Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, asked a crowded hotel elevator what floor everyone needed. Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, replied, “Ladies’ lingerie” (or, as Sharoni remembers it, “Women’s lingerie.”) Several people laughed. Was that sexual harassment?
Academics have been debating the question among themselves since last month, when Sharoni filed a formal complaint about the incident, triggering an investigation by the International Studies Association. The ISA would later conclude that Lebow must apologize in writing by May 15.
Professor/Victim Sharoni is a 57-year-old at an obscure college here in suburban Massachusetts (the Wikipedia page is almost empty). Her abuser is a 76-year-old professor at King’s College London, ranked among the world’s top 25 universities. Thanks to the miracle of tenure, ordinarily a younger scholar who wanted this guy’s job would have to wait for him to die. But perhaps she can get rid of him and free up his position for herself via this dispute? (or maybe she will take over a position at a 2nd-tier school when that person moves to the 1st-tier King’s College?)
Separately, this is a good illustration of how much free time tenured faculty have on their hands! (Consistent with the book Higher Education?, which calculates that a typical Yale professor earns $820 per hour of work that is actually required.)