More names are named.

Ed Cara at Heresy Club has shared a story that a number of us might have heard before, but this time with a name attached:

And on that trip in 2011, everyone had a great time, I’m told. Well, there was this one moment that was…off. See, one of these very special guests of the CFI was a bit rambunctious the whole time, there with a female guest he brought along. At some point during the trip, this very special guest of the CFI propositioned a female Friend of the Center to join him and his guest in his hotel room, an offer the woman turned down.

Sometime later, this woman mentioned the encounter to another friend who then mentioned it to one of the CFI staff members onboard at the time. No official report of the event was made at that point, or at any point. For accuracy’s sake, it’s worth noting that the woman’s (and her friend’s) reaction was not one of outrage, but annoyance, and she never expressed the desire to file a report. For more accuracy’s sake, it was a very special guest invited by the CFI to act in the capacity of a speaker sexually propositioning an attendee of a CFI event. Is that harassment? Legally, maybe not. Is it creepy and inappropriate? Undoubtedly.
I am told of other incidents where the speaker in question – while functioning as a speaker – made people uncomfortable with his sexual advances, including a specific case six years back. I am told by CFI members that there will be a followup with that specific case and that if only Lindsay had been aware of it at the time, this situation might have ended differently. I am told there had been and will be substantial steps taken. I choose to hold back on discussing any of this publicly at the time, believing things should be given the chance to work out. I now feel stupid for believing that.
By the way, that very special guest’s name was Lawrence Krauss, and he’ll be attending the CFI’s travel expedition to the Galapagos Islands in 2014.

I had heard this story a dozen times over the past few years, and Krauss’ name also comes up every time I’m privy to the informal network of information about who-to-avoid. I am glad a primary source came out.

Update: Heresy Club took down the post, citing lack of evidence. Krauss has further threatened to sue Jen McCreight for stating she knows two people who’d been personally harassed by him, and so she is no longer naming him explicitly at her blog, referring to him as Famous Skeptic instead. I feel moderately secure in reporting on these events insofar as I am aware that there are some people slavering at the bit for a lawsuit against Jen and Ed Cara, and all the evidence has already been gathered via Freezepages so even if every mention was scrubbed from our servers, the damage is already done. Any such lawsuit by Krauss, additionally, would certainly make Krauss’ name known by far and away more than this blog post reporting on these actions, and furthermore, I am not speculating on whether or not the stories are TRUE. My motto with regard to victims coming forward is, “trust, but verify”. That’s all I’ve ever advocated, and all I ever will.

But another story I had heard long ago, directly from Sasha Pixlee, creeps me out even more. He shared his encounter with DJ Grothe on More Than Men:

We encountered one another at a Skepchick party (one that had to be moved to the lobby because of noise complaints as soon as it started). He was drunk, but it was a social occasion and I’d had a couple cocktails as well. No big deal. I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they “want pussy”. That seemed to be a rather dismissive and insultingly sexist way to dismiss the work of your professional colleagues (not to mention the people whose booze you were at that moment drinking.

I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I was still a bit fame-struck and too shocked to really process it. I didn’t do what I should have done, and told him how rude, insulting, and unprofessional it was to say something like that, even while drunk. Even in a casual social setting. But then it got more bizarre and incredible. I’m a tall guy, chubby (fat, honestly) and bearded. If I were gay I would definitely be a bear. This was discussed and DJ then made an hilarious horrendous “joke” about how I should pay him a visit down in Los Angeles so that he could drug me and let some of his friends have some fun with me. You know, in other words so that I could be gang raped.

I never felt like he was serious when he made that joke about having me raped. I never felt like I was in actual danger. I am a straight cis man. I’m not as likely to have to worry about those things as someone else. I know he was drunk. I also know that those two stories from the night I met DJ Grothe have put into context every unprofessional, sneaky, sexist, callous, victim-blaming, self serving, and morally ambiguous thing I’ve seen him do since. Whenever I read or hear someone hopeful for something approaching sensitivity or progress on issues of sexism, sexual harassment, or even assault coming out of Mr. Grothe’s JREF, I just think of the first time I met him and wait for the inevitable horrendous actions that will follow.

Understand that every time I’ve talked about DJ Grothe in the past two years, I’ve thought about Sasha’s story as well. With Sasha’s permission, I even alluded to it once when I was at peak rage. I was speaking in that blog post directly to DJ. I really wanted him to recognize the analogy I used. I really wanted him to understand what kind of a hypocritical, self-serving and offensive jackass he was being by acting the way he was at the time.

I am disgusted by the culture we apparently have created where people committing actions like these are defended regularly. Why are we skeptics so evidently prone to the Halo Effect? I am further disgusted that these actions were covered up instead of loudly decried, and further disgusted by the inevitable cries that those of us shining light on these actions are just trying to “ruin” the organizations that helped minimize and enable them.

More names are named.

Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention

Center For Inquiry’s Ben Radford, whom you might remember as the skeptic who took on a four year old over evolutionary reasons little girls might like pink, among numerous other terrible bits of skepticism and anti-science, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting Karen Stollznow serially over a period of four years. The story was told anonymously, but a number of independent sources on Twitter and elsewhere blew the whistle and named Radford. PZ received many emails to that effect. And Stollznow has since given her blessing to the people naming him.

An investigation was apparently undertaken by CFI, hiring a third party contractor; the investigators may or may not have found him guilty. That appears to be a point of contention presently in the narrative. From Stollznow’s post:

Five months after I lodged my complaint I received a letter that was riddled with legalese but acknowledged the guilt of this individual. They had found evidence of “inappropriate communications” and “inappropriate” conduct at conferences. However, they greatly reduced the severity of my claims. When I asked for clarification and a copy of the report they treated me like a nuisance. In response to my unanswered phone calls they sent a second letter that refused to allow me to view the report because they couldn’t release it to “the public”. They assured me they were disciplining the harasser but this turned out to be a mere slap on the wrist. He was suspended, while he was on vacation overseas. They offered no apology, that would be an admission of guilt, but they thanked me for bringing this serious matter to their attention. Then they asked me to not discuss this with anyone. This confidentiality served me at first; I wanted to retain my dignity and remain professional. Then I realized that they are trying to silence me, and this silence only keeps up appearances for them and protects the harasser.

Emphasis mine.

They had enough evidence that he was serially harassing someone in order to “suspend” him — while he was already on vacation overseas. When it would have no impact on his job, and would serve as nothing but a note in his file.
Continue reading “Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention”

Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention

CFI's board statement re Women In Secularism 2 #wiscfi

I’m pretty super-busy right now, and can’t really fully respond myself, but I wanted you all to know that CFI has released a statement about Women In Secularism 2 and the controversy surrounding Ron Lindsay’s complete lack of understanding of the movement, feminism, or the place where the actual conversation was at. It’s here, and since they’ve disabled comments (as is their undeniable right), I’m copying it here so you can feel free to weigh in on what you think about it.

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

That’s it.

No mention of any sort of disapprobation for said CEO’s actions in creating the controversy ex nihilo. Just unhappiness.

We’re unhappy too. That’s why we’d like an apology that acknowledges what exactly was done, by whom, and to whom, to cause this “controversy”. That’s what we asked for — an apology, and assurance that WiS3 will happen. That’s it. That’s not too fucking difficult is it?


Miri posts longer “in brief” thoughts here.

CFI's board statement re Women In Secularism 2 #wiscfi

Debbie Goddard is CFI’s new Director of Outreach

Holy hell, this is great. I am 100% behind this choice by CFI — if anyone knows outreach, it’s Debbie Goddard. The CFI press release:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is proud to announce that Debbie Goddard, formerly CFI’s campus outreach coordinator, has accepted the position of Director of Outreach. She replaces Lauren Becker in that role, who has shifted to her new position as Director of Marketing, as previously announced.

“Debbie has been a part of the heart of CFI for a long time now, embodying what it means to be a dedicated CFI employee. She has given a great deal of herself to this organization and its cause: bringing about a world that values science, reason, and compassion over dogma and superstition,” said Ron Lindsay, CFI’s President and CEO. “We are all proud to see Debbie take on this crucial leadership role in which we know she will excel.”

Continue reading “Debbie Goddard is CFI’s new Director of Outreach”

Debbie Goddard is CFI’s new Director of Outreach

CFI Canada creating “Good and Godless” campaign

CFI Canada sent around via email, as part of a fundraising effort, the news that they’re planning on starting up a campaign with which I couldn’t agree more. I quote:

Hi Jason

Did you hear that Atheists are as distrusted as rapists? That’s the result of a UBC study:

105 UBC students between the ages of 18 and 25 were presented with a description of an untrustworthy person – an “archetypal freerider” who committed selfish and illegal acts when he thought he could get away with it. Subjects were more likely to find the description representative of atheists than Christians, Muslims, gay men, feminists or Jewish people. Only rapists were similarly distrusted.

In response, the Centre for Inquiry is starting a Campaign “Good and Godless”, inviting atheists of all backgrounds to record short videos explaining who they are, how they contribute to society and why they are indeed moral people. Videos will be displayed on our Think Again! TV YouTube Channel.

Click Here to Join or Renew Your Membership or Make a Charitable Donation

This is just another project supported by your membership and donation to the Centre for Inquiry Canada. This will be our last email to thank you for helping make 2011 an amazing year for our shared values – skeptical inquiry, freedom of thought, and secular humanism – and to encourage you to make a tax-deductible charitable donation and renew your membership (extending it by 12 months from its expiration date) at this time.

It’s a damn good idea, if you ask me — though I’m ever leery of doing video. And donations are tax-deductible, if you are so inclined.

CFI Canada creating “Good and Godless” campaign