In light of recent publications of longstanding sexual and physical harassment and abuse in the field, we request that the NSF-directed US Antarctic Program clarify its policies for reporting harassment, investigations of allegations, and enforcements of codes of conduct. Recent events show that domineering behaviors, mainly by men in power positions (Principal Investigator, lead scientist, senior camp member, etc.) are more common when victims feel empowered to speak out. However, the remote and physically-challenging environment of Antarctic make this a special case, and a potentially more dangerous one.
Among changes sought by this letter and the signees below, we ask that:
- NSF remove responsibility from individual university investigatory units (Title IX, Title VII, etc.) by taking responsibility through its own investigatory office.
- Many field camps are composed of investigators from several different universities, blurring the lines of who is responsible to investigate reported incidences.
- Individual universities develop policies mainly based on the experiences of young students living in dormitories on a relatively safe campus; they are ill-equipped to investigate field conditions in Antarctic. Individual universities cannot be expected to develop policies for unique situations that may only apply to a miniscule proportion of employees.
- NSF outline clear procedures and jurisdiction for reporting and investigation of incidences of abuse in the field and on ships.
- NSF develop a singular and enforceable code of conduct that all scientists working under all auspices of the US Antarctic Program will read, understand, and sign.
- A major focus of Title IX and Title VII guidelines is retaliation. Because retaliation can be vetted through the scientific review process over which individual universities have no authority, NSF should develop a clear set of policies that minimizes the chances for respondants to review complaintants’ and witnesses’ proprosals.