Do I have to join?

I started to train myself not to use that much of social networks since college, so when I started grad school, saw so many of my co-workers, graduate students and faculty from other departments using social networks to do outreach and public engagement, I was pretty lost.

I know of a fellow graduate student giving nutrition advice and debunking diet myths on Instagram, and through her wonderful work I got to know a bunch of other academics sharing science and correcting bad science through Instagram. I’ve never thought about Instagram as a medium for science – I share my amateur photography on my Instagram page, and I keep it private.

Not to mention Facebook and Twitter. I’m only using Facebook to connect with old friends but after entering grad school when scrolling down the webpage and going through different memes, I started coming across journal articles shared by my colleagues – I use social networks to get a break from work and I don’t need Facebook to remind me to read more papers.

But at the same time I kept wondering: should I embrace this academic social network thing? Should I use my social networks to talk about science as well? I am 100% up for public engagement, and I believe that we academics, people who are privileged enough to have this level of education most others don’t, have the responsibility to talk science in plain language to the public, to debunk myths, to be role models for women/POC/gender minorities, etc. However, as a millennial I’m already struggling a lot not to let social networks consume too much of my time or distract me from work. And when I got on WeChat, Instagram, or Facebook, I want that to be a place for me to relax. Do things that are not science related.

For this assignment, I read an article called A Defense of Academic Twitter. I never entered the world of Twitter because I found it terrifying and overwhelming, but I’ve known of many people, including a lot of faculty members in the geo department, are quite active on this platform. This article provides a good guide to why and how to use Twitter for academic purposes, and also very importantly, things to avoid. But most importantly, I feel reassured when I read this: “Even more than that, I am asked, ‘Do I have to join?’ The answer is no, you do not have to join.”

Professor raped; University let him

Gary Xu is a Chinese professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a sexual predator.

I knew of his sexual misconduct because Ao Wang, a literature professor at Wesleyan University, posted about it on a Chinese social network Douban. The posts were later deleted by site administrators. One of his friends, whose name is unknown, was sexually abused by Gary Xu. Wang stood up to speak for her and other victims. Gary Xu denied the accusations, threatened to kill Wang, and filed a lawsuit against Wang in China. In China.

For this blogpost I looked up Gary Xu’s cases again, and the details are way more horrible than what I remembered. Based on a filed complaint (2019), Gary Xu was the department head before he resigned in 2018, and abused his power in the department, university and his field. He raped several women and made money from his students’ work. Faculty in the department was aware of his behavior and even victims too.

Most of the details in this complaint was provided by Xingjian Xu, a victim and a named plaintiff. She had a 2-year abusive relationship with Gary Xu, and this started in 2013, when she was 19 and Xu was 45. Not only did he raped her, but he also brutally beat her. She was pregnant and forced into abortion. She had depression and attempted suicide. Twice. She reported Xu to the university, and dropped the reports. Three times. The university forbid Xu from any contact with Sun, but no actual measure was taken.

Their relationship ended in the fall of 2015. Sun was trying to avoid Xu that day. Xu was in his car following her, and attempted to hit her with his car till she finally arrived at the Champaign Public University. The public witnessed it. Police arrived. Sun was safe.

The university issued an investigation. However, Xu remained a faculty member at UIUC for three more years. It wasn’t until his sexual misconduct was made known in China that Xu resigned in August 2018. When he left UIUC, Xu received $10,000 from the university.

How could a sexual predator get away like this? You may ask, and I don’t have an answer.

By the way, UIUC tolerated faculty-student relationships. The brighter side though, because it is dark enough, is that the university launched a consensual relationship policy task force after Sun’s case. The task force suggested banning relationships between faculty members and undergrads, and relationships between faculty members and grad students within the same academic unit.

When the accuser is male and the accused is a feminist scholar

Amid sexual harassment cases in higher education with a male perpetrator and a female victim, the lawsuit filed by Nimrod Reitman, a gay man and a graduate student at NYU, against his advisor Avital Ronell, a queer woman and a world-famous scholar in German and ComLit, is quite unusual.

According to a New York Times article, Reitman said Ronell had harassed him for three years, including inviting him to her bed, kissing him, touching him, appearing at his apartment uninvited and insisting on sleeping with him for a few days. And uncommon in other sexual harassment cases in higher education with a female accuser, Reitman had to follow her order because of her overarching power and reputation in academics. This might not be the most powerful evidence against Ronell because there was not witness to it, but Reitman did also provide email correspondence between Ronell and him in which Ronell was clearly not behaving appropriately as an academic adviser.

However, a group of feminists, including my former academic idol (yes, former) Judith Butler and the chair of Department of German at New York University Christopher Wood, wrote a letter to the president and provost of New York University to testify for Avital Ronell. In the letter they said, “although we have no access to the confidential dossier” (WOW), they “have all seen her relationship with students”. At the same time, Andrea Long Chu, a former teaching assistant of Ronell, wrote in an article supporting Reitman that anyone in the Department of German knows that Ronell is abusive. Some of these feminist scholars also know “this individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her”, aka, the victim Reitman. They also mentioned Ronell’s “grace”, “keen wit”, “intellectual commitment” and “international standing and reputation”, all of which have nothing to do with Ronell being a potential sexual predator to her graduate student.

When the accuser is a female student and the accused is a male advisor, people in the #metoo movements know not to blame the victim. But apparently it is not the case when the scenario is reversed. When the accused is a feminist scholar (worth noting that Chu in article made this distinction, other female scholars teamed up and defended her, and this is no different from people defending male scholars with a high academic standing and power in other #metoo cases in higher ed.

Well, unsurprisingly, Avital Ronell returned to NYU to teach after the Title IX investigation and last time I checked, she is still on NYU’s website and a university professor.

Probably just like other male scholars with a high academic standing and power in other #metoo cases in higher ed.

Open Access

The open-access journal in geosciences I chose is Biogeosciences. I’ve read a few papers from this journal but never really realized it’s open access till I did my research for this blogpost. I guess for students in an R1 university in United States like Virginia Tech, it does not really matter if a journal is open access or not – we are privileged enough to have subscription to it from the library. However, there was this one time I tried to access a really old paper from SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), and Virginia Tech surprisingly did not have access to it. I could be charged for something like $25 but I discovered SciHub. Then I started to realize it would be hard for people at universities without enough journal subscription to access papers, and probably people from underdeveloped countries as well.

Biogeosciences is based in Europe and founded by the European Geosciences Union. It accepts articles about the interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes on earth and other planets within different spheres. In its objective, Biogeosciences emphasizes an interdisciplinary view.

There is not a particular page on the Biogeosciences website that talks about open access in particular. However, on the About page, it does talk about a two-stage publication process, and in the first stage, “a rapid access review” and papers are “immediately published” after this review on the website. I’m not particularly sure if it is a common thing for open-access journals, but this emphasis on its website and rapid publication seems like a theme in terms of open publication. There is also a flat rate towards article processing charges, which is 77 euros for LaTex submissions and 93 euros for Word submissions. As far as I know, for traditional journals, they tend to charge per page and per figure, while open-access journals tend to have a flat rate per article.