Voices from our community
Below are select quotes from the open-ended portion of the survey. Respondents expressed frustration, called out to their senior colleagues and advisors to speak up, and asked for consequences and transparency.
- Testimonials that Deal with Misogyny, Sexual Violence, & Transphobia
- Testimonials that Deal with Other Types of Oppression (incl. racism, white supremacy, ableism, or one or more of these)
- Harassment, Negative Climate, Inclusion, & Intersections with (Sub)disciplines
- Calls to Action
Please note that these quotes contain descriptions of harassment and assault.
While many testimonials grapple with multiple structures of oppression, experiences are segmented into broad categories for ease of navigation.
Testimonials that deal with misogyny, sexual violence, & Transphobia
"Frankly, I know of a young man in linguistics (a prolific graduate student) who is a sexual predator. I and several others filed complaints, and the department in question responded by considering and then doing absolutely nothing. What I hear is that this has driven away a lot of women from taking part in departmental events. This guy has done enough publishing and teaching that he is likely to land a tenure-track job. This is another University of Rochester case in the making - a powder keg. This is not a linguistics problem so much as an academia/social problem, but given how badly the institutions are dropping the ball on cases such as these, any support (knowledge, advice, codes-of-conduct for conferences) that the LSA and other groups can provide would be excellent."
"I've seen students go through months of meetings and finding resources on campus that are supposed to help them and learning regulations, and sometimes it eventually works and they get to...keep taking classes with those people."
“Person I reported was a serial sexual harasser, he suffered no consequences after reporting. My identity wasn't protected, and other older male colleagues heard that I was being "aggressive" for reporting this and not accepting that there were zero consequences. I wish the outcome would have been change, and that there would have been no negative repercussions for me for having done the right thing. The whole thing made me want to leave the position, which I did later that year.”
“a conference [...] recently had an invited speaker who was acknowledged to have offended against at least one of their students, but was not, as far as I know, excluded. I was not at the conference, but it did not help me feel that these issues were being addressed.”
“Technical responsibilities are most of the time given to male grad students, even though I'm as, if not more, qualified to handle them.”
"I had a professor tell me that I needed to drink more alcohol during a night out partying with other students. A professor emailed me asking for a meeting, and when I told him my availability during the week, he said he would prefer to meet at a cafe over the weekend. I did not have a close relationship with the professor and was made very uncomfortable by his emails. A professor was making sexist jokes in the lunchroom, and other professors were encouraging him. A professor became very dismissive of me and stopped taking me seriously when he found out where I grew up. Upon hearing me talking to my friends about my personal life, a professor interrupted to ask me, "Why don't I know this side of you?" He then continued to insert himself into the conversation, making comments about my personal affairs."
"as [student-]faculty rep, I passed on a concern I had heard from multiple students and been asked to present about whether teaching assignments were being distributed fairly. I was yelled at by my advisor, who was serving as the department chair, in front of all the faculty for bringing up the issue, even though I had to as faculty rep. By the end of my term, I had been yelled at by my advisor, by two department chairs, and by the [graduate program director]. I decided that I couldn't afford to be branded as a troublemaker, because I have seen several women forced out of the program when they became difficult. I decided not to be involved with any more department planning, decision-making, or advocacy roles."
"A fellow linguist at a conference completely insulted me at a social dinner for being a single mother. I called him out instantly. No one did or said anything to him."
"[...] with an older, senior faculty member (at the time, chair of the department, and someone I was considering to choose as my advisor). When I told him that I was struggling with anxiety and it was impacting my ability to work, he told me that he "didn't understand" how people could struggle with that, and that to him, a person couldn't change how smart they were, but they could change how hard/long they worked (with the implication that people struggling with anxiety/depression/procrastination should just try to work harder). The intention was clearly kind but the message revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of mental health disorders. He also seemed to find it troubling that I was taking medication and would ask about it from time to time."
"I was raped by a colleague and the students and faculty still fell for his charm. It was only indirectly reported, but too few could see his misogyny in general. A former colleague of his told me that he's known in their department as toxic to women, but nothing about that was known to people at my institution."
“An emeritus professor (male) got angry with a junior faculty member (female) over something trivial at a lecture and proceeded to insult her with some gender-based invective.
It is apparently hard to sanction this person because he is an emeritus professor, but the junior faculty and graduate students would like to see this man reprimanded in some way. This has not happened so far; to our disappointment the senior faculty have been hesitant to act.”
"I'm perfectly willing to call someone out for their bad behavior. But because of the power differential, I can't. So I end up feeling humiliated in front of an audience, and powerless to change the situation, because all of the other graduate students and undergraduates are learning that this behavior is OK, accepted, normal, and just something you have to put up with."
"A professor in my graduate program is known for browbeating students and being misogynistic. I have witnessed some of this behavior myself and have been the object of his displeasure on one occasion when he decided my work did not constitute "real linguistics". I am still somewhat traumatized by the experience four years later and I am convinced that it sapped my self-esteem at a time it was critical to success in my program. There is also a disturbing pattern in my department of east asian students unfamiliar with American academic culture being summarily dismissed from the program."
"I have been intentionally excluded from academic opportunities by a former advisor who strongly favored his female students and maintained unprofessional relationships with them. This advisor devoted a disproportionate amount of his time to his female advisees, both academically (providing written feedback, holding one on one meetings, providing research opportunities, etc.) as well as socially (frequently meeting with female students socially, including in his own residence, lending them his car and home, visiting students homes...). I was denied almost any guidance for close to two years, allegedly because of lack of time, while he held undisclosed weekly lunch meetings with some of his female students."
"As a freshman or sophomore undergraduate student I attended a conference being held at my university which was a joint effort between the linguistics department, the Spanish department, and the department of modern languages. I sat in on several talks as a wallflower - most of the other attendees were very senior faculty members and researchers from other universities. I was waiting in one of the smaller meeting rooms in between presentations when a man who was a senior researcher began making derogatory comments about women, alluding to the fact that there were almost no women presenters because, in his words, we were inferior in intelligence and capability. A few days later one of my professors asked me if I enjoyed the conference and I told him about this situation. He said he was sorry that I experienced it but neither did nor said anything beyond that and was very thrown by my honesty and dissatisfaction in my first interaction with academia at large. He seemed to be completely oblivious to this reality."
"The most salient personal experiences I have had was poor treatment by students due to my gender/age when working with them as an instructor. I suppose that I wish that the biased motivations for the derogatory behavior was more actively addressed by my department so that graduate students were more protected."
"When I was a postdoc, a (male) colleague told our (male) supervisor that I was "not interested in work, only in my family." Gendered since I was a young woman with a small child, but totally inaccurate since I was also very committed to my work."
"Several female grad students in my department, including me, have been criticized for taking time off to care for sick parents or other older relatives."
"If anyone speaks up when a sexist remark has been made or someone has called the women in a group 'girls' or someone said "ugh only a man would say this", there is usually eyerolling and ridiculing of the person who spoke up who is asked to "get a sense of humour" or not be "such a nazi" etc. I wish the person who has said the thing would apologise for what they said and promise to think about why what they said was offensive or contributing to a bad climate."
"My department head some years ago clearly treated men and women differently; he was completely uninterested in regression analyses I brought to him every year showing that gender was the best indicator of salary (at every stage, regardless of distance from PhD). He also harrassed a minority woman about her research productivity till she gave up. Years later, she went to a friendlier department in another university. I don't know if this man was somehow reprimanded. The record suggests he was instead rewarded for his leadership. I wish my college and university had in place dashboards that could automatically help in the evaluation of such discriminatory behavior (e.g., salary trackers, teaching load)."
“[I have experienced] unwanted sexual advances from senior men on the order of one of two per year (although as I get more senior it happens less often), including my PhD supervisor; a hostile environment which caused me to miss out on potentially career-advancing collaborations in order to avoid potential harassment; a million other little things, like being called a "bitch" when I'm perceived to speak up too much, being ignored, talked over, etc.”
"I wish a woman was given the same benefit of the doubt as a man, and the same presumption of competence."
"When I started as an undergraduate student in the 1960's, I would sometimes be shut out of classes because I was a female. The chairman of the linguistics dept. also expressed great reluctance to accept female majors. "Let them major in something else until they learn to think like scholars"--that's a direct quote reported to me by another student who was one year ahead of me. I don't believe something like this could happen today."
"I went to a grad school with someone who was later accused of considerable sexual misconduct and the behaviors this person showed in grad school were just as bad as those they later showed as a faculty member. But they were utterly ignored back then because grad school is treated like a big party rather than a job and nobody was seriously entertain how inappropriate that behavior was at the time."
"I'm watching a few departments bend over BACKWARDS to be nice to serial sexual harassers among the grad students, essentially. In some cases they know there's a problem but aren't taking action. In one case the perpetrator is an academic star who publishes a lot and makes the department look really good...and mistreats almost every woman in sight. I've HAD IT with that guy. While he was a master's student, the department received a lot of complaints, and responded by...letting him into the Ph.D. program. The quieter targets of this guy felt betrayed and basically stopped talking to the department. This is exactly how we, as a field, get male tenure-track professors who publish a lot and terrorize the women they have a lot of power over."
"[I was] prevented from applying for a prestigious grant so that a male colleague could apply"
"Among some faculty there seems to be an idea that something as bad as Rochester could never happen here, but at the same time that accusations of sexual harassment are more of an inconvenience to them than anything else ("just let me make jokes!"). Better understanding of how microaggressions and discrediting victims of sexual harassment contribute to a discriminatory environment might help combat this illusion."
"I've heard stories about lab PIs offering first-authorship to first year male students rather than more senior female PhD students. There was no avenue for recourse and the female students I know didn't want to disrupt their relationship with this PI in order to fight for equal treatment."
"while I have not experienced significant climate issues in the departments where I have worked, I experienced severe and continuous gender-based harassment at my fieldwork site. Academia couldn't have done anything to fix this (except maybe offer more opportunities for group-based fieldwork for more protection, talk more openly about it, and offer counseling for it), but it did make a big difference in my ability to complete the research I needed and has been a big deterrent for going back to my field site to do any more research."
"I wish that a faculty member had spoken up. The incident occurred during a meeting that was mostly grad students, many of them (including myself) the advisees of the person who made the derogatory remark (about women). Half of us, at least, are women. Not surprisingly, none of us felt comfortable saying anything in the moment (or after, I assume). The other two professors in the room could have said something and didn't-- even just a gentle "joke" or disagreement with what he said would have been fine. I don't think he thought what he said was problematic at all-- there was no response in the room that would have made him realize that. What was perhaps even more discouraging was that, when I brought it up later with a postdoc researcher who was working with him, she dismissed it and agreed with him."
"Within the academy, when my colleagues have been sexually harassed, they have not reported it because they did not want to make waves. I wish they felt safe reporting it."
"In a prior department, one (very, very) senior faculty member was known for treating female students and faculty and staff very poorly, both being dismissive of them, and making them uncomfortable. He chased off several staff members during his time as chair, and had very few female grad students, with most leaving, abruptly, emotionally, at some point during their work, with stifled discussion. Very ugly business. But 'Oh, that's just Dr. ______, he's old school, he'll be retiring soon anyways' remained the tone."
"When I was a graduate student, I was told by different professors that I would need to change the way I dress and talk, otherwise I would invite people to "hit on" me or make inappropriate remarks. I was also told I needed to learn how to "handle" harassment, as a woman. That was the only option. The advice was well-intentioned and probably actually helpful. But I wish we had moved away from that now. "
"I am nonbinary and trans and I spend a lot of time getting called wrong stuff or getting excluded from social things that are gendered. "
"There were a lot of male linguists who preyed on younger females in my day #MeToo. Clearly some people are still at it. They are often productive faculty, some are beloved, but we need to get over the idea that we'd be narcing on them if we turned them in."
"I [...] experienced PIs from a different University being very intimate and touchy with their PhD students at drinks after a conference. I felt very uneasy about this and bad about the fact that I dared not intervene."
"In terms of gender identity, I've heard [...] mostly dismissive things from older people. 'She wants us to call her "they"?! That's not going to happen!'"
testimonials that deal with other types of oppression (incl. racism, white supremacy, ableism, or one or more of these)
"I have been on the receiving end of ableist and transphobic comments and witnessed apologism for abuse, as well as a lot of off-hand offensive derogatory comments directed at others. It seems challenging any bias or abuse gets you a reputation as a trouble-maker and that you are a 'difficult colleague' trying to destroy the career of those you have a complaint with. Doing this survey made me tired. Running through those situations I personally experienced and those I have witnessed is pretty exhausting. It feels like anonymity is the only way to safely speak out."
"As a person of color, I wish that some of the non-POC bystanders could have realized the comment(s) made were micro aggressions and addressed the person saying them. Otherwise it puts me in the position to say something to them in an environment I already don't feel like I have a claim to."
"I have a colleague (native English speaker) who coordinates the writing program in my department, and who avoids taking on graduate TAs who are not native English speakers as much as possible. She actively says that non-native English speakers simply don't have the skills or ability to teach writing, and persists in this insistence despite pushback from other department members. Unfortunately, we have a chair who is non-confrontational to the point of refusing to tackle issues such as this, so it persists."
"Anonymous reviewers have speculated about my race and that of coauthors, and then based their reviews in part on their assumptions. These reviews were given to me and my coauthors, uncritically, by the journal editors. "
"Just this week one of the senior white males in my department made a racist joke during PhD student supervision time. I wish I could call him out without endangering my career, but I can't. The other senior, white male has to, but he didn't, I doubt he ever would. I think this problem is probably worse in Europe than in the US, as well. being a US person in Europe it's pretty astounding to see just how sure Europeans are that there's no/less sexism and racism here. And then they make an overtly racist joke. "
"I attended a conference in Europe where most of the attendees were post-Christian or had apathy to religious matters, yet they were full of derogatory remarks about Muslims. This was offensive to me even though I am not a Muslim. I would not consider Muslim people the way this group was doing. They assumed that Muslims would not be present, but failed to consider that some attendees would be subject-matter experts on cross-religious dialogue, and not find their comments humorous or factual."
“A professional organization for the field used my image, and that of a colleague who was not a member of the organization, to promote their "diversity" materials without permission or compensation...this is especially problematic given that the colleague, as a non-member, had not even implicitly agreed to the use of their image”
"Conferences are very hard for me. Navigating upper or upper middle class white culture is not something I have lots of experience with and I often fumble (say the wrong thing, eat food wrong, order cheap beer etc) and people laugh and joke about it without sensitivity to how difficult it is being different."
"the laws for a deaf person in a working place in the industry are more clear (paying interpreters, technical support etc), but in the academia the laws are unclear or do not exists to a deaf employee. That is a strong point for a decision to choose to stay or tho change in both areas. "
"I have had colleagues roll their eyes while I'm speaking about bias issues, talk over me when I try to discuss my point of view, [and] completely negate what I say when I share my personal experiences"
"The presence of alcohol at official functions (especially at Canadian schools where drinking age is lower) has, in my experience, lead to profs getting drunk and making inappropriate comments that can make grad students uncomfortable."
"[I would like to see] More discussion around issues of mental health, e.g. depression and anxiety. In my experience, professors vary wildly in how seriously they take these issues, and whether they react/respond appropriately to disclosures of graduate students' issues with mental health."
"Women of color in linguisitcs have been the reason why I haven't quit academia. The unconditional support and mentorship I receive from these women both direct and indirect has helped progress from undergraduate studies to graduate and now as I progress through the tenure track. However, it is not solely WOC's job to contribute to positive climate, others need to step up."
"My main issue is with one professor at my university (in a specific language department, but he teaches linguistics classes) who frequently makes problematic jokes/comments. I took his class my first semester of grad school and a friend and I discussed trying to do something about it, but were unsure who to go to and whether there might be consequences for us. I wish *someone* would do something to make him more aware that such comments are not ok, and possibly to get him removed from his position if he doesn't change."
"As a first generation student from an extremely poor upbringing everything about the field feels foreign and unwelcoming."
"I have not yet done this, but I am planning to move from academia to industry in the next year because I find the poisonous climate of academia to be too detrimental to be worth it. I love the research that I do and certain colleagues, but continuing to work in a terrible climate is personally unsustainable."
"where ever there are unfair power dynamics, there is a problem. the extent to which international students are at risk, and yet no one offers support is unreasonable - when your legal status depends on people who control other aspects of your life, it's a pretty terrifying place to be. for the most part, I feel as if I am treated as if the international students could have no problems that differ from the national students. Also, the opportunity differences are stark (national students have the opportunity to apply for more fellowships, are given guidance, international students must find their own funding sources, and have to figure out how to apply on their own) [...]"
"When something happened to me, I didn't know who to tell or what to do. Especially as the academic in question was very senior. And there were people around me who saw/heard and didn't say anything. If I knew of something to do to hold that person accountable that would not have put myself in an awkward/problematic position, I would have done it."
"I wish there was less red tape and that I was less afraid of repercussions from superiors."
"I had a miserable graduate experience that ticks the boxes of classic gaslighting and emotional manipulation. The department was toxic and overly competitive and grad students were pitted against each other academically and to a lesser extent, personally. But, due to the systemic gaslighting, it wasn't until I was almost finished with my degree that I learned I wasn't the sole target (but instead, many of my colleagues were similarly suffering). Crucially, much of this seemed to come from men who superficially behaved as supportive and nurturing mentors and the senior women faculty. I am still hesitant to speak out in public, for fear of disbelief and retaliation (even though I have spoken about it in private and have been told this is a common experience and even widely known about the department). Luckily, none of the abuses I experienced or heard about in this environment were particularly sexual in nature. That said, it was only years after graduation that I realized that my advisor (whom I have the utmost respect for as an academic) had consistently made sexist (and possibly racist) comments to me about his other students in private meetings -- it was so insidious and perhaps unintentional that I didn't even notice. I wish I knew how I could tell him it wasn't okay, and to stop in the future. I don't know the solution and I don't know if there is a solution. I don't even know how common this is because even after spending time in other (supportive) institutions, I struggle to imagine (or accept?) what a "positive climate" would look or feel like. It's experiences like this, which are surprisingly common from what I've heard, that contribute significantly to the "leaky pipeline" and help maintain a predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly middle class/wealthy community."
“I wish I had felt comfortable to say something or at least the other faculty who heard it had called out inappropriate remarks when I heard them.The tenured faculty who I heard was involved in a long term harassment behavior should have lost his position.”
“The rules can be bent for rock-stars.”
"Seemingly, professors do not get disciplined for any bad behavior or for holding unfair bias against their students and colleagues. It seems that the preferred way to deal with such bad behavior is undisclosed settlements or out-of-court dispute mediation. These solutions protect abusers rather than victims and I think that there needs to be a great deal more transparency to the process of dispute mediation and less departmental coverup of bad behavior."
"I'd like to see more non-majority identified linguists. Our field is extremely unwelcoming and is not nurturing. Often graduate students who are talented and invested lose their passion because of the nastiness of senior academics."
"I have been subjected to long-term, ongoing harassment in my department. This has culminated in my submission of a formal complaint, in which my complaints were substantiated in a lengthy document. I feel torn between the confidentiality of the process, which protects my harasser, and my very strong belief that this individual should not be in a position to evaluate the outcome of grants/publications/grad student admissions & awards/etc., since harassers are ultimately very good at manipulating situations to get the outcome they want. These issues aren't about linguistics per se but about academia more generally, but some materials around harassment (that isn't sexual) would definitely be appreciated. It would also be wonderful to educate younger scholars about what harassment is and what it looks like. (I say this because it took me some years to figure out what was happening.)"
"I worked at a non-profit organization for many years. The climate was one of collaboration, respect, understanding each other and the issues involved, and a desire to see everyone succeed. In university contexts I often see the opposite of those things and a climate of competition, need to be at the top at the expense of others"
"I will go to industry after finishing my PhD because I can't stand being so powerless anymore."
"I have seen more and more people being willing to risk their own reputation to status to call it out. I wish I had been one of those people. And I wish that there were actual consequences for the people conducting the derogatory behaviour. I am still much more used to seeing the people calling out that behaviour being the ones suffering sanction."
"Once a colleague said to me that they couldn't understand how I could have spiritual ideas and at the same time conduct experimental research. They then said my life decisions were non-sensical and stupid."
"I wish the accusers had felt comfortable sharing those experiences with people who had the power to change them. I heard about a lot of things secondhand, and no one feels comfortable confronting a harasser with secondhand evidence. But if the person who was harassed doesn't feel comfortable coming forward, that means that everyone in the community has to put up with someone who they *know* did something bad."
"Those with experience outside of a traditional path (of any kind) can be a god send for those junior in the field. My experience as a first generation graduate student has focused mostly around socioeconomic class divides. While I am a white heterosexual male, I'm also a historically poor convicted criminal and community college graduate who has received substantial public grant money to attend school. Sharing that personal story alone has prompted even my most thoughtful advisor to ask, "How did you end up in academia then?" It's a double edged sword that while congratulating one on persisting also reinforces the otherwise quite obvious fact that academia is an old boys club for an in crowd that most often times can afford it."
"The instances I can think of are all comparatively small: Someone commenting snidely on a speaker's accent, someone claiming that people who are religious aren't rational and therefore can't do good science, and similar instances. All it would have taken to make these non-events is for someone to say "Come on. You know that's not fair. His study was great, who cares about his accent." or 'Seriously? How about Einstein? Heck, I'm religious -- do you see it interfering with my ability to do objective research?'"
"I have called-out my own (male) boss in the past - for his lazily biased language about others. He seemed alternately puzzled or bemused. Would have been more satisfied if he thought it relevant to listen, engage, or work towards better behaviour."
"If you want to disagree, to disapprove of my work, do it in print. If you want to disapprove of my presence, there's the door."
"There are so many senior white males who think they're sensitive, feminist, anti-racist, abelist, audist etc., then they make a RACIST JOKE in PhD student supervision, or call a woman (me) "aggressive" for applying for the same number of jobs I'm sure every single male applies for. "
"The worst experiences I have had is that one of my advisors is fond of sexist and racist jokes, and I am afraid to confront him about it because I suspect he already takes me less seriously because I am a woman. He also does not know how to address the problems that women often face in the field. "
"I wish that the offending parties had been quickly sanctioned according to my institution's stated policy and that the administration had acted quickly to establish a climate where gender discrimination is not tolerated - instead they acted slowly and behind the scenes."
harassment, negative climate, inclusion, & intersections with (sub)disciplines
"The sort of behavior I've witnessed has been mostly in the form of microaggressions against women in computational subfields -- less time spent looking at women in conversations, more attention paid to men, that sort of thing."
"One major challenge is being welcoming to those of us who have chosen non-academic careers. Conferences are not particularly fun at this point because of others' judgment about those career choices. "
“I have often heard professors and/or other graduate students treat differently students from indigenous communities in central/Latin America (group which I don't belong to, I just happen to have witnessed it many times). Things like "these students can't understand basic concepts of phonetics/acoustics, it's too scientific for them, etc". The overall climate is that these students are considered as less capable.”
"I went from industry to academia. As a petite female in formal/ generative sub-disciplines, I have been told (by well-meaning colleagues and advisors) since I was a graduate student that I need to change my personality, that my mannerisms mean my work is not taken seriously. I have been endlessly advised to attend 'Women in Leadership' courses. In industry, my gender/ height/ personality was never at issue. I was hired/employed/promoted into senior management roles, for example. The availability of HR in industry, providing neutral forums with trained members of staff for discussion of problematic behaviors, especially by senior staff, is something I really miss in faculty life."
"very glad I persisted in semantics despite being initially scared away by not having as much experience in formalism. certain subfields (especially computational linguistics) at my university are very male-dominated and i wonder why; wonder if those fields should do more to try to be welcoming to women and people with less experience at the beginning of graduate school."
"We in Africa are quite cut off from the rest of the world. However, when we travel and try to engage with colleagues in other parts of the world, there is often no response. I visited New York, e.g., a couple of years ago and wrote to a number of colleagues doing similar research prior to traveling, to see whether one could maybe meet up, whether they had postgraduates who might like to hear about research/ Linguistics in Africa, or, whether they were interested in me giving a talk (for free). There was no response from anyone."
"In my subfield (syntax) I have witnessed many women who have undergone gaslighting, witholding of advising and neglect with the usual outcome of many of the women leaving the department."
"I was explicitly told by an LSA program committee member that my abstract was highly rated but rejected from the annual meeting because there was "already too much experimental stuff" and "the meeting is for real linguists, not psychologists who like language". This shocked me as ALL of my degrees are in linguistics. I've also experienced a ton of bias surrounding gender"
"Language variation fields as seen in things like NWAV and the American Dialect society have not changed nearly enough to be more inclusive (little gender, race, nationality, religion, ability, etc. diversity). AAA still has issues around race."
"I [...] think there is a weird math fetishization in semantics that hurts women, not because women do less mathematically rigorous work or enjoy that work less, but because they are perceived as being less good at it. I'm 100% confident in my mathematical skills, and have the background to prove it on paper, but I still get weird remarks about how I haven't "proved" my semantics chops, which I never hear about male students. Male students are assumed to be formal enough; women students are assumed not to have formal skills."
"[in] syntax [I would like to see]: more sociolinguistic awareness/acknowledgment of variation + social context, general etiquette around (trans)gender issues"
"Formal semantics: don't be so gate-keepy and create an atmosphere that is hostile particularly to young women wanting to engage with the subfield. There is a really "bro" atmosphere that is unpleasant at best and professionally exclusionary at worst. This is at conferences, in informal meetings, and in classes. I know several young female linguists who have chosen not to go any further with the field because of this atmosphere, and a further several female linguists who are thinking of leaving the field altogether because of the "bro" atmosphere."
"I think linguists in linguistics depts have no idea how much segregation and discrimination against non-Spaniards or Linguists goes on in -say- Spanish and Portuguese departments."
"Semantics is not friendly towards women. My ideas are frequently attributed to male students; I'm interrupted often. Assertiveness is seen as desirable and necessary for achievement. Consequently women are passed over when they aren't assertive, but they are ostracized when they are."
"In experimental linguistics, I would like to see more linguistic and ethnic diversity in general and specifically among faculty. I would like to read more experimental studies that sample from linguistic populations other than those easily found on college campuses."
"One thing that I think could be improved is the competitive attitudes that pervade many lab-based disciplines. I have never quite understood the extreme in-group out-group attitudes that many people possess, particularly in the USA."
"Linguistics has always, or for as long as I can remember, had a disturbing dismissiveness towards minority populations, it was built into its method."
"In addition to being a sociolinguist, I am a linguistic anthropologist. My cross-disciplinary perspective has given me some (perhaps) unique insights. First, sociolinguistics is much more inclusive than linguistic anthropology, which continues to be dominated by masculine prestige hierarchies. Comparatively speaking (I have experienced working with two linguistics departments and one anthropology department), sociolinguistics does a far superior job empowering and supporting all students to become researchers. On the other hand, I have never been told that I am not an anthropologist in anthropology, but linguists have directly and indirectly suggested that I am not a 'real' linguist because of the anthropological methods and theories I use."
"Our field [semantics] is pretty white, partly because we erase or dismiss subfields or topics that minority researchers work on."
"While I am not in a Spanish department, I have heard linguists insinuate that Spanish departments in the US are where sub-par linguists from Spanish-speaking countries go when they are rejected from linguistics programs, which is simply not true."
"linguists who work in non-mainstream varieties should not be ghettoized in ADS. ADS is great and is often the only welcoming place for linguists of color, but we need to be included at the LSA"
"I avoided working with a group of people at my PhD institution because I perceived them to be smug, cliquey bros and I didn't think I could work with people like that. I often have to fight pretty hard to be taken seriously as a "semanticist" when I do lexical semantics. When I was a graduate student, I planned a talk series with a male professor. I advocated (not very diplomatically, I admit) for more women to be invited. The male professor perceived me as accusing him of being sexist, and lashed out at me, telling me that the faculty at large have serious concerns about my potential (which was not really even true). Eventually he apologized, but I avoided working with him for the rest of graduate school, even though he works in my area."
"People in sociolinguistics should know better than our behavior would suggest. Despite the field's long commitment to addressing privilege in a variety of ways, we continue to perpetuate the systems we fight. I want to see us change our priorities and start centering 1) work that promotes the well-being and empowerment of marginalized communities, regardless of its applicability to the things academics find interesting at any given moment, and 2) work done by scholars from underrepresented communities, including but not limited to work being done by those communities. We need to create opportunities to learn from (and pay) the people we imagine ourselves helping with our research. We need to restructure our events so that they are more accessible (financially, physically, interactionally). And we need senior folks and people with privilege to contribute the bulk of this work."
"One thing I found alarming about the case at U of Rochester was how many people were aware of the allegations, and for how many years these allegations had been made. I think that psycholinguistics specifically should make a serious effort to have conversations about sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, racism, and homophobia. "
"A faculty member of my program made a comment about me not being a "pure linguist". I am in a Linguistics Department (in addition to a Modern Languages department), and I work in [LANGUAGE]. Because of the power differential, and that I was actually asking this person for a favor, I did not stand up for myself. I wish I had. At the same time, I don't: I need a letter of recommendation for a job market that is getting exponentially tighter. I wished I wasn't in this position."
"I wish that I had a clearer sense of how to act on the rumors/hearsay that reached me. My graduate department was one with a clear "broken stair" culture, where everyone knew about the problematic faculty, and we informed each other, but did nothing to address the problem. I never witnessed anything directly, nor did anyone who experienced harassment choose to confide in me about it. Because of this, I did not know how to engage in any more productive manner than by perpetuating the broken stair culture."
"I would appreciate if people would stop assuming I am not American or a native English speaker at every conference just because I am a person of color working on lesser studied languages. "
"I attended CUNY recently and was shocked that the room was mostly non-diverse with white/white-presenting scientists, many of whom were, ironically enough, talking about minority languages. My friend is included in this group and he has acknowledged this is an issue. I see the same issues at other language-driven conferences (e.g., BUCLD, SRCLD)."
"In male-dominated subfields (syntax, neuro, among others), I've heard of more incidents (microaggressions, etc.), and I think the way linguistics as a discipline is organized (as a collection of siloed subdisciplines) doesn't help to encourage a dialogue about climate across departments."
"If I called out another semanticist on sexist or racist language, or asked them to respect my gender identity in certain specific ways, I'd expect them to argue against me with the same vigor that they use for debate on theoretical points. Before I left the field, there were definitely times when I just didn't bother asking for better treatment specifically because I wasn't up for a full-on claws-out debate about whether my emotions were reasonable or my experience was real.So... I'd like to see semantics drop the attitude that Real, Serious Linguists are blunt and harshly argumentative with each other, because that attitude affects how we treat each other when we're not doing linguistics and it sucks."
"Removing privilege associated with some subfields being considered more 'core', like syntax. It is no surprise that these fields are where I've witnessed the most misogynistic and entitled behavior."
"I'm really tired of seeing departments take in complaints, agree with the concerns, and do absolutely NOTHING. I mean, as a white woman, I hear about the guys who are lauded in public and then prey on women behind the scenes and drive them off. I'd LIKE to think that sociolinguistics in particular is supportive-ish of PoC but for all I know there are people who secretly treat PoC the way the men I'm thinking of treat women."
"I went from education, so not quite industry, to academia. Climate was not part of my decision but it is DEFINITELY informing where I will/will NOT accept positions upon graduation."
"I want to see more critical conversations happening around representation of languages and critical discussion around how linguistics as a discipline has played into colonial/oppressive power structures historically and the ways it does so still, even inadvertantly [sic]. "
"For all that AAVE research is at the core of a lot of sociocultural linguistics, I'm not convinced we actually take race seriously enough/center non-white scholars. Language and gender/sexuality research still feels like its own little pool, which is a nice friendly happy pool, but I don't think scholars engage with those findings more broadly in how they understand language. "
Calls to action
"Especially older respected and tenured faculty must still be accountable for their words and actions."
“I wish older faculty and more established names would: 1. take younger linguists seriously when they discuss bias (etc.); 2. be held accountable for their actions, even if it's difficult."
"I think I'm pretty privileged and I'm sorry I'm not more aware of others' experiences in the field."
"Respected tenured faculty must face consequences for their actions, such as losing their job/standing for sexual harassment and violence."
"I wish senior faculty would call out aggression so that students and junior faculty don't have to."
"Male faculty members need to stop treating women like cute little girls who are playing with linguistics and more like serious researchers."
"Potentially mediated conversations between individuals who were aware of their power and position and try to understand the humanity in the other half. In my own experience, trying to have this conversation with an advisor resulted in a shouting match across his desk so loud that another faculty member found me afterwords to discuss what had happened and how I might have been affected by the interaction. The ability to disable the ego that goes into such mediations is key, I believe. "
"Gravitas comes with responsibility, and if enough make the effort, our culture can change. And that change can ripple throughout academia. Such a shift if [sic] needed as the old models of education fade."
"I think we need to rely on the moderately-elder members of the field (not the emeriti or near-retired, but those who are tenured and active and young enough to have fresh memories of grad school and early-career stresses) to be willing to (and know how to) set good examples in all such interactional contexts, and to call out inappropriate behavior. This includes session chairs moderating climate in addition to time, and journal editors holding reviewers to a standard of decorum in their critiques. It also includes responding to rather than ignoring circumstances of harassment.We all need to accept (especially those of us who have not personally had the experience of being a target of prejudice or harassment) that we need to talk about these issues out loud, whether the venue to do so is in writing or in conference gatherings. I wish there were a way to have those who are at the least risk of suffering harassment (and at the highest risk of being complicit or complacent with it) to engage willingly and in good faith in such discussions."
"I would like to see more outreach and mentorship of students from underrepresented populations. I would like to see more women in the field. I would like men to not abuse their privilege of power over these particular populations of students. I would like to see men who are prominent in the field not be as disparaging of their female colleagues."
"much in the spirit of #metoo, there is widespread knowledge in linguistics about certain senior people being -let's put it very nicely- not nice to their students and advisees. Many people know names, but many people choose not to take action. Importantly, action can be taken only by people of equal power/seniority. Especially in Europe, a PhD student is almost powerless... It would be nice if this would change."
"there's a AAA ethics blog and there's a metooanthropology website. Why not have equivalents for both in linguistics? "
"It looks that we're talking a lot about these issues, but in reality, at least in the NorthEast, nothing actually changes."
"I would like to see conferences be more accessible to people with disabilities. Accommodations should not just have to be requested, but should also be offered up front to everyone."
"More. Young. Queer/POC. Linguists. Being. Unafraid."
"I have not done this, but I do consider leaving academia for industry, almost completely based on climate. This isn't because I think industry would be better, but because companies I would consider working for have clearer codes of conduct and tend to hold employees accountable in ways that I don't in academia. "Academic freedom" is used as a cover for oppressive, abusive behavior, we have few guidelines for our work (including everything from interaction with colleagues to teaching to research collaboration), and we are often dependent on "managers" who are not neither qualified nor hired to be managers (i.e. whoever is wrangled into being chair, or whoever's turn it happens to be)."
"[I want the] Elimination of the rampant discrimination and overt bias. Unconscious bias is definitely a factor, but when you have tenured professors sexually harassing their students (Yaeger) [sic], publicly arguing in defense of ethnic slurs (Pullum), or using social media platforms to berate black female scholars and claim that they are incompetent but have professorships because of "black privilege" (Myhill), the issue goes beyond unconscious bias. These professors (and others like them) continue to have support from their departments and continue to participate in our professional organizations. This is tacit support for their behavior."
"I also would like to see more humility among my colleagues; last year, faculty in my department were discussing whether we could benefit from diversity training, and the loudest detector actually said "Come on, we're academics," to support his position that our department couldn't possibly be home to racism, transphobia, ableism, etc. We also need help starting these conversations, because many of our colleagues have built up serious barriers to protect themselves from the implications of political critique."
"The LSA's "civility" campaign is fine, but I am personally wary of the language of "civility," and I think we need concrete measures to empower women to be full participants in the field (e.g., child care at conferences; ensuring diversity on panels and among speakers; keeping an eye on hiring practices; etc.)."
"Some of the same people expressing outrage at the Rochester situation, and circulating letters, were some of the very same people who have made students uncomfortable in their own departments. IF YOU HAVE POWER, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE."