Call to boycott publisher after sexual misconduct book scrapped

Chapter of Sexual Misconduct in Academia was previously withdrawn after academic claimed he was identified

June 24, 2024
Source: iStock/ :Diy13

Academics are being urged to boycott a publisher after it “unpublished” a book on sexual misconduct in universities which had triggered legal threats.

A chapter of Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Informing an Ethics of Care in the University – which details allegations of sexual harassment at an unnamed institution – was previously withdrawn after an academic claimed he was identified as an alleged perpetrator.

After discussions broke down between publisher Routledge, part of Taylor & Francis, and the book’s two editors – Erin Pritchard, senior lecturer in disability and education at Liverpool Hope University, and Delyth Edwards, lecturer in inclusion, childhood and youth at the University of Leeds – the entire collection has now been unpublished.

In doing so, Anna Bull, lecturer in education and social justice at the University of York, who wrote the book’s afterword, told Times Higher Education that Routledge and Taylor & Francis were “choosing to stand with the powerful and silence survivors of sexual misconduct”.

“Their mishandling of the publication of Sexual Misconduct in Academia shows they are unable to cope with this issue,” said Dr Bull, co-founder of the 1752 Group, a research group addressing sexual harassment in higher education.

“As a result, we urge academics to boycott reviewing for or publishing with them wherever possible.”

Despite international outcry, the chapter in question was permanently withdrawn in September. In it, three female authors – Lieselotte Viaene, Catarina Laranjeiro and Miye Nadya Tom – describe their experiences of sexual harassment at an unnamed institution where they were formerly PhD students or postdocs.

However, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, director emeritus of the University of Coimbra’s Centre for Social Studies (CES), publicly claimed that the work identified him in relation to the harassment allegations, while denying any wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, Coimbra issued a public apology to “people who consider themselves victims of harassment or abuse” after an independent report concluded that, while it could not “clarify beyond doubt the existence or otherwise of all the situations reported”, there was evidence to suggest “patterns of conduct involving abuse of power and harassment on the part of some people who held senior positions in the CES hierarchy”.

Kenyora Lenair Parham, chief executive of the End Rape on Campus project, said it was “deeply disappointing” to see the “vital” publication removed from shelves.

“This action only highlights the very silencing the book seeks to address,” she added in a post on Twitter/X.

“I’m in solidarity with you [the editors] and hope that this gets resolved ensuring that your next collection remains unscathed.”

In a statement, Routledge said it wrote to the editors with a “proposal to work collaboratively together to make the remainder of Sexual Misconduct in Academia, without the original Chapter 12, available again as a Routledge title” in September.

“Regrettably, we could not reach agreement with the editors on this proposal,” they added.

“The only remaining option was, therefore, to revert all the rights in the book to the editors and the contributors, giving them full freedom to explore options for publication elsewhere, including placing the book with another publisher.”

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