City College is continuing to host Michael Shermer at a faculty colloquium in the Garvin Theatre, in spite of new information that multiple women have accused him of sexual harassment.
Chemistry Chair Raeanne Napoleon informed faculty and staff of the allegations about Shermer through a campus-wide email sent early this morning.
“Michael Shermer is someone who has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault (rape) by multiple women,” she wrote. “Although the police did not bring formal charges against him, there have been many witnesses that have publicly corroborated the stories of the victims.”
In a follow-up interview with the Channels, Napoleon explained why she thought it was important to inform the campus of the allegations.
“When it’s multiple women coming forward with similar stories, I think that’s something that needs to be paid attention to,” Napoleon said. “If this was one woman saying this, I would be more skeptical and hesitant to share it with others. But because it’s multiple women, I think it’s something to pay attention to.”
Economics Professor Peter Naylor, who late last semester recommended to instructor Mark McIntire that Shermer be invited to speak, wrote in a reply to Napoleon’s email that posting unproven allegations was defamation.
“What happened to the principal [sic] of presumption of innocence? . . . Public figures are often victims of unfounded allegations. They deserve fair treatment, just as anyone else,” Naylor wrote.
The speech is set for 6 p.m. and is sponsored, according to its promotional material, by Phi Theta Kappa and the Associated Student Government. A group of faculty members, as well, are coordinating the event.
In multiple interviews with the Channels, all the co-organizers of the event said they had not been aware of these allegations before Napoleon shared her information.
“I was completely blindsided by Professor Napoleon’s spreading of accusations,” said McIntire, director of City College’s Faculty Colloquiums.
Student senator Jason Barrios, who recommended that the senate endorse the event, also said he had not been aware of the allegations. The senate voted unanimously March 9 to endorse the event, and Barrios still intends to cater at the event.
Political Science Professor Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar expressed his discomfort with the information soon after Napoleon sent her email out. Eskandari-Qajar is the adviser for the honors society Phi Theta Kappa, which automatically cosponsors faculty colloquiums without its members voting on each speaker.
“I am personally extremely aggrieved and conflicted at the news and the allegations, since I have been assigning Dr. Shermer’s writings to my classes for well over a decade,” he wrote in a campus email.
“I am, frankly, speechless and numbed, as I said, but believe that the invitation to speak should proceed and hope that the lecture would still provide the audience food for thought on the essential questions of science and metaphysics, which we all anticipated with such fervor still only a few hours ago.”