Mensa’s Annual Gathering Marred by Allegations of Harassment and Drugged Wine
"You are not only protecting yourself, you are also helping to protect others."
When Mensa members gathered in Indianapolis for their Annual Gathering over the Fourth of July weekend, attendees who came for fun, togetherness, and some mentally stimulating speakers got a bit more chaos than they’d likely bargained for. The meeting of Mensa, the organization whose members all score in the 98th percentile of IQ tests, was the site of multiple reported instances of harassment or misconduct over just a few short days. In an email sent to Mensa members between Thursday evening and Friday morning, LaRae Bakerink, the chair of American Mensa, apologized for any distress to members and laid out in broad strokes what happened:
- One member, a woman, was arrested during the Annual Gathering, though Bakerink did not explain why. She was allowed to remain at the event after her release by police officers.
- Another member, a man, “touched a number of women inappropriately and without their permission.” He was not kicked out of the event, but he was banned from part of the event space.
- Two members reported that their drinks had been drugged. This apparently occurred after the bartenders had gone off duty. Event organizers instructed the hotel staff to not leave wine unattended from then on. There were no security cameras in the room where this occurred.
Inverse reached out to Bakerink for details and clarification, and we will update this post when we receive a response.
In the case of the latter two incidents, members made official reports to the organization’s leadership, a practice that Bakerink officially supports.
“In this time of #metoo and being more aware that respect for boundaries is important, it’s imperative that these types of problems be reported immediately,” she wrote. “Failure to report problems and failure to file reports may cause the same situations to arise over and over; and others may allow them to continue because the argument and confrontation doesn’t seem worthwhile. You should and do have the ability to report bad behavior.”
While Mensa is not a scientific organization, Bakerink’s announcement comes in the context of increasingly publicized instances of sexual harassment and misconduct in the sciences.
A December survey showed that about one in 25 men identifies himself as a harasser in the workplace. In many cases of workplace sexual harassment, victims can hesitate to come forward out of fear of hurting their future job prospects.
A study released in July showed that insecure men are more likely to harass subordinates in the workplace. And while there are big questions about the reliability of IQ tests, there’s also a popular perception that boasting about one’s high IQ is a sign of intellectual insecurity.
In the end, Mensa is a large organization, but it’s not a workplace, so it’s possible that members felt like they had less to lose by making official reports. And when members report bad behavior, Bakerink wrote, “you are not only protecting yourself, you are also helping to protect others.”