An eminent sociologist and high profile women’s rights campaigner has stepped down indefinitely from the board of a gender equality group following allegations of sexual harassment.
Michael Kimmel, distinguished professor of sociology at Stony Brook University in New York, has resigned from the board of Promundo, an initiative that promotes gender justice by engaging men and boys.
Kimmel, a vocal advocate for women’s rights and author of books including Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, also offered to defer the acceptance of a sociology award. He was due to receive the prestigious Jessie Bernard award from the American Sociological Association in recognition of his contribution to women’s equality studies. On Wednesday, ASA’s council voted unanimously to suspend delivery of the award.
In a message to members, ASA also said its working group on harassment, formed last year, will conduct a review of the organisation’s awards policies, nomination and appointment processes, and the process for reporting and responding to ethical violations.
The allegations against Kimmel were first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which cited comments by a former graduate student. The former student, who asked to remain anonymous, said Kimmel had suggested they have sex six weeks into her graduate course, and later in her career. She added that he had complimented her appearance, and remarked that she would have to work hard to prove that she had reached her position as a result of her academic talents, and not because she was sleeping with someone.
Following the report, another former graduate student published a detailed account of their time working with Kimmel on the website Medium. Bethany Coston, now assistant professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, accused Kimmel of sexist behaviour, such as giving paid work to male students while women were expected to work for free. Coston also accused Kimmel of homophobic and transphobic attitudes, and of a lack of respect for anyone but cisgender heterosexual men.
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Kimmel has worked as a consultant for charities and government bodies, as well as lecturing at hundreds of schools, colleges and universities, according to his website. In 2013 he founded the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook.
Promundo said that it was deeply disturbed by the allegations of sexual harassment, adding that it had accepted Kimmel’s temporary resignation from its board of directors.
“We fully appreciate the need to weigh due process along with all the shortcomings of formal sexual harassment complaint procedures and the power inequalities inherent to these processes,” the Promundo said in a statement. “What we can say is that all such allegations must be investigated, those harmed must be protected and supported and accountability and restorative justice must prevail.
Kimmel did not respond to the Guardian’s request for a comment, but said in a statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “... I have been informed that there are rumours circulating about my professional conduct that suggest I have behaved unethically. While nothing has been formally alleged to the best of my knowledge, I take such concerns seriously, and want to validate the voices of those who are making such claims. I want to hear those charges, hear those voices, and make amends to those who believe I have injured them.”