Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology, online now

About a year and a half ago, some of my biological anthropologist friends started sharing a link on Facebook to the Biological Anthropology Field Experiences Web Survey. Coordinated by Kate Clancy, Katie Hinde, Robin Nelson, and Julienne Rutherford, this survey was “designed to solicit input on the ways in which fieldwork does or does not provide a safe scholarly and research environment for all.”1 Their goal: “gathering stories to inform Field Directors, faculty mentors, and other researchers and students on the scope of the problem, and identify some of the main contributory factors to a negative environment, both to encourage improvement and to identify future areas for research.” 1

Now fast forward to July 2014. Clancy, Nelson, Rutherford, and Hinde publish their survey’s results – based on the responses of 666 field scientists – in PLoS-One. As summarized in that article’s abstract, their findings underscore that sexual harassment is a major issue facing field researchers today: that women trainees are most often targeted by senior male colleagues; that men trainees are more often targeted by peers; that sexual harassment policies and obvious reporting mechanisms are infrequently encountered in such situations. The authors also outline how field directors might change this status quo by implementing “policies of safety, inclusivity, and collegiality.”2

Fast forward a couple more days/weeks. Other news media pick up the story. Bloggers blog about it and related topics. My friends and I talk about it over the phone, on Twitter (#SAFE13). In these conversations, we express little shock at the findings; rather, there’s a sense of empowerment because things we have witnessed or experienced have been given collective voice. On the flip side, there are also more cynical musings: “I wonder if bringing all this to light will actually change anything.”

I think it will. I hope it will. You can’t take action unless you have a solid idea about what you’re taking action on (though Danielle N. Lee makes a great point – listening and taking seriously the stories we are already hearing should push us to doing something anyway). If we want to “improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages,”2 then we need to know where to start.

With that in mind, this post is to invite members of the Southeastern archaeological community to participate in Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology. Please note that participation in the survey is not limited to active/current SEAC members nor restricted to degree/employment status; the survey is open to any who participate/participated in fieldwork in the Southeastern US. It’s anonymous, online, and has the potential to improve our field. This survey has been in the works for several months under the leadership of Maureen Meyers (University of Mississippi), chair of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey Committee. With the approval of the SEAC Board, our team3 determined that it would be worthwhile to conduct a “field experiences survey” specific to Southeastern archaeology for a couple of reasons.4 For one thing, gender issues have been an increasingly visible topic at our recent annual meetings; the 2014 meeting in Greenville will be no exception (e.g., the Student Affairs Committee will be hosting a Gender in Archaeology Panel on Friday evening). We also thought there are some unique aspects of archaeological fieldwork in the American Southeast – with its blend of academic and professional archaeologists, comparatively short-term/non-international field seasons, etc. – that might serve as interesting points of comparison to SAFE13 and other recent studies.

There are many questions we hope to answer with this survey, and many ways that its results might help us chart a path toward a safer, more inclusive, all around better Southeastern archaeology. So, please, take a few  minutes to complete the Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology. We appreciate your time and input, and think that future generations of Southeastern archaeologists will too.

1Clancy, Kate. “The Biological Anthropology Field Experiences Web Survey: Now Live,” Context and Variation (blog), February 21, 2013. http://kateclancy.com/the-biological-anthropology-field-experiences-web-survey-now-live/

2Clancy, Kathryn B.H., Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford, Katie Hinde. (2014) Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault.” PLoS-One. 9(7): e102172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172

3Maureen Meyers (chair), Tony Boudreaux, Stephen Carmody, Victoria Dekle, Elizabeth Horton, and Alice Wright

4That said, we are very indebted to the SAFE team, especially Robin Nelson, for providing guidance and advice for the present Southeastern archaeology survey.

Questions? Concerns? Please contact Maureen Meyers, Chair of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey Committee, memeyer1@olemiss.edu.

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