Here's one way to avoid getting in trouble for sexual harassment if you're a college professor:
When Thomas Pogge travels around the world, he finds eager young fans waiting for him in every lecture hall. The 62-year-old German-born professor, a protégé of the philosopher John Rawls, is bespectacled and slight of stature. But he’s a giant in the field of global ethics, and one of only a small handful of philosophers who have managed to translate prominence within the academy to an influential place in debates about policy.
A self-identified “thought leader,” Pogge directs international health and anti-poverty initiatives, publishes papers in leading journals, and gives TED Talks. His provocative argument that wealthy countries, and their citizens, are morally responsible for correcting the global economic order that keeps other countries poor revolutionized debates about global justice. He’s also a dedicated professor and mentor, at Yale University — where he founded and directs the Global Justice Program, a policy and public health research group — as well as at other prestigious institutions worldwide.
Global justice! Forcing rich countries to bail out poor countries! At Yale, we love you! As long us you don't force us at Yale, with our $26 billion endowment, to have to bail out anyone.
But then again, there's this:
Allegations against Pogge, a global ethicist, first surfaced in 2014, and he was named publicly related to a sexual harassment complaint against Yale in May….
Pogge’s alleged behavior has been something of an open secret in philosophy for at least two years, since the 2014 publication of an essay accusing him of moral fraud and using his influence to win sexual favor with a number of young women. The author said her relationship with Pogge was consensual, if built on lies about his personal life, but that she wanted to warn potential victims. She did not name Pogge in the piece, but speculation soon centered on him.
That lady's essay, titled "I Had an Affair With My Hero," makes for fascinating reading on its own. Her "hero" might have been into global justice, but he was also quite the globetrotter:
When I met him at a conference I didn’t think he’d remember me, so I was surprised when he sent me an email, prompting a regular exchange between us. He told me he’ll be coming to visit the city where I lived and invited me to his hotel. We talked for hours about philosophy and shared personal anecdotes. I remember worrying about the possibility that he must already have someone in his life, and my friends reassuring me that he wouldn’t be inviting me to his room if he did. He must be a good man, this moral philosopher. He has, after all, devoted his life to global justice. Towards the end of his visit, he gave me a rose, took me to a concert, and dinner. I took it as a sign, and, when we returned to his hotel, I declared I was staying. When I asked him if he had protection, he replied that he hasn’t had sex for many years, and that I shouldn’t worry about it.
The second time he visited City X, he opened the door to his hotel room naked and told me he’s been sleeping. I asked him if he always slept naked, and he said that, because he lives by himself, he always sleeps naked.
That's Germans for you! Remember the "Mediterranean-looking men" who swarmed the nude beach in Germany a couple of days ago and threatened to exterminate the skinny-dippers?
The third time he was visiting City X, we decided he would stay in my apartment. While we were lying on my couch, I expressed astonishment about being with him, my global justice hero, and told him about how I worried that someone as amazing as him would already have someone in his life. He admitted he’s been with the same woman for several decades, before I was even born. I was shocked by this revelation. How could he extol honesty, whilst omitting this crucially relevant information?
I dunno. But meanwhile, a former Yale undergrad named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar came under Pogge's spell–or he came under her spell, or whatever. Here's her story, from Buzzfeed:
Lopez Aguilar said she felt a little uncomfortable, but chalked it up to cultural differences. So she told herself it was normal to discuss her thesis on a bike ride with him and at his home, alone. She thought it was strange that he wanted to crash at the Washington, D.C., apartment where she planned to live with her boyfriend over the summer — Pogge was “very tired” of wasting grant money, he explained — but she told him he was more than welcome….
Pogge also asked her to be his interpreter during a conference in Chile shortly after graduation, adding that she could stay in a hostel or was “welcome” to stay in his hotel room if she was “comfortable doing so; we can upgrade the room.” Lopez Aguilar said she didn’t want to make demands, so she offered to sleep on a cot or bring a sleeping bag, but she always expected that he would book them in separate rooms. When she arrived at the hotel, she found that there was only one, but still didn’t think it was her place to object.
“He was my mentor,” Lopez Aguilar said. “Now I see that I was naive, but I thought he actually appreciated me for my intellect. I was flattered that he saw promise in me.”
Only Pogge and Lopez Aguilar know what happened in that room, and Pogge has insisted to Yale he never made sexual comments or advances to her. But she later told the university that he asked her to join him in his bed to watch a movie, The Constant Gardner, on his laptop, with the lights off. That he said he couldn’t look at her in a black dress she wore because it was too “dangerous.” That he said perhaps she would consider marrying him someday. That he told the hotel staff to call them “Mr. and Mrs. Pogge.” That he mentioned he had been accused of sexual harassment at Columbia, and said she was “the Monica Lewinsky to his Bill Clinton.”
Lopez Aguilar said she tried her best to get through the trip, but one night as she sat at a desk translating documents, she felt Pogge slide in behind her on her chair, press his erection against her and grab her breast.
Pogge faced a disciplinary hearing at Yale, but in the end the committee found "insufficient evidence of sexual harassment," even though, according to the New York Times:
Professor Pogge, whose scholarship focuses on theories of global justice, said in a telephone interview that he had engaged in “some definitely inappropriate” behavior, such as sleeping on Ms. Lopez’s lap on a flight and sharing a single hotel room with her, and he denied the harassment charges.
"Sleeping on Ms. Lopez's lap?" Isn't there some way you can fire a professor for just plain being a creep?
So Pogge is now back in the global-justice business at Yale. But other philosophers, as well as students not looking forward to camping out in Pogge's hotel room, have decided to take some action, according to Inside Higher Education:
A closed Facebook group called Students Against Pogge asks supporters to stand in solidarity with Lopez Aguilar “and the other foreign women of color targeted by [Pogge] by, at a minimum, not taking any of his classes in the fall.” The page notes that it’s also “a place to brainstorm other means of pressuring the university into making student voices heard and removing Pogge from the classroom,” according to the popular philosophy blog Daily Nous.
Other academics have said they won’t participate in conferences where Pogge is present. Most controversially, some professors have said that responding means eliminating Pogge from their syllabi.
I'm against students' use of pressure tactics to get professors fired. But removing Pogge from your syllabus? What was this "global justice" hustler who wants to use your money to bail out Venezuela doing there in the first place?