Dont Take My DataCamp Course, There Must be Conseqences for Sexual Assault

Last week (April 4, 2019) DataCamp published a blog post stating that “one of DataCamp’s executives danced inappropriately and made uninvited physical contact with another employee,” an action meeting many definitions of sexual assault. While the post makes the claim that DataCamp does not condone this behavior, it also makes clear that the disciplinary actions against the executive were limited to “sensitivity training, personal coaching, and a strong warning.”

DataCamp’s post came one day after a group of 100 DataCamp instructors, including me, signed a letter to DataCamp leadership. Having learned of the incident, several instructors had been engaged with DataCamp to try to get the company to act in a way that appropriately disciplined the executive and assured a safe working environment for DataCamp employees and instructors. Inaction led those leaders to encourage more of us to get involved. DataCamp’s responses to our questions and comments were largely along the lines of the letter. In short: He got a warning, we have great policies and diversity initiatives now, this matter is closed.

Many others have eloquently described how this response is grossly inadequate:

I was, probably credulously, shocked at the statement DataCamp put out. After 100 instructors told them that they couldn’t just leave it at that, they wrote a public statement to leave it at that. We got no message like “we are making a statement, and something more robust is coming.” Nor did DataCamp give the target any warning that they would make the incident public by releasing a statement.

The last part was especially galling given how cautious the instructors who organized us were about avoiding blowback to other parties. The instructors who led the effort were patient, despite months of frustrating conversations with DataCamp. They kept the matter private to avoid dragging the target of the incident into the fray. They kept the focus on DataCamp leadership and policy to avoid putting other employees in an awkward place. They gave DataCamp every opportunity to explain themselves, change course, and own the public narrative. A company should count itself lucky to have such constructive critics.

It’s clear that without enormous public pressure, DataCamp will not take sufficient disciplinary action against the executive. And it is necessary that they do. It must be made very clear to men, from teenage boys to CEOs, that when they choose to violate women’s space, they are risking their jobs. When they decide to abuse their power as bosses, their careers, their VC funding, their tenure, their board seats, their reputation, and their friends, should all be on the line.

I guarantee you that women who are targets of such predation weigh the consequences of every subsequent action. Do they choose to leave their jobs? Do they report the incident and let it upend their career? Do they pursue criminal charges and let it consume their lives, with little chance of success? Do they stay quiet but carefully plan every day to avoid being alone in the room with their predator? Do they laugh it off and risk reprisal when this is interpreted as permission and they reject further advancement?

Let men who can’t keep their hands to themselves live their lives questioning every decision.

The way to make men face consequences for their decisions is to force reprecussions via companies and institutions. So I hope you don’t take my DataCamp course. I hope you will stop using DataCamp and let them know this is why. I hope if your company uses DataCamp you convince them to stop buying licenses. I hope if you invest in or advertise with or accept sponsorships from DataCamp you stop.

If enough pressure is brought on the company to make investors worry about their money and other executives about their jobs, we might see some meaningful action. Scolding DataCamp while continuing to pay them, because it’s a nice platform, is like sensitivity training for a “nice guy.”

My course on DataCamp is Nonlinear Modeling in R with GAMs. It’s about Generalized Additive Models, tools I find quite handy and that I’d love to teach you more about. My contract with DataCamp gives them license to keep using it. Please don’t take my course. Don’t give DataCamp your money and send the message that sexual misconduct doesn’t have consequences. I’ve collected some other resources on GAMs on this page. I hope to convert my course to an open-source format soon, but for now these will more than do. Others are at least skilled as explaining the topic as I am.

More updates (2019-04-15)

The SatRdays organization has put out a statement that they are dropping DataCamp sponsorship from their events.

Two former DataCamp employees, Dhavide Aruliah and Greg Wilson, were fired in mid-2018 after complaining to management about handling of sexual harassment. Here are statements from Dhavide and Greg (and some other relevant posts from Greg: 1, 2). Both say that DataCamp claimed their firings were due to poor performance. I find that aburd, as their stamp is all over DataCamp’s products. I tweeted a brief thread about this here.

RStudio announced they will stop working with DataCamp in this tweet thread

Some updates (2019-04-13)

People have asked whether instructors have the right to pull their content off of DataCamp:

There are statements from R-Ladies and Women+ in Machine Learning & Data Science comdemning DataCamp. Lots of other instructors are disassociating themselves from the DataCamp and putting their materials somewhere else for learners to use. I expect many more to come. All these people are giving up income. Support them, their organizations and projects as you can.

Finally, when I was originally writing this post, I discovered that DataCamp’s blog post describing the event contained a piece of code, <meta name="robots" content="noindex" class="next-head"> which effectively makes the page invisible to search engines. @no_reply and Bob Rudis both give more elaborate explanations. DataCamp doesn’t do this for any of their other blog posts.

This post represents my personal point of view and not that of my employer or any group I am affiliated with.

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