TIME'S UP Healthcare
Tina Tchen: Letter On Lawsuit Against Dr. Campbell and OHSU
Culture, Healthcare, Safety
I am writing in response to questions that have been recently raised as to whether TIME’S UP stands with survivors. Standing with survivors – making sure that their voices are heard and not ignored, that full and fair investigations of any claims of sexual harassment and abuse are made, and accountability takes place – is at the core of TIME’S UP’s work and our values. That steadfast commitment was the essence of our founding, and continues unabated to this day.
The questions come from the recently filed civil litigation filed in Oregon by plaintiff A.B. against Dr. Jason Campbell and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) for the sexual harassment and abuse committed by Dr. Campbell. As TIME’S UP has already said publicly, we support the survivor in her pursuit of justice against Dr. Campbell and OHSU, and recognize the pain and courage that comes with such a pursuit.
Dr. Esther Choo, who is named in the complaint as a witness, not a defendant, is a member of our Board of Directors. The facts surrounding what was said between Dr. Choo and the survivor – someone Dr. Choo has described as a friend – are apparently in dispute. As indicated by Dr. Choo’s recent statement surrounding the allegations in the complaint, Dr. Choo acted in a way that she believed was in support of the survivor, including on the issue of reporting the abuse, and consistent with the values she has displayed as one of the people who founded TIME’S UP Healthcare. Providing support and counsel to those who have experienced the trauma of sexual harassment and abuse, especially in the workplace, can be hard. There is not always a clear path for advice and counsel, especially when centering the survivor’s wishes and ability to make decisions for herself in that moment. Dr. Choo’s recent statement describes her effort to respond to the survivor while also respecting the survivor’s course of action at the time. Others may have handled that moment differently. Some have advocated that even though the survivor told Dr. Choo that she wanted to report the abuse herself, Dr. Choo should have reported the behavior anyway and risk taking agency away from a survivor. These differing views certainly do not, in our view, mean that Dr. Choo’s record of leadership here should be cast aside. This process is currently in litigation and that is the proper forum for disputed facts to be resolved.
Dr. Choo has spent countless hours to combat workplace harassment, even as we know she and the many other members of the healthcare community have spent the last year risking their own health and families in service of all of us during this pandemic. These are facts about Dr. Choo we have seen in action since the founding of TIME’S UP Healthcare.
I do not agree that standing with the survivor and in support of her pursuit of justice requires that we walk away from Dr. Choo and her leadership. There is a legal process underway, and facts in dispute will be determined. Dr. Choo has not sought to impede this process and did not speak out publicly earlier so as not to detract from the focus that should be placed on the survivor and the actions by Dr. Campbell and OHSU, the defendants in the case. When leaders of our movement continue to stand for these principles, as Dr. Choo has, I believe we should not ignore their history of leadership, their continued dedication to survivors, and their commitment to making difficult change happen. We must be better than this.
Perhaps the easy thing to do when difficult cases arise is to walk away from anyone who has had anything to do with a troubled institution or a difficult set of facts. But to do so is to walk away from the very people inside troubled institutions who are doing the hard work of confronting power and standing with survivors even in complicated and challenging situations. It will ultimately weaken our movement’s ability to realize the change we seek. It bears repeating that Dr. Choo is NOT the defendant in this case, and should not be the one to pay the price for Dr. Campbell’s sexual harassment and abuse. Focusing on a woman who tried to help and support another woman misses the much larger problem and only serves to undercut all we are hoping to achieve. Instead of focusing on the perpetrator of the violence, the institution that didn’t protect women or the structures that enable this kind of behavior, it is devastating that there are those lining up to attack the person who tried to help and has fought her life to combat these problems. HE is the perpetrator and the abuser. We feel strongly at TIME’S UP (and we have demonstrated it repeatedly over several years) that we must not fall victim to the desire of some to inflame difficult situations rather than trust a process. We recognize that sometimes there is no legitimate process for justice and we must act differently – with a louder voice and more urgency. That is not the case here.
We understand and respect that some have reached a different conclusion about this case, and have decided to leave TIME’S UP Healthcare. We stand ready to work with them again in the future should they choose to do so, and we are grateful for their role in combatting sexual harassment and abuse in the healthcare industry. As in any movement that is doing the hard work of changing long standing power structures, we will not always agree. But we can discuss our disagreements with respect, especially for the individuals involved. The challenges before us, and the forces arrayed against our collective goals, are many. We remain steadfast in our commitment to continue to fight for safe, fair and dignified work for all and to stand with all those who share this goal.
President and CEO, TIME’S UP Foundation