She said she offered to press the floor buttons for people in the elevator, whom she described as mostly conference attendees and all, except one other woman, white middle-aged men. Instead of saying a floor, Lebow smiled and asked for the women’s lingerie department "and all his buddies laughed," Sharoni wrote in a complaint.
Sharoni wrote that she was shaken by the incident, said it took her a while to figure out that Lebow thought it was funny "to make a reference to men shopping for lingerie while attending an academic conference. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that we froze and didn’t confront him," she wrote.
Lebow insists it never should have gotten to that point because he tried to resolve the problem informally, as the association’s conduct code recommends. After being informed that his conduct was under investigation, Lebow
wrote Sharoni an email assuring her that "I certainly had no desire to insult women or to make you feel uncomfortable." He suggested that Sharoni, who was born in Romania and raised in Israel, might have misinterpreted his remark. When he was young, in the 1950s, he said, it was a "standard gag line" to ask the elevator operator for the hardware or lingerie floor as though one were in a department store.
Mark A. Boyer, the association’s executive director forwarded the complaint to the group’s Committee on Professional Rights and Responsibilities, which determined that Lebow had violated the conduct code.
Boyer informed Lebow that his remarks had been deemed "offensive and inappropriate." An even "more serious violation," than the elevator remarks, Boyer wrote, was "that you chose to reach out to Prof. Sharoni, and termed her complaint ‘frivolous.’ "
Lebow was told to write an "unequivocal apology" to Sharoni and submit a written copy by May 15 to the association’s executive committee. The apology should focus on Lebow’s actions, rather than Sharoni’s perceptions of them, it said, adding that if he failed to comply, the executive committee would consider appropriate sanctions.
Lebow refused. He also sent an email to colleagues calling his treatment "a horrifying and chilling example of political correctness" that "encourages others to censor their remarks for fear of retribution." In an email to The Chronicle on Sunday, Lebow said he made the joke "to relieve the slight claustrophobia I felt in such a crowded lift.
As word of the incident spread, Sharoni said she started receiving dozens of emails and comments on her web page, most including sexual innuendo, the word "lingerie," and some commenting on her physical appearance. She forwarded the most troubling to Merrimack officials, who reached out to the campus police. James Chiavelli, chief of staff to the president at Merrimack College, said on Sunday that the campus police are monitoring the reaction.
Sharoni, by the way, apparently sees gender conflict everywhere. She is author of Gender & The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
She wrote, "Integrating Campus Sexual Assault into the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Curriculum."
(via The Chronicle of Higher Education and Simona Sharoni website)