Dean Emily Carter makes statement on sexual harassment

November 20, 2017

To all in the Princeton Engineering community:

I have written and spoken to a number of you individually and in groups over the past 10 days. Now I would like to take this opportunity to write collectively on a matter of deep importance to me, and to all of us committed to our mission of research, education, and service.

As many of you have seen in the news and social media, a senior member of the engineering faculty was found responsible for sexual harassment of a graduate student advisee. This type of behavior has absolutely no place in our community.

Unfortunately, as seen in the University's reporting of such incidents and the survey responses of our community, this incident is not the only example. My main responsibility as Dean is to ensure that all members of our community – students, postdocs, staff, and faculty – thrive here. Such abuse of power, whether it be what this victim endured or other forms of unacceptable behavior, including unethical actions, derails us from our mission in myriad ways. Although I am not part of the disciplinary process and am unable to disclose certain information relating to outcomes under University policy and applicable law, I can say that I am convinced that the University promptly and properly investigates and adjudicates each case.

I want to emphasize that any violation of the trust between mentors and students is unacceptable. As educators and researchers, our duty is to launch new talent toward fulfilling careers and lasting contributions to society. Any behavior that interferes with that goal undercuts our most cherished values. Speaking personally, what happened to this student goes against everything I believe in and have worked for throughout my career. It goes against the culture of inclusion and safety that I believe we have at this University and which I adamantly want to strengthen in my role as dean.

Starting in September and accelerated by this incident, I have been working with the Title IX officers in the Office of the Provost to program a series of information sessions – more than 20 in all – beginning in the next two weeks and continuing through the spring on fostering a welcoming and safe environment within the School. Sessions will be held for faculty, graduate students, postdocs, and staff. The first set of meetings, as arranged some weeks ago, will cover fostering inclusion, and a series in the spring will address preventing sexual harassment. Prompted by recent concerns related to the latter, my office also has worked with the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct to organize a town hall meeting right after the Thanksgiving break at noon on Monday, Nov. 27 in Maeder Hall. Members of the committee will moderate the discussion. I urge you to come to the meeting and share your questions, concerns, and suggestions regarding University policies and processes related to sexual harassment.

The next scheduled School-wide faculty meeting will be devoted to previewing the information sessions referenced above. Thereafter, a faculty meeting in each of the SEAS departments will be devoted to discussing fostering inclusion and preventing sexual harassment. These sessions will be led by members of the Title IX Office and the Office of General Counsel.

One consistent message in all these sessions will be the many opportunities to report suspected wrongs and the responsibility of each of us to do so. I want to emphasize that reporters will be supported and protected from any repercussions they may fear might result.  In particular, I have heard concerns about losing financial support or that visa status might be jeopardized. I want to assure you that this will not happen. Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the physical and emotional well-being of all members of our community.

Lastly, as one of my first initiatives as dean last year, we created a new position of associate dean for diversity and inclusion and are in the midst of a national search for candidates to fill the role.  That person’s mandate will be to accelerate recruitment and retention of a fully diverse engineering community across all ranks.

It is our collective responsibility to create a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our community. Faculty members particularly must lead by example. I am proud of my many colleagues who take that responsibility very seriously and am grateful to the many people who have contacted me about their concerns and dismay. I am determined to turn these singular failures into opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive as a community. The many challenges facing society today demand nothing less than all of our full and diverse talents.

Emily A. Carter
Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science
Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Applied and Computational Mathematics