Open Letter of the Board and the Chair of the CES Scientific Council

March, 13th | 2024

The Center for Social Studies (CES) has set up an Independent Commission (IC) to clarify situations of harassment and abuse within the institution. In light of the IC's report, the CES Board of Directors declares its repudiation and indignation at the practices of moral and sexual harassment and abuse of power committed by CES researchers, as denounced before the IC.

The CES Board of Directors would like to address those people who consider themselves victims of harassment or abuse in the context of CES activities, whether or not they have testified before the Independent Commission, to make a public apology for the experience they have been through, for the personal suffering that may have resulted, and for the silence that they have had to face within CES.

This apology is all the more heartfelt given that these people found themselves in this position of victim in an institution that has always sought to combat inequalities and injustices and make visible the position of people in situations of vulnerability, whether these are determined by global and historical structures of power, economic, social and gender, or by private forms of interpersonal relationships.

In the report, the CI states very clearly that the "documentation presented and the hearings held, both of the people who reported the incident and of the people who were reported, did not make it possible to clarify beyond doubt the existence or otherwise of all the situations reported to the CI". However, it also concludes that there is evidence of "patterns of conduct involving abuse of power and harassment on the part of some people who held senior positions in the CES hierarchy". The protection of confidentiality and anonymity, a fundamental element in the whole process and methodology of the Commission's work, limited the availability of concrete information, but allowed testimonies to be presented and protected. We are therefore not sure what happened, when and how, but we do know that the testimonies were validated by the IC.

While it is true that the situations reported were the result of individual actions, which we will take action on, they are also the result of institutional failures which, in the absence of adequate mechanisms to prevent harassment, allowed the conditions for forms of abuse of power.

In this sense, we also address this letter to the rest of the CES community - researchers, junior and post-doctoral researchers, technical staff and doctoral students - who are aware of these conclusions. While many of us are certainly wondering about our responsibilities, because this is not the CES we know and this is not the CES we want to continue to build, it is important to make clear the message that these complaints, which we have learned about in this way, are only directed at a small number of researchers.

We are determined to take every initiative to ensure that there are consequences to these complaints and that the bad practices that have been identified are not repeated at CES. The Commission's report sets out clear recommendations on which we will reflect collectively, in a broadly participatory manner, seeking to implement all those that we consider necessary and appropriate.

The broader context of this report, harassment in higher education and research, is strongly underpinned by the precariousness of academic careers and is a growing concern internationally. We hope that, as a result of this process, this issue will gain greater visibility at national level. To this end, we will seek to stimulate collective reflection on this issue and support research that allows us to identify its incidence and form. We will seek synergies with other centers, laboratories and research and higher education institutions, contributing with our experience to improving prevention practices, so that no researcher or student ever experiences similar situations again.

We want to make it clear that CES is available for active listening, for anyone who wants to be heard and/or seek redress. The Board of Directors and the Presidency of the Scientific Council are available to be contacted in this regard, and the Ombudsperson's Office maintains its own channel of communication, which complies with the principles of secrecy and confidentiality.

We thank those who testified before the Independent Commission and the members of the Commission for their demanding work and for the door it has opened so that CES can acknowledge its failings, apologize and look for ways to renew itself to ensure that future situations of abuse and harassment are prevented.

The Board and the Chair of the CES Scientific Council