The leadership of MeTooSTEManadvocacy group for survivors of sexual assault in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fieldis crumbling under numerous allegations against the organization’s founder. Seven members have resigned since November,BuzzFeed News reports.
Email exchanges between MeTooSTEM founder BethAnn McLaughlin and other members reveal a pattern of hostile environment where feedback or questions regardingthe organizational structure were met with anger and retaliation, especially toward the only two women of color on the team. The exchanges also share a common complaint about lack of transparency and McLaughlins behavior on Twitter, whichmembers felt was alienating survivors.
An April email shared with BuzzFeed was co-signed by Deanna Arsala, a University of Illinois at Chicago biology graduate;Vidhya Sivakumaran, a former biophysicist; andErica Smith, a physics postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University Bloomington.We, Vidhya and Deanna (being the only women of color in this organization) felt that white leadership input was prioritized over our own,” the women wrote.
Lastly, and perhaps the most concerning, when Deanna raised a concern about our non-profit status, it was met with anger and retaliation which was in stark contrast to the responses white leadership has received when they asked similar questions, the email continued.
In an earlier email exchange from November, Julie Libarkin and Tisha Bohr sent in their resignation with similar grievances, outlining their concerns about McLaughlins tweets, her tendency to block people, and her lack of transparency with the rest of the team. In the same email, Libarkin and Bohr shared that they were scared to voice their concerns to McLaughlin out of fear she would respond with anger instead of using it an opportunity to discuss.
Members also complained they were kept in the dark about funding accumulated through a GoFundMe campaign, where the platform has so far raised $78,000. According to the email exchanges, members were concerned that McLaughlin was resistant to suggestions about delegating roles and that questions about changing the MetooStem to nonprofit status were dismissed with, “I have it covered.”
The core of the complaintsMcLaughlin’s unwillingness to listen to a view different than her own, being dismissive toward experiences of women of color, and her alienating attitude on Twitteris best summed up in one Twitter interaction from August 2018. In the thread, she urged people to choose seeking support from the police over TitleIX resources, claiming the latter provides little to no support for survivors. In a subsequent conversation on the thread where another user tried to argue that the police is not deemed a safe option for many women of color, McLaughlin dismissed the responses, and ended the chat abruptly with a curt “bye.”
After the BuzzFeed story dropped, MeTooSTEM tweeted out an apology. We are deeply sorry to any who have been harmed by the actions @MeTooSTEM has or has not taken, and in particular we recognize the harm to women of color,” the tweet said. “We are here to serve our community, and so we embrace your criticism and feedback.
I care about survivors and about #MeToo. That is why after 6 months I'm coming forward in solidarity with others on some reasons for why we left leadership at #MeTooSTEM. I hope this opens a dialogue that the movement can evolve from. #MeTooPhD #ScienceToo https://t.co/RwqGdUMR5w
— Tisha Bohr (@TishaBohr) May 30, 2019
As a former associate of #MeTooSTEM who left the org last year, I respect & support everyone quoted in this @paldhous article outlining some of our concerns. Especially the brave early-career folks who just wanted to help fight sexual harassment in STEM.https://t.co/o9grkxEh74
— Scott Barolo (@sbarolo) May 30, 2019
As a former member of the #MeTooSTEM leadership team, I support the others who have come forward to express their concerns about the transparency of the organization and the direction of the movement.https://t.co/aGBcSeYKlh
— Erica Smith