Ex-employees say former editor-in-chief of Believer magazine, Joshua Wolf Shenk, had a reputation for “making women uncomfortable” — revelations that have emerged since he resigned after flashing dozens of employees during a Zoom call.
Shenk, editor-in-chief of Believer magazine and artistic and executive director of the Black Mountain Institute, tendered his resignation after flashing his staff.
In February, Shenk rose to a Zoom call and exposed herself to about a dozen employees of Believer magazine and the Black Mountain Institute, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On March 24, the publisher of Believer magazine and the staff of the Black Mountain Institute, a center for literary arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, were informed that Shenk resigned over the incident, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Joshua Wolf Shenk (pictured) was the former editor of Believer magazine and artistic and executive director of the Black Mountain Institute prior to his resignation in May
Current and former employees of Believer magazine (pictured) called Shenk an “inattentive and negligent boss” in an anonymous open letter published in May
Shenk’s literary agent, Ira Silverberg, explained to the Los Angeles Times that Shenk took a bath to relieve nerve pain related to fibromyalgia during the Zoom call.
Silverberg said Shenk chose a virtual backdrop to hide his location and wore a mesh shirt, but when he got up to charge his computer without turning off the camera or covering the lower half of his body, he introduced himself. exposed to staff.
But now current and former employees tell vice that Shenk had a history of problematic behavior prior to his bathtub incident, which they said was not an “accidental accident.”
“I wasn’t surprised in the sense that it looked like something was going to happen,” a Believer employee told Vice about the Zoom incident. “Like, of course there would be this. I don’t think it’s fair to categorize him as someone who is predatory, but you can categorize him as someone who just didn’t care. He had no respect for boundaries or comfort or what his colleagues deserved from him in terms of attention, time or decency.’
Shortly after the LA Times article was published, staffers from The Believer and BMI wrote an anonymous open letter accuses Shenk of being an ‘inattentive and negligent boss’, saying his behavior on the infamous Zoom call’fit a pattern of insensitivity and insulting disregard for the staffers who worked under him.”
“We see this act as the culmination of a longstanding pattern of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior that belies a chronic lack of concern and concern for the comfort, boundaries and safety of staff – not to mention that of students, fellows and others in BMI and The Believer’s communities,” the open letter said. “This pattern of behavior resulted in a workplace culture that was difficult and sometimes painful to work in. Despite this, we have worked to create the successful programs and publications that BMI and The Believer are known for—work for which Shenk is mentioned in the LA Times article.”
On March 24, the publisher of Believer magazine and the staff of the Black Mountain Institute, a center for literary arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (pictured) were informed that Shenk was resigning.
Current and former employees who worked under Shenk tell Vice the executive director of the Black Mountain Institute (pictured) had a history of problematic behavior prior to his bathtub incident
Two former female Believer staffers told Vice they had been warned about Shenk’s behavior early on in their employment.
Four current staffers told Vice he made female staffers very uncomfortable, but no one said he had sexually harassed them.
“He doesn’t seem to be aware of his body or the comfort or reality of other people,” an employee told Vice.
Shenk responded to the allegations in an emailed statement to Vice saying he must work on the boundaries of both men and women.
“I’m often clumsy around people, regardless of their gender, and I am,” he said. ‘In imaginative spaces, you have to balance a deep appreciation for people’s boundaries against openness and creative risk. But for every time I got that balance wrong, I want to learn from them and make it right.”
An employee also said that in order to have more leeway at work or to be “taken seriously,” she was forced to befriend him and spend time with him after work, which was frustrating because at the time, many people from the staff were contractors and were paid very well. little.
Shenk is also accused of underpayment of colored staffers.
An employee told Vice that at one point, every person who worked as a full-time staffer with benefits was white, while everyone who was a person of color was under contract.
“He had a clear pattern of symbolizing in the most literal sense,” says one employee.
Silverberg disputed that claim, telling Vice that Shenk had created 6.5 salaried jobs, with benefits, for women of color and had a pending full-time offer to another woman of color at the time he left.
“These numbers represent a commitment to DEIA principles,” he said in an emailed statement. “They exist in all aspects of BMI/The Believer’s work.”
In a suicide note after his resignation, Shenk called the Zoom incident “a stupid, reckless choice to ignore the proper setting and attire for a Zoom meeting.”
“I’ve crossed a line that I can’t cross anymore. I deeply regret that you, and by extension, the people we serve have caused harm. I apologize.’ He wrote.
At least two witnesses to the incident reported it to the university’s Office of Equal Employment and Title IX, but the university dismissed and closed the Title IX complaints when Shenk resigned.
In addition, Believer employees now allege that a public archive request from Vice was used to intimidate them and gain access to their personal correspondence.
While reporting on the Shenk story, Vice looked for documents from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, created by employees of the university, Believer, and the Black Mountain Institute, that had certain keywords.
The university sent a follow-up email to Vice on May 20 regarding the request for public records, and around the same time, magazine staff emailed them that state law requires them to hand over private texts and emails as part of the public record. archive request from Vice.
Despite Vice clarifying the details of her investigation, it took the university days to relay that information to the believer’s staff. Some staffers released private correspondence to the university, while others did not. Some even sought legal advice.
On May 26, the university told staffers that their private information was no longer needed and said the university had received clarification on the Vice request that day, despite receiving clarification on May 20.
Some employees consider the situation suspicious.
“We’re not worried about the applicants, about you,” a Believer employee told Vice. “We are concerned about what university officials will read our private correspondence, much of which is critical of the university.”