Political science has a #metoo moment

Many political scientists are up in arms over an editor’s decision to use his journal as a platform to defend himself from allegations of sexual harassment.

The editor, William Jacoby of Michigan State University, has since removed a statement denying the allegations from the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), and posted an apology. Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), which publishes the journal, has announced it’s asked Jacoby to “suspend all editorial operations until the council can take formal action later this week.”

In the now-retracted statement, Jacoby denied “widely known” allegations of sexual harassment. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jacoby has been accused by two former graduate students, one of whom said he asked “if she would consider having an affair with him.” Jacoby has offered to step down at the end of the year; multiple investigations are ongoing.

Jacoby’s decision to post his defense on such a prominent platform as an academic journal prompted huge outcry from some members of the community.


Michael Chwe, a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Retraction Watch:

As a former co-editor of the American Political Science Review, but speaking as an individual, I condemn in the strongest possible terms William Jacoby’s statement today on the AJPS website.  It is grossly unfair for one party in a sexual harassment dispute to advance his position using the resources of an academic journal, whose purpose is to promote scholarly communication, not the personal character of its editor.  People who experience sexual harassment already face great difficulty reporting, and it is unconscionable that a scholarly journal in their field faces them as an antagonist. As a discipline, we cannot allow this to happen.

In his now-removed statement, Jacoby also said he did not author a statement attributed to him that’s been circulating on the Political Science Rumors website.

The statement prompted a response from one of his accusers:

The MPSA, in its statement, says it has scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the situation:

…it was brought to our attention that Professor Jacoby posted on the AJPS website an explanation of his position on the issue. This notice was NOT authorized by the MPSA and does not represent the position of the MPSA or any of its members. While the MPSA is ultimately responsible for overseeing the AJPS, we are not involved in any of the operations or editorial decisions of the journal or of the editor. We regret any offense that Professor Jacoby’s action in posting this notice may have caused. The notice has been removed and an apology has been posted. Any further response will be decided at the emergency council meeting.

According to the Chronicle, at least three political science experts have declared they plan to withdraw their membership from the association in response.

Update, 2030 UTC, 4/20/18: The MPSA council said today in a statement that it voted unanimously to accept Jacoby’s resignation. And a number of the journal’s editorial board members have urged the council

to appoint immediately a team of empowered subfield co-editors to work with Jacoby on the transfer of editorial control.

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