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Harrasment Guidelines Merely A Facade

I feel I must make a case for myself, apparently no one else will. Having been under abnormal work conditions for a period of at least six months which culminated in my notice of resignation, I found myself in the harshest work environment I had ever known. I had very little time left in my position, but the abuse I felt was overwhelming. My supervisor's tone and countenance within any difficult situation was hostile, defensive and abusive. She was very careful not to let others hear or see though, when dealing directly with me. I had no proof of the situation, only that I had had sleepless nights, stomach cramps and a miscarriage.

With only eleven days to go until I left for good, instead of a cease-fire, an all out brawl began. I went to my Administrative Officer with my concerns of harassment and abuse. I gave her two options that would allow me to leave MIT unmolested and unpunished: (1) I could be reassigned to a new supervisor and do work with the same people and at the same desk, but no contact professionally with my old supervisor for the two remaining weeks, or (2) MIT could give me two weeks severance pay in addition to the vacation pay to which I was entitled and let me leave immediately. In either case no official charges would be made, no investigations, no formal allegations, just relief from a situation which was growing more difficult every day.

When it all came down, I was told that to be reassigned or allowed to leave with pay, I would need "some kind of proof," that "MIT just doesn't work that way" and I realized that it would be up to me to make this stick. I knew that I hadn't a foot to stand on, there was no proof and my supervisor certainly wasn't going to come forward and admit to her transgressions. How do you prove abuse or harassment in any situation unless there are witnesses? I had believed in the words written in the "Dealing with Harassment at MIT" handbook; I had believed that I would be protected, that something would be done.

I was told that I would not be reassigned and that I would not receive any severance pay. I would have to go back and work for the same supervisor after I had gone public about her harassment and abuse. I could not do that. It would be too hard. If I thought things had been bad before, I could only imagine how impossible they would become.

So, I quit. I have lost two weeks of pay plus a holiday and a personal day because I decided to come forward. My supervisor will never have to answer for what she has done, and I will never be able to use my position at MIT as a reference. Two and a half years of hard work, mostly excellent reviews, good relations with many in the laboratory, and now I have nothing to show for it, not even the support of those I worked with, all because I dared to try the system.

I had nothing to gain from asking for a change except that I would be able to finish my work in peace or that I be allowed to escape from a situation that had gone from professional to personal. I had just wanted to go quietly and without punishment. Now, I have lost everything, my job, my self-esteem and my integrity.

MIT's new Harassment Policy is just a shiny brochure written to attract people of integrity, but not to protect them.

Jennifer Watton

Formerly of the Laboratory for Computer Science