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CEO DATELINE – Archaeology society blasted for handling of alleged sexual harasser

April 15, 2019
By Walt Williams

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More than 1,500 academics have signed a letter criticizing the Society for American Archaeology for inviting an alleged sexual harasser to its conference and reportedly kicking out a journalist who confronted the individual.

Archaeologist David Yesner has been banned from the campus of the University of Alaska at Anchorage over what university officials said are credible claims of sexual misconduct against him, Insider Higher Ed reported. As a result, many people were surprised that Yesner was allowed to attend the society’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., last week, where several of his alleged victims were also in attendance.

Science journalist Michael Balter, who was at the meeting to speak on a panel about the #MeToo movement, confronted Yesner and asked him to leave. However, the organizers instead had Balter kicked out of the conference, according to the news site.

SAA’s actions prompted an open letter that has been signed by 1,576 individuals as of Monday morning, most of them archaeologists and other academics in the field. They chastised the society for failing to provide a safe educational environment as promised in its 2015 statement on sexual harassment.

The event organizers “protected an individual who had claims of sexual harassment against them substantiated, who had already been banned by other institutions, and they aggrieved survivors of sexual harassment both in attendance and those following the escalating events on social media,” the letter states. “The only action SAA leadership took was to ban Michael Balter, a journalist who complained multiple times about David Yesner’s attendance and the impact it was having on survivors.”

SAA responded to the complaints in a series of tweets Saturday in which the group said that after reviewing complaints, “this process has resulted in SAA having to take appropriate action, including withdrawing multiple meeting registrations.” However, the group did not spell out what actions it took, citing the confidentially of the individuals involved.