Since ten women came forward last month to accuse Northwestern journalism professor Alec Klein of misconduct ranging from sexual comments to unwanted kissing, 19 more women have reached out to them with their stories. In a new open letter released Thursday, the Medill Me Too group has published new allegations about Klein from the new accusers, including diary entries some of the women provided.
The accounts quoted in the letter include “disturbing patterns,” the letter states, and include “sexually suggestive comments,” “inappropriate touching” such as shoulder and neck massages and other improper behavior. Some women say they did not pursue journalism as a career as a result of Klein’s behavior.
Klein, an award-winning journalist who headed up the Medill Justice Project and Northwestern’s School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, took a leave of absence shortly after the first group of accusers sent its open letter.
Although the initial letter included the names of all ten accusers, the 19 new women are not named in the new open letter, which says that some of them remain “afraid” to come forward openly. But Medill Me Too member Alison Flowers says some of the women who contacted them are willing to participate in the Title IX investigation Northwestern University officials launched in response to the group’s first letter.
“We’re encouraged thus far by Northwestern’s broad investigation into Alec Klein’s behavior,” Flowers says. “We hope the university continues to take seriously the breadth of the complaints and chooses to collectively believe these women over the word of one professor in a powerful position.”
A university spokesman said he hadn’t seen the letter and couldn’t comment. Klein’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, released a statement decrying the new letter later Thursday. “Through innuendo, implication, conflated half-truths and even some outright lies, a group of individuals at Northwestern University continue their wholesale butchery of the life of Prof. Alec Klein,” Miltenberg wrote. “The #MeToo movement is undoubtedly important as it gives voice to those who have been victims of sexual abuse and harassment. Still, it is not meant to be, nor can we let it become, judge, jury, and executioner.”
Klein has denied the allegations put forth by the previous women. In his denial, he said some of the previous allegations had been investigated by the university previously and determined to be “completely unfounded.”
“The bulk of the other allegations were brought to the attention of Northwestern’s office of Equal Opportunity and Access, and no violations were found,” he wrote.
Below is the text of the new letter in full, addressed, as last time, to the dean of the university’s journalism school:
March 15, 2018
Bradley J. Hamm
Office of the Dean
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
cc: Jonathan Holloway
Office of the Provost
Dear Dean Hamm:
Nineteen more women.
Since our letter to you on February 7, 2018, where 10 of us came forward with accounts of bullying and harassment, 19 new women — Northwestern University students, alumni and staff — have reached out to us with statements about Alec Klein’s behavior.
Disturbing patterns continue to emerge in the allegations:
- Extended closed door meetings
- Sexually suggestive comments
- Talking about his sex life
- Inappropriate touching
- Commentary on bodies and appearances
- Asking about personal lives
- Requesting hugs in exchange for leaving work early
- Verbal abuse
- Hostile, discriminatory work environment
Several of these women have chosen to participate in Northwestern’s ongoing investigation of Alec Klein. But others are too afraid to speak out further.
Their voices should still be heard. Collectively, the women quoted below have decided to share portions of their unaltered messages to us, and where noted, their diary entries:
“I thought I was the only one. I thought there was something wrong with me, because the way he acted made me feel so horribly uncomfortable…that I just needed to toughen up and brush it off. When I stopped working for him, I accepted the futility of pursuing a journalism career. For three years I was afraid even to enter Fisk, to speak with other professors about recommendations or finding a new advisor, terrified I might run into Alec. I skipped Medill’s graduation ceremony so I wouldn’t have to see him.”
“He gave unwanted neck and shoulder massages while I tried to work at that table. While I worked, he would pace and wax poetic about his sex life, and complain about his wife in ways that made me feel like crying. He would tell me very personal things about her. I remember feeling this terrible empathy, like I couldn’t believe another woman out there was being treated this way, and wondering if she had anyone to tell. That is, in many ways, the most painful part: the knowing about other women who are hurt, but not knowing them. Even worse is knowing she may have been in the dark about him.”
(From one woman’s 2013 diary entries describing her interactions with Klein at a university event and a lunch):
“One thing was really weird tonight, though, and that was that it almost seemed like Alec Klein was hitting on me. Maybe ‘hitting on me’ is the wrong term, but it definitely seemed like he was trying to cozy up to me with a definite goal in mind, and he showered me with compliments all night long.”
“When he first saw me, he said that I looked great, and that he thought I should dress up every day. He told me that I looked like I should be at the Academy Awards accepting an Oscar.”
“Multiple times, [he] said I was a ‘delicate flower.’ … He told me that I shouldn’t bother with dating college boys. He swept his arm around the room to indicate all of the male students and was like, ‘You see all of them? They’re all ten years behind you.’”
“He asked me whether I’d ever been in love… He asked me about my past relationships, which I also thought was inappropriate… Constantly, throughout our conversation, he said stuff like, ‘Across the board, looking at everything, you are nearly perfect.’ He said I was the kind of girl that guys would keep, and said that he bet there were lots of boys who secretly liked me right now. He asked if I thought I would be good at interpreting their feelings if that were the case.”
(From another woman’s 2015 diary entry describing an extended interview for an internship):
“I am being groomed. How do I know? The special attention, the flattery, the long hours of very personal conversation spent trying to earn my trust. He’s a textbook predator, accomplished and awarded, but with failed relationships due to emotional immaturity, leaving him sexually frustrated. I’m not falling for this.”
“He repeatedly commented on my appearance. Especially my hair and my figure. Once he asked me to “look into his eyes” as he tried to ‘figure out what color they were.’
“I worked as an intern at the Medill Justice Project and while Alec never made a pass at me I remember saying to my mother ‘my new boss acts like he wants to hook up with me’. My colleagues and I wrote off his actions as weird and called him socially awkward. We said it was creepy that he only hired attractive women to work at the MJP and found his quiet demeanor off-putting.”
“I remember Klein would close the door when we were alone in his office. On multiple occasions, he asked me about my boyfriend, who attended a different school. Even at the time I recall feeling uncomfortable. I don’t really remember any substantial work ever getting done, even though I was supposed to be helping him on his work projects. He mostly talked and asked me questions, oftentimes, about my personal and social life.
At one point, I told Klein I wanted to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. ‘So what are you going to do about that THAT?’ he said, motioning to my face. When I asked what he meant, he said: ‘Don’t you need to be physically attractive to be on TV?’…That conversation crushed me.”
“He verbally abused me over a trivial matter in a meeting he requested that left me in tears nearly a decade ago. At the time, I complained to Medill about Mr. Klein’s behavior because I was concerned he would treat other students that way in the future. But Medill took no action.”
“He made other unwarranted physical contact, such as grabbing my hand and holding it. Once, while going over a report I had written (which I now strongly suspect was not intended to be used anywhere, just an excuse to have me work in his office), he asked me to sit in his desk chair while he leaned over me and whispered his comments in my ear. I explicitly suggested he could do track changes and we could conference after, but he said this was faster.
When he made edits to written work that directly contradicted things he had told me to do in previous conversations, and I spoke up to ask him why or explain my writing choices, he would repeatedly interrupt me. It offended me so much that when I spoke up to ask him to stop interrupting me and let me finish a sentence, he essentially threw an adult tantrum. There is no other way to describe it. He sent me out of his office, without my coat or belongings, where I waited for 30 minutes. I knocked two separate times during that time, was met with silence, and on my third attempt he opened the door, wordless. I immediately grabbed everything and left.”
“I would see him at dining halls on campus and we would sometimes eat lunch together. It was usually during or after these lunches when he would comment on my body. What ‘great shape’ I was in. Or how nice I looked. Often surveying my body. I distinctly remember what I was wearing (beige sweater, black Under Armour leggings) when he made one of these comments while admiring my legs.”
We urge you, Dean Hamm: Believe these women. As the university concludes its investigation and reports to you its findings, we implore you to hold Alec Klein accountable for his actions.
Medill Me Too
Since the publication of the first letter, a group of Northwestern professors has also issued a public response supportive of the women who have come forward with their stories about Klein.
Before it launched its most recent probe, Northwestern said it had investigated one of the allegations years ago and said it was not substantiated.