of harassment. It takes effort to build a supportive community that is free from harassment, and I encourage all of you to think about how you can contribute to a positive environment in your daily interactions.

Sometimes harassment does occur. When it does, I strongly encourage you to report it, whether it happened to you or someone else, and whether you consider it minor or significant. The best way to improve a community is to highlight its flaws. Anyone in the EPS community is welcome and encouraged to come to me to discuss any behaviors that make you uncomfortable. However, as a faculty member, I am required to share any reports of inappropriate behavior with the administration, irrespective of when the harassment happened, e.g. even if it occurred years ago.  The reporting requirement is to ensure that systematically bad behavior does not get ignored (see excerpts from an e-mail from Chancellor Katahi at the end of this message). Thus, if you prefer to remain anonymous, we can discuss theoretical situations, and you can make an anonymous report by going to special UC Davis resources listed here: Hate and bias reports can be made as described here:

Finally, I would like to highlight an issue of particular importance to geology and fieldwork. Field trips and field research are some of the absolutely best aspects of being a geologist. They can also be challenging socially. The one time that I’ve experienced significant sexual harassment was associated with a field season. (It was not from someone associated with my research program or from a US institution.) Unfortunately, ongoing studies suggest that most scientists who do fieldwork have experienced or seen some form of sexual harassment in the field. In these circumstances (as well as others such as at conferences), people with different cultures and expectations are living in close quarters away from their normal environment. Being away from home in an environment with closer social contact can lead to more freely expressed feelings and atypical behaviors, sometimes inappropriate ones. Thus, I strongly encourage each of you to pay particular attention to maintaining a supportive, harassment-free environment in the field. When something inappropriate does occur, bring it to the attention of someone you trust to help protect yourself or the target of the harassment. I fully understand that this can be very difficult (having been in that situation with no one to help). In the case of trips associated with the department, I expect the leaders of the trips to provide a safe environment for each participant and help when something inappropriate does occur. I hope that you can feel comfortable turning to them for leadership in creating a supportive environment. It is important to have fun in the field, but it is not appropriate for that fun to include sexual or hateful content.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues individually or in small groups, please let me know. I would be happy to have discussions with any student groups who are interested. I’ve also provided some links to resources below.




“The Serial Harasser’s Playbook” or how to identify escalating harassment from a faculty member:

Hope Jahren’s excellent essay sexual harassment “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’”: (Hope’s a geologist.)

You are not alone – survey results on harassment in the field:

People at UC Davis who want to help:

The Center for Advocacy Resources and Education (CARE), which provides many support services for UC Davis people, including confidential counseling and confidential reporting of sexual harassment/violence:

UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment:

Excerpts from an e-mail sent from former Chancellor Katehi to UC Davis faculty last spring:

Earlier this month, the University of California issued a revised Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy. This policy now requires every UC Davis employee (except designated confidential resources) to notify the Title IX office when they become aware that a student has experienced a possible incident of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Additionally, all faculty, supervisors and managers must inform the Title IX office when they receive information that any other member of the campus community has experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence in connection with University employment or a University program.

 At UC Davis, you can contact the following individuals and programs about such reports or with questions about the new policy: Wendi Delmendo (Title IX Officer),, (530) 752-6550; the Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program, (530) 752-9255; or the UCDHS Equal Employment Opportunity Office, (916) 734-5335.

Effective January 1, 2016, UC Davis also has new student adjudication procedures that apply to disciplinary action in cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence involving students. These procedures are available in Exhibit F of the Administration of Student Discipline.

 More information about campus resources available for those who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual violence is available at and

 Preventing and responding to sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses is a responsibility we all share. I am confident that together we can create and maintain a safe environment for all our students, faculty and staff.