Last month, the University Senate unanimously endorsed A Precision To address sexual violence. This decision included a number of sound and actionable changes that will make our campus safer. I wholeheartedly commend the sponsors and supporters of the resolution for continuing this fight.
But this issue extends beyond undergraduate education to graduate schools, most notably medical school.
I have worked in medical school in various roles for nearly twenty years. During that time, I continually noticed a serious problem of sexual misconduct by members of the school’s faculty. In the past decade, there have been at least three Stanford physicians who have faced criminal investigations for sex-related crimes: Dr. Dylan O’Connor was a pediatrician; Rule to prison this year for texting a minor. Professor John Giacomini – Director of the Fellowship Program in Cardiology at Stanford University – has been for a long time Rule imprisonment over the summer for sexually assaulting a former intern in the workplace; Associate Professor Dan Garza of the Department of Orthopedics committed suicide in 2013 while he was under Investigation accused of drugging and assaulting several members of the Stanford community. In addition, Professor Jose Montoya was an infectious disease specialist Fired in 2019 after accusations of “unwanted sexual acts with his female employees, among many other instances of harassment and misconduct,” the Daily reported at the time.
The medical school has shown great resistance to commenting publicly on the problem in general and to revealing publicly even the existence or perpetrators of individual incidents. In Giacomini’s case, it took three and a half years, three does not depend on investigationscriminal indictmentguilty plea and conviction And several stories in the media before the school officially acknowledged to its faculty that any incident had occurred, finally through a department-wide email in March 2022.
The accusations against Garza have never been officially acknowledged by the school. Several years ago, I reported on a faculty member chasing a student off campus at a university. I later noticed that faculty had been removed from his department’s web pages, and the student informed me that, after an investigation, he had been allowed to quietly resign from Stanford rather than be publicly dismissed. He now works at another university.
There are severe consequences for an institution’s failure to publicly acknowledge sexual misconduct by faculty members. Victims feel more isolated and unvalidated, robbing them of full justice. It also increases the risk of professional retaliation against victims as perpetrators can easily sabotage jobs behind the scenes when their misconduct and true motives are unknown to those around them.
Fear of retaliation remains one of the biggest fears Barriers For women reporting sexual violence in academia. The lack of transparency conceals the scope of the problem from ordinary faculty members, as well as from staff, residents, and students. More importantly, the lack of public accountability for past perpetrators prevents deterrence of current and future perpetrators. They have relatively nothing to fear when the most likely outcome of sexual assault on a colleague is simply the need to quietly change jobs to another organization – one that will not be aware of their past misdeeds.
The medical school cannot assume that changes in culture, attitudes, and behaviors that might occur elsewhere at Stanford will simply spread to our corner of campus. I ask the Bachelor and College Boards, the Sexual Violence-Free Stanford University, Title IX office and our administrators that future campus-wide efforts to address sexual violence include medical school as an equally important partner and target for change.
To that end, the undergraduate senate should add a sixth individual to the list of professors they named as having “committed heinous acts of sexual violence” for which they should be expelled and stripped of their honors: Dr. Mark Perlroth, faculty emeritus in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Pearlroth’s allegedly egregious harassment of a student and later intern – notorious enough Featured In the New York Times decades before #MeToo resulted in his existence Blame by the university. However, he later resumed his previous duties, which included more than a decade of additional service in the Middle School Admissions Board.
While Dr. Pearlroth’s harassment may sound like ancient history, precedent Other institutions exist to strip honorary status from faculty members for longstanding misconduct. While only a symbolic gesture, it would be significant, suggesting that sexual harassers among medical school doctors and scientists are not immune from guilt and full consequences.
Had Dr. Perlroth been appropriately punished thirty years ago, so would his fellow Drs. Montoya and Giacomini, among others, were less emboldened to later commit their atrocities. Deterrence is a critical component of punishment. Where the punishment for past acts is too lenient, deterrence against future acts will not be adequate.
It is important for the University and the Faculty of Medicine to conduct a fair and confidential investigation of any accusation of sexual misconduct by faculty members, through a consistent and transparent process. This includes ample opportunity for the accused to defend himself.
However, once this investigation has been completed, if the accusation is proved to be merited, three things must happen: First, a punishment commensurate with the misconduct must be delivered. Second, the identity of the perpetrator and the nature of his or her misconduct should be made public to the greatest extent possible while at the same time protecting the identity of the victims. Third, victims must be supported and protected from retaliation. Our organization failed in this business with Perlroth thirty years ago, and it continues to fail with the perpetrators today.
While combating sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility, there is much that faculty members can do as individuals. Even when we feel adequately trained and empowered to report acts of misconduct, doing so can feel like a game of whack-a-mole. One of the offenders is either punished or quietly leaves, and another appears elsewhere.
As part of a broader university and medical school plan to address sexual misconduct, there should be adequate, proportionate, and general punishment for faculty who violate our community standards on this issue. This change will provide victims with a greater sense of support, validation, and justice; It will enable bystanders to report witnessed incidents; It will help deter potential offenders from future acts of misconduct.
Eric Strong, MD, is a hospital and clinical associate professor at the College of Medicine. He first joined the Stanford community as a medical intern in 2003.