msgeorgeeliot

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This is both shocking and not.

Jennifer Freyd PhD has done great research on the concept of institutional betrayal. In this case, it applies not only to the original victims of Epstein’s crimes, but also to the men and women in the Media Lab who unwittingly used his money for their research, were ignored when they learned of the relationship and complained, etc. The impact ripples out to other communities and individuals ad infinitum.

Beyond research, I am wondering if psychology as a profession can/should be doing more on the direct intervention side in addressing this particular brand of systemic rot in academia.

Do others know of psychologists who are doing this type of work?

 
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I can’t say this surprised me. And that’s sad. I’m curious if this type of thing is mainly at large, well-known prestigious places more than smaller institutions. Thoughts?
Unfortunately, I think this will always be a problem, much like the pay to play admissions scandal. There are those higher up people who just care about the money, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Unless there are real consequences to careers and maybe even legally, I don’t believe we will fix this. Perhaps pessimistic, but that’s what I fear.
 
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I can’t say this surprised me. And that’s sad. I’m curious if this type of thing is mainly at large, well-known prestigious places more than smaller institutions. Thoughts?
Unfortunately, I think this will always be a problem, much like the pay to play admissions scandal. There are those higher up people who just care about the money, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Unless there are real consequences to careers and maybe even legally, I don’t believe we will fix this. Perhaps pessimistic, but that’s what I fear.
If that's pessimistic, then count me as a pessimist. Increased consequences and attention were the only two "solutions" I can initially come up with. The "need" for universities to be perpetually competing amongst one another to see who can impress students the most with the nicest amenities probably isn't helping. Neither are the pressures for faculty and labs to bring in funding. Although being on the outside looking in RE: academia, my vantage point is pretty limited.
 
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psych.meout

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There are more systemic and cultural problems here, as the founder of the lab actually supports the original decision to take Epstein's money, which occurred after he had been incarcerated for the first time.
 
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Ethics is a tricky thing. We expect people to be ethical even if we do not provide the training and resources necessary to be ethical in difficult situation. Even with training, making an ethical decision is not simple, easy, or black/white. It is particularly hard to be ethical when large sums of money are on the line.

It is easy to sit back and judge after the fact. A lot of that is happening with the psychologist that took Epstein off of suicide watch. The whole situation has a great chance of becoming a studied case in ethics across disciplines.
 

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University of Alabama had an interesting case this summer where a donor was given back a very large donation ($80 million, I think? Maybe $60 million?) that he made to the law school because he insisted, repeatedly, that being large donor gave him unilateral hiring and firing power for the law school. The Board of Trustees eventually came to the conclusion that he was more trouble than his money was worth and gave him back the donation. He used this to go on a media blitz claiming that *he* took back the donation in protest of anti-abortion laws, and the media bought it unquestioningly. The university quickly released emails that clearly showed that a) the decision to give back the money occurred before these laws were passed; b) the issue had everything to do with the donor's insistence on having unilateral hiring and firing powers and nothing to do with abortion; and c) the university gave him back the donation--he didn't take it back. But of course, lots of people didn't see the published receipts and continued to believe the initial, fabricated narrative the donor spun.

So, donations can be tricky no matter what an institution does, because false narratives can easily be spun and propagated, even if the institution does the right thing.
 

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University of Alabama had an interesting case this summer where a donor was given back a very large donation ($80 million, I think? Maybe $60 million?) that he made to the law school because he insisted, repeatedly, that being large donor gave him unilateral hiring and firing power for the law school. The Board of Trustees eventually came to the conclusion that he was more trouble than his money was worth and gave him back the donation. He used this to go on a media blitz claiming that *he* took back the donation in protest of anti-abortion laws, and the media bought it unquestioningly. The university quickly released emails that clearly showed that a) the decision to give back the money occurred before these laws were passed; b) the issue had everything to do with the donor's insistence on having unilateral hiring and firing powers and nothing to do with abortion; and c) the university gave him back the donation--he didn't take it back. But of course, lots of people didn't see the published receipts and continued to believe the initial, fabricated narrative the donor spun.

So, donations can be tricky no matter what an institution does, because false narratives can easily be spun and propagated, even if the institution does the right thing.
Link?
 

psych.meout

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Ethics is a tricky thing. We expect people to be ethical even if we do not provide the training and resources necessary to be ethical in difficult situation. Even with training, making an ethical decision is not simple, easy, or black/white. It is particularly hard to be ethical when large sums of money are on the line.

It is easy to sit back and judge after the fact. A lot of that is happening with the psychologist that took Epstein off of suicide watch. The whole situation has a great chance of becoming a studied case in ethics across disciplines.
Yes, ethics can be tricky, just not in this case. The emails and the attempt to cover up that Epstein was the source of the money shows that they knew it was wrong. If you know that you have to deceive people to get away with something, then you know that there's something wrong.
 

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Most money is tied to horrific stuff. Drive a German or Japanese car? Wear Puma, Adidas, Hugo Boss, etc? Use Johnson & Johnson products? Nestle products? Bayer products? Support the space program in general? Eat Chicquita products? Eat anything from Monsanto? Watch Vice stuff? Use an iPhone?

Most people willingly use their own money to line the coffers of companies that have done horrific things. I see no difference in research institutions taking money from them.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

msgeorgeeliot

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Most money is tied to horrific stuff. Drive a German or Japanese car? Wear Puma, Adidas, Hugo Boss, etc? Use Johnson & Johnson products? Nestle products? Bayer products? Support the space program in general? Eat Chicquita products? Eat anything from Monsanto? Watch Vice stuff? Use an iPhone?

Most people willingly use their own money to line the coffers of companies that have done horrific things. I see no difference in research institutions taking money from them.
It’s not enough for our standard to be “is it legal?” or “is everyone else doing it?” It should be, “is this the kind of community we want to have?”
 

psych.meout

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Most money is tied to horrific stuff. Drive a German or Japanese car? Wear Puma, Adidas, Hugo Boss, etc? Use Johnson & Johnson products? Nestle products? Bayer products? Support the space program in general? Eat Chicquita products? Eat anything from Monsanto? Watch Vice stuff? Use an iPhone?

Most people willingly use their own money to line the coffers of companies that have done horrific things. I see no difference in research institutions taking money from them.
Do you really not see the difference between buying products from companies which were associated with fascist regimes 75 years ago vs taking money from a serial sexual predator who just got out of prison?

Also, most people aren't trying to hide that they bought a Mercedes or own an iPhone, but the people involved with MIT lab intentionally obscured the source of Epstein's donation. This indicates that they knew it was wrong.
 

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@msgeorgeeliot there was nothing legal about those companies’ actions. Where do you want to draw the line?

@psych.meout I don’t know if there is any evidence that Epstein’s money came from illegal sources. Dude was clearly a predator. There’s a difference the person and the money. Refusing money from bad people doesn’t stop bad actions.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

msgeorgeeliot

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@msgeorgeeliot there was nothing legal about those companies’ actions. Where do you want to draw the line?

@psych.meout I don’t know if there is any evidence that Epstein’s money came from illegal sources. Dude was clearly a predator. There’s a difference the person and the money. Refusing money from bad people doesn’t stop bad actions.
I would like to draw the line at being goaded to debate a complex topic that is not particularly relevant to my original post.

Bringing it back to this example and the academic context: it’s a fact that, in accepting Epstein’s money, prominent scientists improved his reputation, facilitated his access to additional opportunities to make money, enjoyed social opportunities in which they were inexplicably waited on by girls and young women, and (in a few cases) have been credibly accused of participating in serious crimes. I generally agree that refusing money from bad people doesn’t stop bad actions, but in this case, accepting the money actually *perpetuated* harm to crime victims, academic labs, and other stakeholders.

I would like to re-up my original question before this thread devolves into a nihilistic black hole. Is anyone aware of intervention efforts within our profession to address these types of problems? Much appreciated!
 
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WisNeuro

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I would like to re-up my original question before this thread devolves into a nihilistic black hole. Is anyone aware of intervention efforts within our profession to address these types of problems? Much appreciated!
One of the big issues with this question is that "our profession" is a fairly heterogeneous construct. You have 100% clinicians, 100% researchers (same in academia, some in private sector applied), and everywhere in between. Most of these people are not members of APA. Most only belong to their niche area organizations. I imagine most are so far removed from what happened at MIT that they will be outraged momentarily and then go about their business as if nothing happened. I don't think this is particular to this one issue, rather, an issue within psychology as a field in whole. Generally speaking, people in the field have long been about what is good for themselves and their niche area, ignoring what is good for the field as a whole. I don't see any meaningful intervention happening here, generally because the field, and the public at large, won't care about this in a few months. In a year, I doubt many will even remember anything about it.
 
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I would like to re-up my original question before this thread devolves into a nihilistic black hole. Is anyone aware of intervention efforts within our profession to address these types of problems? Much appreciated!
At the risk of being obtuse--what specific problem? If you mean the MIT media lab specifically, Joi has already resigned; I guess they could censure other people in the lab, but it may be hard to determine who specifically was "okay" if the funding from Epstein and who just was involved with the lab without knowing who funded it or what Epstein's background was. If we go broader into who is or not acceptable to receive funding from, that gets tricky, as PsyDr pointed out. For example, Autism Speaks is seriously criticized for having a history of saying and doing some highly questionable things regarding autistic people. Should the field reject research or researchers that are funded by AS? Many people have substantial issues with things that the DOD or other federal agencies have done--should the field reject funding from them? The only clear line I've seen drawn is that people generally won't accept money from tobacco companies, though some undoubtedly still do. If you mean individual private funders, that's very rare, and I can't think of any case I've seen outside of this one where a private funder as a single individual has been publicly identified in this field (maybe the Koch brothers?).
 

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I would like to draw the line at being goaded to debate a complex topic that is not particularly relevant to my original post.

Bringing it back to this example and the academic context: it’s a fact that, in accepting Epstein’s money, prominent scientists improved his reputation, facilitated his access to additional opportunities to make money, enjoyed social opportunities in which they were inexplicably waited on by girls and young women, and (in a few cases) have been credibly accused of participating in serious crimes. I generally agree that refusing money from bad people doesn’t stop bad actions, but in this case, accepting the money actually *perpetuated* harm to crime victims, academic labs, and other stakeholders.

I would like to re-up my original question before this thread devolves into a nihilistic black hole. Is anyone aware of intervention efforts within our profession to address these types of problems? Much appreciated!
Freyd and her former lab members seem to do a lot of advocacy and intervention work. Carly Smith is a specific example of someone from her lab who's taken up the mantle of work on institutional betrayal.
 
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Psycycle

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At the risk of being obtuse--what specific problem? If you mean the MIT media lab specifically, Joi has already resigned; I guess they could censure other people in the lab, but it may be hard to determine who specifically was "okay" if the funding from Epstein and who just was involved with the lab without knowing who funded it or what Epstein's background was. If we go broader into who is or not acceptable to receive funding from, that gets tricky, as PsyDr pointed out. For example, Autism Speaks is seriously criticized for having a history of saying and doing some highly questionable things regarding autistic people. Should the field reject research or researchers that are funded by AS? Many people have substantial issues with things that the DOD or other federal agencies have done--should the field reject funding from them? The only clear line I've seen drawn is that people generally won't accept money from tobacco companies, though some undoubtedly still do. If you mean individual private funders, that's very rare, and I can't think of any case I've seen outside of this one where a private funder as a single individual has been publicly identified in this field (maybe the Koch brothers?).
I think the issue for me is that at times these threads start on a specific topic and then take such a deep shift into related areas that the original stuff doesn't get addressed. I appreciate that we need to think about our iPhones, food, Johnson & Johnson and so on, but this thread is about the MIT lab and academia. Autism Speaks, DOD (because of the VA) are more in line with the topic.

Institutional betrayal is a very interesting topic to me and I've read some of the work discussed here. Interesting and hopefully will garner more attention as we move forward. It seems to be a repeated issue, the hush thing, and doesn't always have to do with money directly.
 

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I think the issue for me is that at times these threads start on a specific topic and then take such a deep shift into related areas that the original stuff doesn't get addressed. I appreciate that we need to think about our iPhones, food, Johnson & Johnson and so on, but this thread is about the MIT lab and academia.
If academia accepts large amounts of money from private and publically traded companies, isn't it also germane to the topic of the sources of money in politics and the underlying ethics of accepting money from an actor (individual or corporate) who engages in unethical and/or downright illegal behavior?
 

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I think the issue for me is that at times these threads start on a specific topic and then take such a deep shift into related areas that the original stuff doesn't get addressed. I appreciate that we need to think about our iPhones, food, Johnson & Johnson and so on, but this thread is about the MIT lab and academia. Autism Speaks, DOD (because of the VA) are more in line with the topic.

Institutional betrayal is a very interesting topic to me and I've read some of the work discussed here. Interesting and hopefully will garner more attention as we move forward. It seems to be a repeated issue, the hush thing, and doesn't always have to do with money directly.

1) The point was to illustrate a dichotomy between actually GIVING money to unethical people VS TAKING money from unethical people. Money is amoral.

2) To answer more direct questions:

a. Carlat published some stuff about pharma being an unfair influence in psychiatry. Healy did too.

b. Nemeroff was lambasted in a Congressional inquiry and the NYT for pharma money stuff.

3) IMO, the cost of backlash is the only punishment that universities consider when taking the positive reinforcement of money from donors.
 

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I think the issue for me is that at times these threads start on a specific topic and then take such a deep shift into related areas that the original stuff doesn't get addressed. I appreciate that we need to think about our iPhones, food, Johnson & Johnson and so on, but this thread is about the MIT lab and academia. Autism Speaks, DOD (because of the VA) are more in line with the topic.
The DOD actually funds a pretty extensive portfolio of psychology research separate from the VA.
 

Psycycle

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If academia accepts large amounts of money from private and publically traded companies, isn't it also germane to the topic of the sources of money in politics and the underlying ethics of accepting money from an actor (individual or corporate) who engages in unethical and/or downright illegal behavior?
Yes, but it's a branch. Like when I asked about communication of one's role as a psychologist to coworkers and I got quizzed as to why my role in the company is what it is. It's related, sure, but it takes the conversation in a completely different direction. Sometimes that gets frustrating.
 

Psycycle

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1) The point was to illustrate a dichotomy between actually GIVING money to unethical people VS TAKING money from unethical people. Money is amoral.

2) To answer more direct questions:

a. Carlat published some stuff about pharma being an unfair influence in psychiatry. Healy did too.

b. Nemeroff was lambasted in a Congressional inquiry and the NYT for pharma money stuff.

3) IMO, the cost of backlash is the only punishment that universities consider when taking the positive reinforcement of money from donors.
Right, I mean I get it, but the topic of the thread is what do we do about these concerns in academia in particular. We are stuck in a web of unethical stuff, and unless you want to go live in the woods by yourself, there's no real way out of it. Even then, I'm sure there are issues. But if we go in that direction in this conversation the thread becomes desultory and we don't address the topic brought up by the OP. Instead we'll be discussing the problems with the manufacture of iPhones.

I agree with your other points, and I wonder if there are other ways universities could be examining themselves. Or if that's just pie in the sky.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

msgeorgeeliot

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One of the big issues with this question is that "our profession" is a fairly heterogeneous construct. You have 100% clinicians, 100% researchers (same in academia, some in private sector applied), and everywhere in between. Most of these people are not members of APA. Most only belong to their niche area organizations. I imagine most are so far removed from what happened at MIT that they will be outraged momentarily and then go about their business as if nothing happened. I don't think this is particular to this one issue, rather, an issue within psychology as a field in whole. Generally speaking, people in the field have long been about what is good for themselves and their niche area, ignoring what is good for the field as a whole. I don't see any meaningful intervention happening here, generally because the field, and the public at large, won't care about this in a few months. In a year, I doubt many will even remember anything about it.
@WisNeuro , I think that’s a very good point. I’ve seen you make it in other contexts and have valued your thinking on it. I also agree that most won’t care tomorrow, let alone in a few months. It’s a good thing that public sentiment is not essential to the behind-the-scenes work of structural change whose time is overdue.

At the risk of being obtuse--what specific problem?
Not an obtuse question at all — thanks for your feedback as it helps help me clarify. In my original post, I made a brief reference to the concept of institutional betrayal, which is the problem of interest to me. Per Jennifer Freyd, U of Oregon: “The term "Institutional Betrayal" refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.” I included a link below to her new research initiative and past scholarship on this topic.


Freyd and her former lab members seem to do a lot of advocacy and intervention work. Carly Smith is a specific example of someone from her lab who's taken up the mantle of work on institutional betrayal.
Yes! I have corresponded with JF and have a sense of her research agenda. I got the sense that she was not aware of research implementation efforts on an intervention level. As a consultant and clinician, this is my interest area and hence the context of my original post.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

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Right, I mean I get it, but the topic of the thread is what do we do about these concerns in academia in particular. We are stuck in a web of unethical stuff, and unless you want to go live in the woods by yourself, there's no real way out of it. Even then, I'm sure there are issues. But if we go in that direction in this conversation the thread becomes desultory and we don't address the topic brought up by the OP. Instead we'll be discussing the problems with the manufacture of iPhones.

I agree with your other points, and I wonder if there are other ways universities could be examining themselves. Or if that's just pie in the sky.
Thank you @Psycycle . I could have been more precise in my original post, which might have prevented some of the off-ramping. On a process level, I agree that it is tiresome when participants go straight into the mode you describe, which can make one regret having asked for input at all. I can sort wheat from chaff, but sometimes the volume of chaff could seriously fill a barn.
 
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Strikes me as somewhat odd to focus on the one lab Epstein gave money to in terms of a focus of ethical behavior. Of course if there’s a huge sum of money involved some people are going to be unethical, look the other way in terms of even obvious unethical and immoral behavior, etc.; I doubt that would ever be solved in academic as it’s persisted in society in general for thousands of years. I think I’m much more concerned about the repeated unethical/x-ist behaviors that occur when no money at all is involved and over which we can exert much more control.
 
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Right, I mean I get it, but the topic of the thread is what do we do about these concerns in academia in particular. We are stuck in a web of unethical stuff, and unless you want to go live in the woods by yourself, there's no real way out of it. Even then, I'm sure there are issues. But if we go in that direction in this conversation the thread becomes desultory and we don't address the topic brought up by the OP. Instead we'll be discussing the problems with the manufacture of iPhones.

I agree with your other points, and I wonder if there are other ways universities could be examining themselves. Or if that's just pie in the sky.
It functions along a relatively simple reinforcement schedule. Money is a reinforcer. Universities will take donations from individuals so long as the costs associated with said donation do not exceed the contribution. Costs should likely be broadly defined to include adverse PR affecting future donations, future grants, and future student enrollment.

Writing papers, campaigning, or any academic endeavor, etc would not be expected to have a persisting negative effect on a single donor or class of donor. Might feel good. Lawsuits might work, but would only be an available recourse if there were illegal behaviors.

In the case of institutional betrayal, the only way such things change is through legal channels.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

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Institutional betrayal is a very interesting topic to me and I've read some of the work discussed here. Interesting and hopefully will garner more attention as we move forward. It seems to be a repeated issue, the hush thing, and doesn't always have to do with money directly.
I think I’m much more concerned about the repeated unethical/x-ist behaviors that occur when no money at all is involved and over which we can exert much more control.
Yes! I 100% agree, @MCParent , and I also want to amplify @Psycycle ’s post in which she was first to make a related point. My intent in this post is not at all to criticize you — I’m just trying to lean in and amplify women’s voices, cuz that’s obviously my jam.

Money is obviously a central issue in the Epstein/MIT case, but my primary interest is also in non-financial realms in which bystanders still proliferate and (often) women’s concerns are ignored. This is also a central issue to the article I posted.
 
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In the case of institutional betrayal, the only way such things change is through legal channels.
Do you think this is absolutely true in cases of institutional betrayal that do not explicitly involve money? For what it’s worth, I partially agree with you. I’ve shared the broad strokes of my personal experience, but would add that my legal success in bringing a perpetrator to account has opened a door to influence a broader debate about the social mechanisms of sexual abuse and the bystander effect within academia.
 

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Do you think this is absolutely true in cases of institutional betrayal that do not explicitly involve money? For what it’s worth, I partially agree with you. I’ve shared the broad strokes of my personal experience, but would add that my legal success in bringing a perpetrator to account has opened a door to influence a broader debate about the social mechanisms of sexual abuse and the bystander effect within academia.
First, I am not really familiar with the term academic betrayal. If this refers to faculty raping or assaulting students, then I dislike the euphemism. I call rape, rape wherever it happens.

IMO, Crimes should be punished. Those that facilitate crimes should be tried as accomplices. It is not a complex philosophy.

It is my understanding that when dealing with institutions, whether they be universities or corporations, the civil legal system is the method of “punishing”. In that way, everything ends up being about money. In weighing what universities would consider, I tend to believe that multimillion dollar lawsuits would be much more of a deterrent to universities than academic papers or attempts to raise awareness. I’m not saying that is right, but I do believe that is the world we live in.
 
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msgeorgeeliot

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First, I am not really familiar with the term academic betrayal. If this refers to faculty raping or assaulting students, then I dislike the euphemism. I call rape, rape wherever it happens.
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IMO, Crimes should be punished. Those that facilitate crimes should be tried as accomplices. It is not a complex philosophy.

It is my understanding that when dealing with institutions, whether they be universities or corporations, the civil legal system is the method of “punishing”. In that way, everything ends up being about money. In weighing what universities would consider, I tend to believe that multimillion dollar lawsuits would be much more of a deterrent to universities than academic papers or attempts to raise awareness. I’m not saying that is right, but I do believe that is the world we live in.
@PsyDr : Please refer to the definition I keep sharing of institutional betrayal. Check out the research I recommended before holding court.

Your *opinion* on this topic is of zero value (this is your empirical ethos as I understand)

I could not agree more with your opinion that crimes and misdemeanors by perpetrators and their accomplices (aka institutional betrayal) ***should*** be punished.

Do you understand how insanely rare it is, even when you have a huge amount of physical and corroborating evidence, to earn a response from the institutions that are allegedly fair brokers of justice?

As a person to whom this **** has happened, and who has pursued every type of justice available to me: would you like some anecdotal data?

Probably not.

I am so sick of this.
 
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First, I am not really familiar with the term academic betrayal. If this refers to faculty raping or assaulting students, then I dislike the euphemism. I call rape, rape wherever it happens.

IMO, Crimes should be punished. Those that facilitate crimes should be tried as accomplices. It is not a complex philosophy.

It is my understanding that when dealing with institutions, whether they be universities or corporations, the civil legal system is the method of “punishing”. In that way, everything ends up being about money. In weighing what universities would consider, I tend to believe that multimillion dollar lawsuits would be much more of a deterrent to universities than academic papers or attempts to raise awareness. I’m not saying that is right, but I do believe that is the world we live in.
Institutional betrayal is a separate concept from sexual assault. It refers to the betrayal that the person experiences at the hands of the institution itself through letting the trauma happen and/or the reaction the survivor gets from the institution afterwards. For instance, if someone experiences military sexual trauma, there is also institutional betrayal because the military 1) let this happen and 2) often lets the incident go unpunished or in some cases even retaliates against the person.
 

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@PsyDr : Please refer to the definition I keep sharing of institutional betrayal. Check out the research I recommended before holding court.

Your *opinion* on this topic is of zero value (this is your empirical ethos as I understand)

I could not agree more with your opinion that crimes and misdemeanors by perpetrators and their accomplices (aka institutional betrayal) ***should*** be punished.

Do you understand how insanely rare it is, even when you have a huge amount of physical and corroborating evidence, to earn a response from the institutions that are allegedly fair brokers of justice?

As a person to whom this **** has happened, and who has pursued every type of justice available to me: would you like some anecdotal data?

Probably not.

I am so sick of this.
So even when some people do go to another institution - the legal system - they may face another layer of institutional betrayal (e.g. Chanel Miller). Right along with the stress, time, energy, and re-traumatization of the process. Add in racism, sexism, and so forth and you've got years of intense stress to manage a situation that wasn't your fault in the first place, that you never wanted, and now you're stuck with.

In my experience, others either duck and cover or support the aggressors, possibly from fear that they may be assaulted, etc.

It's not a simple problem and it doesn't have a clear cut solution.
 
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Ollie123

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Deliberately delayed responding to this for a few days. My response to the original question was leaning towards "No", but given it takes longer to confirm absence of something than presence I always like to let things stew for a bit before giving such an answer. I guess I should qualify exactly what I mean by that. Certainly, there are some obvious things we can do. We can do research to understand the consequences of these actions to individuals and university culture. We can advocate based on the psychological impact on victims. Beyond that though...I don't know that we have anything specific to offer or that we are any better poised to address this issue than anyone else might be. Its not a psychology issue per se and I'm not even convinced its a university issue as much as it is a societal one. I certainly think there is plenty we can push for as <people in academia> but not really anything specific to psychology.

Some other random thoughts:
- I get Psydr's point that the lines get blurry. In my view, this was a pretty clear step over the line, but where is that line? What if instead of molesting kids, it was some white collar financial crime unrelated to the money he was giving? What if it was too many unpaid parking tickets? What if he was arrested, but found not guilty? For the former or the latter?
- This relates to debates in research communities about accepting industry funding. Some (pharmaceutical industry) are more accepted than others (tobacco industry), but reasonable people can disagree.
- I think one of the pieces that bothered me most about this situation was the amount of control/influence/involvement he had in operations. He was clearly acting as an agent of the university in some capacity and had power to make decisions. This also ties in to how I think about industry funding. There is a big difference between an investigator-initiated grant sponsored by a corporation and one where the corporation micro-manages science to engineer a desirable outcome. Obviously pharmaceutical grants are not the same as propping up a pedophile's public reputation, but there are some guiding principles I think we need to consider.
- I actually disagree that our litmus test should be "did they hide it." Again, in this case I think its clear it was wrong. Unfortunately, we live in an age of crazy media spin, limited fact-checking and trial by social media firestorm. Unfortunately, people are now often in a position of hiding things that aren't necessarily bad but "Could be made to look bad" if the wrong people find out. Or just anyone with a grudge.
- The current funding culture in academia is problematic. Having been in both psychology departments and medical schools...it bad in psychology, but its utterly horrific in medical schools. We don't talk about that much. I don't know if its because we don't know or because we just take it for granted at this point that medicine is corrupt as hell, but its a serious issue. Its one thing to have tenure be more nerve-wracking, its another to know that a small lapse in funding gets you shown the door.
- Research is expensive as hell and I swear that universities and NIH are doing everything in their power to make it more expensive. I just got a 70k grant that I'm tacking on to another project. Even the funding announcement stated that it should be a funding supplement because they know $70,000 is not enough to run a standalone project these days.
- Systemic problems need systemic solutions. I am 100% confident this will be "solved" by MIT making everyone fill out some extra forms before accepting donations and continuing to play whack-a-mole with people who get caught doing bad things while ignoring the bigger picture. I don't know exactly what the big picture solution is, but from my vantage point it doesn't seem like anyone is even trying to come up with one.
 
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Some on here have said that "the only way things can change are through legal channels." I would say that the article cited by @msgeorgeeliot is proof that this is not the case, at least on the "micro" level. In this case, things have been changed by individuals within the system taking a stand (e.g., lab members resigning in protest), which created a body of evidence that eventually, through the work of this reporter, led to higher level resignations of the guy responsible for both the crime and the cover-up (Ito). Has the whole system changed? Probably not. However, in this case, MIT had already had Epstein on a list of non-acceptable donors. While it is possible that no laws were actually broken and thus the legal system is not relevant, journalism will lead to changes in how the bigger institution oversees the actions of smaller entities within itself. Small steps, yes, but once again the press shows its power to affect change in our society.

I regards to the role of "psychology as a profession," it's not just about doing the research, but where and how we disseminate it. "We" study things like decision making, assertiveness, whistle blowing, etc. However, do we mainly share this with ourselves or use it re-actively? Can psychologists interface with educators to create a curricula for teaching others (maybe college or even high school students) how to act when faced with complicated ethical dilemmas?

I also think that, while valid, the argument that bad money is involved in everything is a strawman. This case, as the article i believe shows, goes beyond dirty money. For godsakes, female faculty felt the need to talk to Epstein's assistants about what they could do if they were being forced to do things against their will. IMHO (which, as other have opined early does not really matter), this goes beyond "the grandfather of the guy who owns the company that makes my blender was a Nazi.". This was ACTIVE solicitation of money from a pedophile- who everyone knew (or at least was told, whether they chose to believe it or not) was a pedophile- all done against a specific directive from the parent institution (and damn them for having policies without effective procedures for assuring that said policies were followed) and protests, including resignations, from people within the specific lab.
 
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futureapppsy2

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IMHO (which, as other have opined early does not really matter), this goes beyond "the grandfather of the guy who owns the company that makes my blender was a Nazi.
The issues people have with some other funding sources go way beyond that, though. Some people feel that Autism Speaks has supported campaigns that explicitly say that the organization wishes they were dead or never born and that they destroy the lives of their loved ones by existing. Other people feel that the DOD actively commits war crimes. Not saying that I agree with those takes, but I think if you did, you’d have very valid, direct reason to believe that it was inherently unethical to take money from such organizations.
 
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The issues people have with some other funding sources go way beyond that, though. Some people feel that Autism Speaks has supported campaigns that explicitly say that the organization wishes they were dead or never born and that they destroy the lives of their loved ones by existing. Other people feel that the DOD actively commits war crimes. Not saying that I agree with those takes, but I think if you did, you’d have very valid, direct reason to believe that it was inherently unethical to take money from such organizations.
I DO agree with those takes. I call straw man. The MIT situation was not passive acceptance of dirty money, but rather active solicitation of money from an acknowledged pedophile, with active cover up and ineffectual institutional oversight to assure that related entities don’t violate institutional policy.

I get it. It’s tough to not be a hypocrite nowadays. However, the fact that bad money exists elsewhere (everywhere?) in academia does not negate the fact that Ito et al. are dirty creeps who deserve whatever punishment comes there way. They legitimized Epstein when they had ample evidence to conclude that it was wrong (and against institutional policy) to so. Psychology can play an active role in decreasing the future probability of such behavior.
 
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futureapppsy2

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I DO agree with those takes. I call straw man. The MIT situation was not passive acceptance of dirty money, but rather active solicitation of money from an acknowledged pedophile, with active cover up and ineffectual institutional oversight to assure that related entities don’t violate institutional policy.

I get it. It’s tough to not be a hypocrite nowadays. However, the fact that bad money exists elsewhere (everywhere?) in academia does not negate the fact that Ito et al. are dirty creeps who deserve whatever punishment comes there way. They legitimized Epstein when they had ample evidence to conclude that it was wrong (and against institutional policy) to so. Psychology can play an active role in decreasing the future probability of such behavior.
I definitely agree that the Epstein case was one of clear ethical violation and cover-up of known university policy violations. I just don’t think that you could logically argue that taking money from an organization that you had reason to believe was committing unapologetic atrocities or actively advocating for genocide is substantially more moral or passive than taking money from someone who commits horrible crimes. An organization and the law may both allow the former but not the latter, but legal and ethical are not always the same, as we all well know.
 
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I definitely agree that the Epstein case was one of clear ethical violation and cover-up of known university policy violations. I just don’t think that you could logically argue that taking money from an organization that you had reason to believe was committing unapologetic atrocities or actively advocating for genocide is substantially more moral or passive than taking money from someone who commits horrible crimes. An organization and the law may both allow the former but not the latter, but legal and ethical are not always the same, as we all well know.
I’m pretty sure we are in agreement!
 
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foreverbull

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Glancing at the articles, I find myself at a loss to think of an effective direct intervention for such a systemic problem that involves abuses of power by those higher up in the name of image preservation and/or wanting uncomfortable discussions to go away. Accountability is a huge issue in these cases and there’s an utter lack of it as part of the legacy of institutional betrayal.

Part of it starts with those in power hiring administrators, department heads, and lab supervisors who value ethics, justice, and fairness above image control for the institution, but I think that’s idealistic, unfortunately.

Corruption needs to be exposed at every level, and contacting media outlets (can be done anonymously) and lawsuits are viable individual ways to bring the corruption to light, but unfortunately there are no internal mechanisms for institutional betrayal when general ethics, justice, and fairness go out the window. Perhaps being more explicit in academic policies about situations like this may help in some cases so there’s more of a way to hold institutions accountable if they fail to uphold their own policies, but in some cases, lack of explicit policies isn’t the problem.

This seems to be systemic and rampant outside of psychology (and sometimes within) when it comes to the power of money and/or desire for damage control when there’s risk of an institution being seen in a negative light. That doesn’t mean our field or institutions should just stick with the status quo, though. So should our field do more to address this? Perhaps, but I’m not sure how exactly this should be done, unfortunately.

Final thought: I like the idea that @ClinicalABA mentioned about using our field’s expertise to be consultants and educators when it comes to exploitative relationships, power dynamics, and institutional betrayal more broadly. The question then becomes how do we lobby for the proliferation of this kind of education/training in all institutional settings (using established research as the basis)? Maybe it should be as commonplace as the HR-required
sexual harassment training that staff and faculty are required to complete in many institutions.
 

WisNeuro

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The question then becomes how do we lobby for the proliferation of this kind of education/training in all institutional settings (using established research as the basis)? Maybe it should be as commonplace as the HR-required sexual harassment training that staff and faculty are required to complete in many institutions.
While I agree that this is a problem, requiring additional mandated training requirements in all programs is problematic, for several reasons. One, the amount of required content has risen in recent decades already. And ,when taken into context with the desire for programs to shorten time to graduation, something will eventually have to give. Second, these "required" topics are sometimes phones in and introduced in such a casual way as to be ineffective. So, it may look like someone has the training on paper, but there is no real substance there.

There are many calls for additional training in grad school settings. People want training for the business side of things, social justice issues, and on and on. The question is, what is the responsibility of the graduate program in teaching/training students? And who decides what that responsibility is?
 

AcronymAllergy

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If only we had a national organization that didn't have a checkered past and could advocate on psychology's behalf for the field's involvement in helping to disseminate existing work in this area, pursue funding for new research, and provide consultative efforts that would potentially be beneficial to others and ourselves (e.g., with educational and other research institutions, lawmakers, etc.)...
 
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