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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


SBU professor defers award amid sexual harassment rumors

Stony Brook University Distinguished Professor Michael Kimmel. HEINRICH-BÖLL-STIFTUNG/FLICKR VIA CC BY-SA 2.0

SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Michael Kimmel, publicly acknowledged rumors accusing him of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct this week.

Kimmel, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook, made news after he asked the American Sociological Association (ASA) to hold off on presenting him with the Jessie Bernard Award for broadening research on the role of women in society so that rumors surrounding his alleged misconduct could be properly vetted.

“I have been informed that there are rumors circulating about my professional conduct that suggest I have behaved unethically,” Kimmel wrote in a correspondence with the American Sociology Association that was published by the website Inside Higher Ed on Monday, Aug. 6.

“While nothing has been formally alleged to the best of my knowledge, I take such concerns seriously, and want to validate the voices of those who are making such claims,” Kimmel stated. “I want to hear those charges, hear those voices, and make amends to those who believe I have injured them.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, the Executive Officer of the Association, Nancy Kidd, stated that the ASA “takes very seriously any accusations of misconduct against sociologists which violate our Code of Ethics, and we have a process for receiving and addressing complaints.” Kidd also stated that any formal complaints made against Kimmel will be investigated.

When contacted by The Statesman, Kimmel stated in an email, “The only thing I can say is my initial statement to Inside Higher Education.”

The ASA failed to respond to repeated requests for comment in time for publication.

In the days since Kimmel’s initial announcement, several sociologists have spoken out against him via social media and other online platforms.

Former Stony Brook Sociology Ph.D. student, Bethany M. Coston, gave a detailed account of their negative experiences working under and alongside Kimmel in an article posted to the website Medium.

Coston lists several allegations against Kimmel, claiming he engaged in explicit sexual talk in professional settings, exhibited homophobia and transphobia in academic spaces and displayed an overall lack of respect for anyone other than cisgender, heterosexual men. 

“Not unlike other graduate students and junior faculty have reported, I was originally dependent — or so I thought — on Michael’s letter of recommendation for jobs and feared the potential retaliation that might come from exposing such a widely respected and very influential scholar,” they wrote. “But now, it’s time for me to break this silence.”

Coston responded to The Statesman’s request for comment with the following statement: “At this moment, I think the article speaks for itself… I won’t be doing any other interviews at this time (maybe later, but not right now). I’m going to take this time to do a bit of self care and healing.”

Associate Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook Crystal M. Fleming, took to Twitter to air her grievances against Kimmel. In a thread of tweets, Fleming outlined how her attempts to call Kimmel out for his alleged bad behavior were brushed aside.

“Even as a junior scholar (prior to earning tenure), I publicly and privately raised concerns about his work and conduct as a self-identified ‘male feminist’ on multiple occasions,” Fleming told The Statesman in an email.

“I have also had specific work-related interactions with Dr. Kimmel that did not conform to the basic norms of feminist praxis and mindfulness of power relations that I would expect from a senior male colleague who has built a career on the largely unverified claim of being a champion for women… Although I appreciate some of his influential work, it has indeed been difficult to see and experience the contrast between his public branding as a feminist and the way he conducts himself as a scholar.”

When asked whether the university planned to investigate the allegations made against Kimmel, Stony Brook University Media Relations Officer Lauren Sheprow gave the following statement via email: “The University is unable to comment on personnel matters. We have policies and procedures in place to fully investigate claims that are brought to our attention.”

This story will be updated as more details emerge.

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