• Dr. Richard Carrier and the Secular Student Alliance

    The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) recently posted on Facebook about their ongoing relationship with freethought blogger Richard Carrier. Notably, they made the following claim, “After an internal investigation, Mr. Carrier was removed from our speaker’s list last year, and no longer has an official or unofficial affiliation with the Secular Student Alliance.”

    This is all well and good, it certainly sounds like they are working things out in a deliberate and professional manner. Would that was all she wrote, but someone calling themselves “Really?” has fairly convincingly demonstrated that various SSA branches have invited Carrier to speak on multiple occasions subsequent to his admitted sexual misconduct of April 2015.

    In his post “Regarding the Accusations Made by [redacted]”, Carrier said that someone from SSA informed him that a student attendee had made a complaint about him for his conduct. Carrier describes an incident that occurred at a different event in a different state than the one to which SSA was referring.

    http://archive.is/AcWxS

    Carrier pins down the date to some extent in his post. He offered an apology on 21 April 2015, so by that date, SSA knew that Carrier was in violation of SSA fraternization policy with at least one student attendee. Here is Carrier’s April SSA speaking schedule:

    April 3, 2015: Arizona State University SSA

    April 6, 2015: University of Cincinnati SSA

    April 8, 2015: Ohio State University SSA

    April 9, 2015: Akron SSA

    https://archive.is/vXzyf

    April 21, 2015: Carrier responds to recent e-mail regarding sexual harassment complaint from SSA, writes blog post about different incident than the one SSA was talking about. Carrier states he began the process of “resigning” from the Speaker’s Bureau.

    June 5, 2015: Carrier posts his “How to Do Wrong Right” post: https://archive.is/5gIvP

    In this post, Carrier describes the reaction of the event sponsor, which we now know to be SSA:

    “Thank you. I did express interest in [redacted] at an after event. And I recognized she did not appreciate that, and I apologized to her at the time. If she does want any further apology, I will definitely provide her one, so do relay that if that’s the case. But I don’t want to bother her by contacting her any further without her consent. I definitely felt bad about it. I thought the interest was mutual and I was very wrong. I won’t be doing that in future.

    And that was considered an adequate resolution. Obviously contingent on my making good on my promises, which I have.”

    July 10-12, 2015: Carrier serves as a volunteer driver for the SSA national convention. According to Carrier:

    “It wasn’t until months later that I learned that that person, whom I did wrong, did not file a complaint; but that [redacted] had. Which left me perplexed. Our interaction did not match what I was being told. I discovered who the actual complainant was when I was later a volunteer driver for an SSA conference she attended (unbeknownst to me) and the SSA asked me to keep my distance from her at her request. That required their telling me who she was. I happily obliged. I didn’t care what her actual reasons were; if someone wants me to avoid them, I will, as far as reasonable, and this was perfectly reasonable to accomplish. But I now knew the complaint against me was not fully honest.”

    http://archive.is/AcWxS

    This is when Carrier was able to figure out which woman was accusing him, as SSA informed him.

    November 16, 2015: Carrier speaks at SSA’s Ohio State University chapter: https://archive.is/mY3QT

    April 23, 2016: Carrier speaks at SSA’s UC Riverside chapter: https://archive.is/9AHYB

    May 13, 2016: Carrier speaks at Florida Tech’s SSA chapter: https://archive.is/SUxuZ

    Reviewing this history in detail, it appears undeniable that the SSA gave Carrier a lighthearted slap on the wrist, took him off their public-facing speakers list, and proceeded to continue inviting him to SSA sponsored events. This turn of events is problematic, to say the very least.

    If you are going to have a stated policy which prohibits speakers from making “unwanted sexual advances” towards undergraduate students, that is all well and good. SSA should be commended for instituting such a policy, in my view. But if your policy can be quite easily skirted by simply removing a speaker’s name from a web page, then it isn’t worth the bandwidth used to serve it to the world.

    To make matters worse, the speaker in question knows that he is getting a free pass on the policy in question, and is completely unrepentant about it:

    One may be forgiven for concluding from this that Dr. Carrier did not feel bound by SSA’s non-fraternization policy when he spoke at Ohio State, UC Riverside, and Florida Tech, and does not feel bound by it to this day.

    SSA has a responsibility to their donors and activists to show us whether their speakers conduct policy has any teeth. Until they clear this matter up, fully, I will not commend their organization to anyone.

     

    Category: ActivismSecularism

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.

    One Pingback/Trackback

    • MadMike

      It sounds like a fantastical lapse of judgement from the SSA. Don’t forget that Dr. Carrier is romantically entangled with the spouse of the head of SSA. Normally I would avoid such sordidness, but in light of Carrier’s continued involvement in the organization, I feel it needs to be said.

    • What are you talking about?

      1. SSA doesn’t have branches. It’s an educational nonprofit, not Chemical Bank. It has affiliates. I used to run one. National SSA has no say, role, or connection whatsoever with the business of an affiliate until and unless that affiliate wishes to ask.

      2. The SSA did as much as it could do. “Slap on the wrist”? As opposed to what? Convening a hearing of the SSA Tribual of justice? Summoning Thor? The only way in which Carrier and the SSA were connected was via the speakers bureau. Here’s what that is: a list of names that are suggestions for speakers for affiliates. So all the SSA can do, is end that. Which is very close to nothing to begin with.

      You seem to think the national SSA has some purview or control over what a campus group does. No it doesn’t. Never did, never will. I understand this might sound crazy, but those groups are autonomous and run by adults capable of making their own decisions with you, the SSA, or anyone else inappropriately and insultingly trying to play nanny.

      • Phil Giordana Fcd

        So, beside this bureaucratic hand-waving, you’re totally ok with SSA apparently not informing their affiliates of Carrier’s (multiple) sexual misconducts? Or if they did, with SSA affiliates not taking account of the information?

        Do you think it’s all fine and dandy to let those affiliates invite someone who, by light of the last few days, seems to display a predatory behavior towards students where he is in a position of power, just because “playing nanny” is inappropriate and insulting?

        Well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal in and of itself. But on the other hand, it needs keeping in mind that those are the very people who have been screaming about sexual harassment, unwelcoming conventions and other such bullshit in the (US) A/S community for the last 5 years. So at the very least, one would expect them to hold up to their own standards. Which they absolutely don’t. Had it been anyone outside their in-group, say Michael Shermer for example, you can be sure everyone from high-up to the lowest copy-machine repairman in the organization, affiliates, random people met on the street, etc… would be made more than aware of his misconducts.

        And for me, this is the problem. Well, THEIR problem, because those virtue-signalling morons now have serious egg on their collective face.

        It makes me happy.

      • I am no fan of Carrier, but these are allegations, and some things referred to as “misconduct” are patently silly or insulting to common sense. For example, suggesting romantic interest to an adult at a conference. At the time there wasn’t a rule against it (and even if there was, such a rule is a terrible notion. It denies that adult women have agency and must be protected from their own sexual choices.)

        I think allegations alone shouldn’t get one blacklisted. This is particularly important in a time when people exploit moral panic and fear to intentionally harm people they don’t like.

        Even though the SSA has foolishly invited its own sabotage (as has Carrier himself), I take no pleasure in any of this. Injustice faced by an adversary is still injustice and I don’t like it.

      • Phil Giordana Fcd

        It’s not injustice as much as it is being hoisted by their own petard. I don’t see a problem per say in Carrier’s conduct (with the exception of the student/mentor power play, maybe), but I see a huge problem with the way it has been handled so far, especially when compared to the treatment of all those other baseless accusations by the very same people who are now in the spotlight. I might remind you of Carrier’s Bayesian analysis of Shermer’s guilt, which if applied to Dicky, Ph.D, would paint a huge “guiltycreeprapistpervert” on his own head. Or the Radford/Stollznow affair…

        And frankly, as I’ve said above, this makes me happy. Maybe it will give them idiots something to think about (you know, like when someone is wrongfully accused of rape and the SJWs will tell you even if the accused is innocent, at least it gives him an opportunity to learn from the experience).

        I’d call it karma if I believed in such a thing.

      • problem with the way it has been handled

        That you think there exists a “right way” for the SSA to handle this suggests to me that you don’t fully grasp the problem here. This game is called “You lose no matter what.”

        Let’s say your organization gets a complaint from someone who does not mean well.

        Respond less-than-promptly: You’re ignoring me and trying to bury this!
        Respond promptly and thoroughly to all correspondence: They’re pestering me and trying to intimidate me with protocol. I just needed a little space!

        Release details or names within or without the organization: You violated my privacy! You outted me!
        Don’t release them: Why did you try to cover this up and hide it? Are you misogynists?

        Involve professional experts (independent investigators, counselors, security experts, police, etc..,): I’m not intimidated by your paid goons!
        Don’t involve professionals: You’re not taking this seriously. I guess that was all just talk, all you do is send emails and erase names from lists.

        Do the thing the complainant asked: I was upset and understandably exaggerated my wishes. You misunderstood. You should have paid more attention. It was obvious what really needed to happen. You should have done that.
        Don’t do the thing the complainant asked: You’ll regret crossing me. I have twitter and I know how to use it.

      • Phil Giordana Fcd

        Well yes, that’s the fucking point.

        “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

        But those to blame for such an environment are, ironically, the people we’re talking about.

      • Agreed. I just meant to say at this point in the game, it makes no difference at all what SSA does, short of revising its policies to limit their further vulnerability.

      • Phil Giordana Fcd

        I think they will have to do *something* now, seeing the cat is finally out of the bag (blog post by Stephanie Zvan, announcement of Carrier’s being banned from Skepticon, probably more to come…).

        At the very least, a clear, public, official statement, I would think. Else, it might look very bad for SSA.

      • I disagree. I base this on what has happened in the past. Here’s the outcome of either choice.

        A. Issue a clear, public, official statement.
        Response: This is taken as an indicator weakness and vulnerability. The antagonists will grudgingly acknowledge the effort while downplaying it and possibly ridiculing this admission of incompetence or conspiracy. Next, they will increase their demands of SSA. Certain in the knowledge that the SSA fears their anger and will jump through hoops when prodded, they will ask for more and more. Whenever the SSA refuses, it will be considered proof of misogyny and/or racism.

        B. Don’t issue one.
        Response: If the SSA is weak enough, then the response is to burn it along with Carrier. More likely here, I think, is the failure to make a clear, supportive statement will be taken as evidence of guilt and added to a list of exaggerated and/or imagined crimes and misdemeanors: conspiracy to cover-up, indifference to sexism, etc.., meanwhile more victims and more crimes of the SSA can be ..found. No doubt the search is underway as we speak.

        The outcome is the same, either way.

      • SSA’s rules about speaker/student relationships have been in place since at least 2012, when Carrier blogged about his disagreement with their stated policy:

        I personally have no problem abiding by the SSA policy when they are sponsoring me as a speaker (except when it makes no sense, e.g. if my wife became a student at a venue). But I don’t think it’s a good policy and I don’t encourage it being adopted by other organizations. If I were ever keen to violate it (that is, if I were single and wanted to fool around), I’d just withdraw from the SSA Speaker’s Bureau. But I have no reason to, since I’m married, making it a non-issue for me. But that can be unfair to single or polyamorous speakers, and thus the SSA policy is in my opinion discriminatory (it will result in the loss or turning away of speakers for unfair reasons). Unless their use of the word “should” is intended to mean not prohibited but only discouraged (but in that case it should perhaps be clarified).

        Turns out he was keen to violate it, and did so, by his own admission. We can call that misconduct or just a breach of policy, I’m not terribly particular about nomenclature.

        As to denying that young women have sexual agency, SSA’s policy appears intended to protect young men and women alike from fielding sexual advances from someone whom they placed behind the podium.

      • Shatterface

        Misconduct is breaking the rules.

        If the rules say don’t wear your baseball cap back to front and you wear your baseball cap back to front it doesn’t matter if the rule is silly, it’s still misconduct.

        And if you have previously blogged that you think the rules are silly, that doesn’t absolve you of misconduct, it just proves you were aware of the rule.

      • Fin Stollof

        Edward,
        You wrote: “At the time there wasn’t a rule against it (and even if there was, such a rule is a terrible notion. It denies that adult women have agency and must be protected from their own sexual choices.)”

        You are welcome to your opinion, of course, but I’ll just refer you back to your own words:

        “I understand this might sound crazy, but those groups are autonomous and run by adults capable of making their own decisions with you, the SSA, or anyone else inappropriately and insultingly trying to play nanny.”

        They don’t need you trying to play nanny to protect them from their own rules anymore than you think they need the SSA parent-org to play that role. You would do well to heed your own words and stop insultingly trying to call into question their chosen policies and norms.

      • I am not issuing them rules. I am articulating an argument against a particular kind of policy. This is a website for discourse. So we’re having a discussion. That’s what this exists for.

      • Brive1987

        Look the SSA took a holier than thou position in their Facebook post. Have you read it? They couched this as a significant breach of standards designed around their perception of an appropriate (moral?) relationship between speaker and student.

        One that appears to match the familiar teacher / student contract in intent.

        You are not in a position to tell them they are wrong or nannying in this, it is a simple objective fact about how they want to run the SSA brand.

        And they then screwed it up. They gave Carrier direct access to the very students the original standards sought to protect. They didn’t (apparently) extend their publicly stated concern to their branded affiliates via red flag warnings. They didn’t say “we regard him as a risk, if you ignore this your affiliation is in doubt because it’s not a risk the SSA brand is prepared to wear”.

        They now regard their breach of (self defined) duty serious enough to engage in Class A ass covering. “Independant third party investigation” ha!

        Clint, it’s you imposing your personal views on someone else’s completely unambiguous corporate risk situation that’s wrong here.

    • Shatterface

      Wasn’t banned. Removed from bureau. Speakers don’t have to be on bureau, & when not, don’t have to abide by the stricter policy.

      So the ‘punishment’ is that he no longer has to follow the rules?

    • Unhiddenness

      This is incredibly sleazy.

    • It’s the hypocrisy that gets to me. This has happened 3 or 4 times to FtB bloggers. False accusations are supposedly incredibly rare, but “bitchez be lyin'” 100 percent of the time when the accused is part of a SJW blog network.

      They can’t have it both ways.

      • The most outwardly pious have the greatest opportunity to perform hypocrisy, and perhaps the greatest need not to be seen doing so.

    • From https://secularstudents.org/speakers/policies#Speakers

      Speakers must refrain from initiating any and all sexual behavior with students with respect to Speakers Bureau events. If sexual encounters, or any form of unwanted sexual advances, are reported as being initiated by the speaker, then the speaker will be suspended from the Bureau while we investigate the report. We may reinstate the speaker if we determine that no violation has occurred, but we will remove speakers from the Speakers Bureau if we conclude that this expectation has been breached. The only exception to this policy is between speakers and students who have a pre-existing sexual or romantic relationship.

      As best as I can tell, this policy leaves open the possibility of happily received sexual advances, as well as student initiated sexual encounters. Given my interpretation, I was wrong to refer to this loosely as a non-fraternization policy. It isn’t quite that.

      • Sure, if you’re an alien from another planet who has no idea how human social behavior works. “Hey, nice talk, up for some intercourse?” is not how people communicate their interest. Instead, they (typically) start with flirting, euphemism, excuses to invite someone out, etc.., generally deliberately left partly ambiguous to limit the embarrassment of rejection.

        So, let’s say you’re a speaker. Someone asks you to get a beer with them (just them), smiles a lot, makes a lot of eye contact, invites personal (not academic or professional) conversation. These are examples of ways real humans sometimes show sexual interest. The person exhibiting them waits for a similar cues from the other, and, ideally, minor escalation. Then they do the same.

        Except per this Puritan policy, that’s not really possible because any acknowledgement or return of flirting behaviors could be see as initiating sexual behavior.

        All of that mess aside, any feminist should be outraged by the paternalistic infantilization of grown women (and men) that while they may be old enough to elect the President or fight in a war, they can’t possibly be expected to handle a speaker asking them for a date.
        ______
        Just to be clear, I find speakers at SSA events hitting on students to be boorish. It’s a bad idea and shows poor judgement. I find many behaviors inappropriate without borrowing laws from Saudi Arabia to control them.

    • ncovington89

      I’d approach this cautiously. I visited the Facebook page of Amy Frank, the woman who made the accusation, and in the comments section she says that Carrier touched her arm and leg. It’s difficult for me to see how that merits the attention it’s being given.

      • Frank’s accusation is not the one which we know to be true.

        “I did express interest in [redacted] at an after event” was an admission on the part of Richard Carrier that he ignored SSA policy against unwanted sexual advances. You may read the details here. I apologize for the confusion, it is difficult to avoid when the names of the women are being carefully avoided.

    • UPDATE: SSA has specifically addressed the problems discussed above.

    • Pingback: Taking the Sting Out of A Slapp.()