Aesthetics for Birds

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Update: a Statement Regarding the ASA Harassment Incident

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Last November, AFB reported on an accusation of sexual harassment at the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) Annual Meeting. Five days ago, AFB reported that the accused harasser was on the program for the upcoming ASA Annual Meeting, along with the accuser. Since then, a number of differing accounts have emerged regarding how the original accusation was lodged, largely via discussions on social media. In particular, some members of ASA leadership have stated that no official complaint was ever made by the accuser. The accuser has asked us to publish the following statement. UPDATE: See a fact-checked summary of the full incident.

It was reported that an incident of sexual harassment occurred at the annual American Society for Aesthetics conference last November by a senior member. I am the accuser. This year, the issue has resurfaced because various ASA members have noticed that the accused person is on this year’s annual conference program, despite others raising red flags on my behalf. I’m currently sitting here and reading comments posted on various threads on social media about this issue – some are supportive, constructive, and some are misinformed. That is why I am coming forward and writing this now.

I feel no need to go into details about the incident itself or to call anyone out. What I am currently troubled by is the misinformed and false statements that are reported. For example, it’s said that my allegations are hearsay, that no official or direct complaint was filed, that ‘the accuser’ has not posted on various social media platforms about the issue, and that I never directly reached out to the officers. What is more, others have no memory or documentation of my complaint. I have had a recent apology from an ASA leader about some of the misunderstandings, for which I am grateful, but, I am still seeing misrepresentations and false characterizations about certain actions that took place.  I personally want to set the record straight. I did, in fact, write a timeline of events, I did confront the accused (with other members), I did make an official complaint to an ASA Trustee, a trusted and respected member of the Society, who then submitted my complaints to ASA leaders on my behalf. Appropriate actions were taken at the time of my reporting this incident and direct communication was made with me. Now, in light of the accused appearing on this year’s conference program and as more concerns are raised, it seems some are telling a different story. This is disappointing because it sends a message that the organization is more important than its members. I am no longer curious why people don’t come forward with such grievances. It’s exhausting. It’s embarrassing. It seems pointless. We must work together and change our mentality of what is acceptable and that we simply should no longer stand for behavior that has long been seen as the status quo. As such, I will work with the leadership to make sure my complaint is official and on the record.

In the midst of all of this, I’ve had countless support and so I end on a positive note to say that I am grateful. I am also hopeful that we can work towards creating a healthy environment within the ASA.

Sincerely,

Shelby Moser

81 Comments

  1. I just want to speak out, as an ASA member, to say how sorry I am that the society has treated Shelby so badly, in the ways she’s just described. I also call on the accused to do what he can to redress the situation by stepping off the 2018 program. Please join me in expressing sympathy and calling for action.

  2. I have received correspondence in which ASA leadership has mischaracterized Shelby’s report as third-party hearsay. I knew about the situation at the time of the original report, and I know that this is incorrect. There is an electronic record that shows as much. This mischaracterization is gravely disturbing, and the Trustees of the ASA should issue an immediate public apology to Shelby.

    Shelby, you have my full support.

  3. Also, I agree with Dom that the accuser should remove himself from the program.

  4. I just wanted to offer my support for the strength and courage of Shelby Moser, my hope that the ASA will learn from this event and use it to get better at creating a welcoming and safe climate for all people who attend, and to corroborate that I, too, as well as another woman I know, have in the past been made to feel uncomfortable by the same person who is accused in this situation. I also agree that the person accused should recuse himself from this year’s program as a signal to all of us that he now gets it and is serious about changing his ways.

  5. So sorry, Shelby. You should not have to be dealing with this. I’m dismayed by how severely the ASA is bungling this. I join Dom, Sherri, and Aili in politely asking the accused to remove himself from the program and not attend the meeting.

  6. it’s encouraging to see all of the support here for shelby. and i echo everyone’s plea for the accused to step down.

  7. I write to affirm my support for Dr. Moser in this troubling situation. As a relatively new member of the ASA, I agree with the previous commenters that it is imperative that these complaints be handled in a transparent and ethical manner, which of course includes treating those lodging the complaints with respect–as is clearly not the case at present.

  8. I only just became aware of these issues – I live a life sheltered from social media! – and I find them deeply disturbing. I too must congratulate Shelby for her courage both in coming forward originally and in responding now to those spreading misinformation – something I assume has been possible because of the ASA’s attempts at discretion. I don’t know who the accused person is, but the ASA’s response, as described in Marcia Eaton’s earlier post that I just read, and the reports by both Shelby and Aili, for each of whom I have great respect, leaves me in no doubt as to the seriousness of the problem. Collegiality, sociability, and the integration of junior members of the profession are among the greatest strengths of ASA meetings, and there can therefore be no tolerance of harassment, even more so when it is on the part of a senior member. I therefore add my voice to those asking that the accused party, whoever he is, withdraw from this year’s programme.

  9. I would also like to express my support for Shelby, to ask ASA leadership to apologize for mischaracterizing her report, and to urge the accused to remove himself from the program.

  10. As members of the ASA Board of Trustees, we are writing to express our sincere regret for the mishandling of Dr. Moser’s complaint. We say this not on behalf of the Board, which has not yet been called into session to organize a response, but as concerned members of the organization and of its leadership. We hope that the Board will issue a statement of its own very soon, and follow that statement with responsible action to ensure that we handle any future cases more effectively and appropriately. But the machinery moves slowly, and as members of the wider organization we are unwilling to wait for it to kick into gear to make our position known. Please know that we will work with our Board colleagues to attend with more care and greater efficacy to the challenge of making the ASA a safe and collegial space for all of its members. Please know also that we are convinced: this is not simply a matter of inclusion, but a matter of transformation. The organization has to change, and we are committed, with others, to making this happen.

    Dr. Moser, we are truly sorry.

    John Gibson (ASA trustee through 2021)
    Jonathan Neufeld (ASA trustee through 2021)
    Paul C. Taylor (ASA trustee through 2020)

  11. I wish to express my support and deep respect for Shelby. I am disgusted that incidents like this happen in the first place. And am additionally dismayed at the ASA’s handling of it. I also ask for the ASA leadership to apologize and for the accused to withdraw from the 2018 program.

  12. Shelby, I was so sorry to hear about this: you were incredibly brave to write this post. There should be no place for harassment at the ASA. I join those above in calling on the accused to not attend the upcoming meeting.

  13. As an ASA member, I am posting to concur with the above comments and to express my respect and admiration for Shelby Moser. I can’t imagine the stress this must be causing her. She should have this time to live her life, relax before the academic year begins, and make progress on her (very exciting) research. Having made an official report at the time of the incident, she should not have had to deanonymize herself many months later to have her concerns taken seriously.

  14. It’s hard to overstate how much I value Shelby as a colleague and as a friend. I am incredibly saddened about both the initial incident, and the subsequent treatment of it by the ASA. We need to work harder as a discipline not only to respond adequately to cases of sexual harassment like hers, but to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Shelby has my full support, and I am committed to doing everything I can to make our corner of philosophy a more welcoming and inclusive place. I can start by urging the ASA to issue an official statement and apology to Shelby; and by urging that the accused to reconsider attending the upcoming annual meeting of the ASA.

  15. Shelby, Thank you for setting the record straight. I am deeply sorry that it was necessary for you to do that and for what it has cost you. I hope that I will have the chance to thank you in person at an ASA meeting sometime in the future. With admiration and gratitude, Kristin Boyce

  16. As an ASA member, I am writing to express my support for Shelby Moser, to ask the ASA leadership to apologize for how they have treated her, and to ask the accused to withdraw from the 2018 program.

  17. I’d like to express my support for Dr. Shelby Moser, who shouldn’t have had to make such a statement but who, by doing so, has done our discipline and the ASA a great and selfless service.

    To the accused, all I can say is: for God’s sake man, have some self-respect and recuse yourself from the programme.

  18. Would that all of the members of the ASA, myself included, behaved not just in ways that are acceptable, but that display the kind of grace, courage, and conviction that Dr. Moser has modeled. She has all of my support and admiration. And my hope that actions such as hers will help bring about the change needed.

  19. Dr. Moser, thank you for your courage and generosity! As a direct result of your having spoken out, the ASA now has an official policy on sexual harassment, and members of the society are having public discussions about that policy and how to best implement it. We all owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you.

  20. Shelby, your courage and candor are both moving and admirable. Sad as I am about the incident you went through last year, and the recent treatment you received from the ASA, I am also encouraged by your fortitude. You give me hope. It’s time to work together to prevent cases of sexual harassment such as the one that you have suffered, and, if they occur, to ensure their fair treatment. I urge others to join us in asking the ASA leadership to formally apologize, and the accused to remove himself from the program. And I send you, Shelby, my love, gratitude and admiration.

  21. I’m writing to express my support for Shelby. Like Anthony said, it’s difficult to overstate how much I value her both as a friend and a colleague. I join others in calling on the ASA to apologize for this sad situation. I hope the accused will show recuse himself from the program. And I’m grateful to Shelby for bringing this to light with courage and grace. Sorry, Shelby, for how you have been treated. And I’m sorry that things have needed to go this far.

  22. I’d like to add my voice in asking the accused to withdraw from the programme, expressing my dismay at the way this has been handled by the ASA, my hope that both the society and all of us individually can do better in the future, and my sincere thanks and admiration to Shelby for her courage and grace throughout all of it.

  23. As a long-term ASA member, I am angered and dismayed to learn about this incident and how it has been handled. I hope that the accused will withdraw from the program, and that the leadership of the society will move quickly to apologize and put in procedures to do better in the future. I only know Professor Moser slightly (via e-mail), but she has my sympathy, support, and admiration.

  24. Dr. Moser has done a great thing for our profession. I’m very grateful, and I’m so impressed by her courage not just in filing the initial report, but also in making this further statement, which shouldn’t have been necessary. I hope the ASA will be similarly forthcoming in its response. The mistaken and misleading descriptions of Dr. Moser’s complaints have affected the faith that I, for one, have in its assurance last year that (what it described as) “the sexual harassment situation” at the 2017 Meeting “was dealt with immediately by ASA officers.” (See https://aestheticsforbirds.com/2017/11/28/the-asa-at-75-response-from-asa-officers/). I have to wonder whether the harasser would be returning for this year’s meeting if the message he received from the ASA last year had been more forceful. We members do not currently know how, or even whether, the ASA made it clear to the harasser that his actions were unacceptable.

  25. I think I may reconsider my attendance and participation in the upcoming Toronto meeting in light of this most disturbing news. It should not take a bungled harassment complaint to establish a harassment policy! Ugh!

  26. I am writing to express my gratitude, admiration, and support for Dr. Shebly Moser. I hope that we all can take this moment to transform our community for the better. All too often the burden for this transformation is placed on the aggrieved; this is unjust and unfair. I join with others on this list to ask the accused to remove himself from the program. In solidarity, Elizabeth Scarbrough.

  27. Writing in support. Horrified that this happened, impressed and encouraged by Dr. Moser’s courage.

  28. First: Shelby, you’re fantastic! I couldn’t ask for a better friend and colleague, and the courage, decorum, and honour behind your post make that clear for all to see.

    Like everyone upthread, I am angry, horrified, upset, and, most of all, so sorry that these were Shelby’s experiences–that it happened to her in the first place, and that it didn’t end when it could and should have ended. We owe it to ourselves, to future members, and to past victims to do much, much better, and to do it self-consciously. And the perpetrator in question really ought to excuse himself from the program.

    Given what others have said about his past behaviour, I can’t help but think that perhaps he ought to excuse himself from the association outright. I don’t want my ASA to be one in which senior members who ought to know better, and who have received the benefit of many doubts, routinely prey upon vulnerable members of the association and the profession. It only takes a single person to do serious harm to the association, and what we think it should be.

    I’m also angry that Shelby had to forgo anonymity to set the record straight, while her harasser enjoys the shield of anonymity–yet again, since we’re told he’s a repeat offender whose reputation precedes him. An open secret is still *a secret,* and that does no one any favours. It should never get to the point of becoming an open secret. Surely there’s a better way.

  29. Dr. Moser has been a model of strength. courage, and grace. The rest of us must do better. I respectfully call on the accuser to refrain from attending the annual meeting in Toronto, for the ASA to apologize to Dr. Moser, and for the ASA to develop and enforce policies that reflect its ostensible commitment to the construction of welcoming atmosphere in which to pursue aesthetics and the philosophy of art.

    -Mary Beth Willard

  30. I am grateful to Dr. Moser for speaking out. I wish she did not have to. We all need to work much harder on this issue.

  31. I would like to add my support for Dr. Moser.
    I am not directly connected with anyone involved in this incident and all I know about it is what I have read online. In reading some of this–in particular Michel’s comment–it makes me shudder: “we’re told he’s a repeat offender whose reputation precedes him.” The reason why I shudder is because I was told a while ago (prior to the previous conference) by a rather disgusted informant about a long-standing member of the ASA whose repeated behaviour could only be described as predatory. At the time I was told, the described person was in a service role in the ASA. I then forgot about that conversation until reading about this latest incident and seeing that the same person was at last year’s conference and is also on the current program. I acknowledge that this is hearsay but it may comport with what has already been stated.

  32. Shelby, I am so sorry you are having all this trouble. As it was caused by an injustice done to you, that is very unfair. Bonne courage!

  33. I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by other contributors to this thread. It is appalling that Shelby has felt compelled to reveal her identity in this way, and I hope that the ASA will take the appropriate steps to prevent such a situation from arising again. Shelby, you have my full support.

  34. I’m writing to express my full support for Shelby and my dismay at the situation as it stands. The ASA has worked to improve diversity and inclusion over the past few years, but it’s clear that it must do more. I encourage the accused to take himself off the program for the forthcoming annual meeting and to work with others to find a positive way forward for the aesthetics community.

    Aaron Meskin

  35. Shelby, this is awful and disturbing on so many levels. While I fully agree with the majority of comments here (the accused person should withdraw from the program), I would also like to also know how exactly ASA has handled this case and how it promises to handle similar cases in the future.

  36. Dr. Moser, I am so sorry you have had to go through this–I know how wrenching this can be, and how hopeless it can seem. Thank you for your courage–I know it’s not easy. I’d like to join others here in calling the accused to remove himself from the program. I’d also like to call for the ASA Trustees to meet to discuss and set policies for how to deal with this sort of issue in the future, and how best to create a climate that reduces the risks and impact of similar incidents. (The APA Committeee on the Status of Women may be able to help make recommendations.) We all do better if we can publicly think through how to handle such issues in advance.

    • I was glad to hear (just now, after my original post) that the ASA has been at work on this, and has recently announced new policies on discrimination, harassment, and respectful behavior.

  37. Thank you, Amie. The new policy, announced on July 23, 2018, is here: https://aesthetics-online.site-ym.com/news/news.asp?id=410339

  38. Dear Dr. Moser,

    As a longtime member and former Trustee of the ASA, I am so sorry that you have had this terrible experience. As is widely attested, and as you mention, the process of lodging a complaint often compounds the injury of sexual harassment. I am chagrined that the ASA procedure has replicated this bad pattern. Your courage in making a public statement is admirable, and we must hope that it will help the ASA to improve.

    Rachel Zuckert
    Professor, Northwestern University

  39. Shelby,
    I’m very sorry you were faced with this. It was courageous of you to come forward with your initial report, and even more courageous to come forward in this public way now. You have my full support, and I would echo the sentiment many others have expressed in this thread: the person in question should withdraw from the Toronto program.
    -Andrew Huddleston

  40. I am writing also to express my support for Dr Moser – we all benefit from your strength, courage and grace in what is a most disturbing situation. I am deeply sorry that you had to experience that, and hope that members will come together to make the ASA a welcoming and supportive environment for everyone.
    — Sondra Bacharach

  41. I note that the ASA’s new policy on harassment provides for sanctions in the event that a member is found to have engaged in harassment. I would have thought that ineligibility to participate in meetings of the ASA and even suspension from the ASA (and consequently inability to participate in a meeting) would be suitable sanctions. It cannot be comfortable for someone who has been subjected to harassment to attend a meeting with the person who has harassed her. It is even possible that the harassed and harassed could be scheduled in the same session if the Program Committee is not advised that someone is found to have engaged in harassment.

    • I echo James Young’s comments here. The ASA Leadership needs to do better. Shelby you have my support.

    • Yes. It seems the reluctance of the ASA to do this was that it didn’t have this policy thought through and in place yet. The policy was only recently finalized — after the ASA National program was finalized.

  42. Let me join the chorus of support for Shelby and admiration at her courage and tenacity in dealing with a situation that is anathema to what the ASA should be. I do not know who the accused is, but I join others in calling for him to remove himself from the program.

  43. I would also like to convey my sympathy and support — I am sorry, Shelby, for the ordeal you have been going through. I hope and trust that we can come together at the ASA to evolve and maintain a safe and supportive culture and practices.

  44. I would also like to convey my sympathy and support — I am sorry Shelby that you have gone through this ordeal. I hope and trust that we can come together at the ASA to evolve and maintain a safe and supportive culture and practices.

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  46. There can be no place in the ASA for predatory behaviour or other forms of harassment. It is clear that as an Association we have yet to conduct ourselves in ways that properly promote this vital and basic goal. Shelby, for your steadfast but gracious refusal to let current inadequacies go unnoticed, we are all deeply in your debt.

    (I’m a trustee until 2021, writing as an individual member)

  47. I am very sorry to hear about Dr. Moser’s experience, both at the New Orleans meeting and in the aftermath. None of this should have happened. James Young’s suggestion about sanctions above seems sensible to me. Dr. Moser has had the worry that pursuing the issue may be pointless, but I hope the open discussion here about this, and our strong expressions of support, help to allay that worry. I think this conversation will make a difference.

  48. Just to add my voice in support of Dr. Moser. I’m very sorry to hear about your experience at the meeting and afterwards in your interactions with the ASA. Thank you for your courage in dealing with this.

  49. I am writing to express complete and heartfelt support for Dr. Moser, as well as my total agreement with others’ thoughtful comments here. I also want to echo calls for the accused to please do what he can to redress this issue by stepping off the program, and to urge the ASA to both apologize to Dr. Moser and work toward devising better ways of addressing such problems, should they arise in the future (all the while hoping that they will arise far less often than they currently do).

  50. You have my support, Shelby!
    Barbara Gail Montero

  51. I share others’ concerns expressed here. I’m deeply impressed by Shelby’s actions and attitudes in this situation not of her making. I was upset and concerned to hear about events at last year’s conference, and I hope that the ASA can decisively and visibly improve the conference environment. It’s clear that this is not consistent with the perpetrator presenting at the Toronto conference.

  52. I wish to express my deepest respect and admiration for Shelby and the way she has handled this incredibly difficult situation. The aestheticians who have gathered here, at least, are speaking with one voice, with a message that is loud and clear. The ASA should take the appropriate measures now.

  53. Shelby, you are being brave, and you have my full support! Participants at ASA conferences need to know that they can feel safe, and trust that if harassment does occur, it is dealt with in a manner that leaves no doubt that such behaviour is unacceptable. I join others in calling for further action from the ASA. Shelby should not have had to turn to social media.

  54. Both the incident and the response of the ASA are awful, shocking and very worrying.. Shelby, you have my respect and admiration for challenging what happened and not letting it be brushed under the carpet. The ASA needs to act now to address what has happened.

  55. Shelby, the determination and dignity with which you’ve handled yourself throughout this whole sorry affair is really remarkable. Change can only happen with this kind of courage. Your friends and colleagues at the University of Kent are proud of you for standing up and being counted!

  56. Shelby, you have my heartfelt sympathy and support! Until very recently I knew almost nothing about the New Orleans incident (no doubt because I rarely—well, never—hang out on social media). But the reports I have read are very disturbing. Thanks for coming forward! My impression, during my many years with the ASA, is that it has generally thought of itself as uncommonly collegial, respectful, and inclusive. But there have been lapses. Shelby reminds us that we need to work together ever more diligently to make sure it lives up to the image.

  57. Whilst it has been said by everyone above, it is worthwhile repeating: Shelby, you have my full support. I want to thank you for your bravery in coming forward with your story. I deeply regret this has happened and I hope the ASA will do what is necessary.

  58. Update: the accused has written to me to say that he will not appear at the annual meeting of the ASA in Toronto. Thank you to all those who posted their support of Shelby and he wishes in this thread. We can effect change when we speak up.

  59. I regret that this happened at an ASA meeting. Professor Moser, my belated support & good wishes.

  60. I cannot imagine what Shelby went through. It takes a lot of courage to speak up in a system that too often seems to protect wrongdoers. I am glad to see that her sacrifice started a process of real change. I am also glad to see that many ASA senior members have reacted to their best to support that change.

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