University Professor facing the sack over joke made to female colleague
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University Professor facing the sack over joke made to female colleague

A LEADING Professor of political theory is facing an uncertain future after a colleague made a formal complaint about a joke he made during an academic conference last month.

Professor Richard New Lebow, from King's College, London, made the joke after walking into a crowded elevator at the event in San Francisco.

When Professor Simona Sharoni, a professor of gender studies at Merrimack College also in attendance, asked Lebow what floor he needed he replied: "ladies' lingerie."

The joke prompted laughter from several others in the elevator but Sharoni and a colleague were not amused and she promptly filed a complained with the International Studies Association (ISA).

The 57-year-old and her co-worker were reportedly too shocked to confront Lebow at the time and instead opting to report the matter through the correct formal channels.

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An ISA panel subsequently determined that Lebow's comments were a violation of its code of conduct, according to the Washington Post.

The ISA were also critical of the fact Professor Lebow subsequently emailed Sharoni directly to address the matter, which they viewed as an even bigger violation of its conduct code.

"I certainly had no desire to insult women or to make you feel uncomfortable. Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation or humiliation of women," he wrote.

"By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous - and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee - you may be directing time and effort away from the real offences that trouble us both."

The ISA labelled the initial joke "offensive and inappropriate" while also condemning Lebow's subsequent suggestion the complaint was "frivolous".

Sharoni has since been on the receiving end of anonymous abuse from those unhappy at her decision to make a formal complaint.

In a statement to The Chronicle of Higher Education, she said: "For decades, women and other marginalised groups in the academy had to put up with white men who decided what counts as violation and what is 'frivolous'."

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Lebow has been instructed to offer an "unequivocal apology" but has so far declined to do so and could now face further sanction over the issue.