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.
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
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.”
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:
@brive1987 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.
— Dr. Richard Carrier (@RichardCCarrier) June 19, 2016
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.