I don’t get this (boldface mine):
…a postdoc (in the same lab), let’s call him Postdoc A, had approached her while she was working at the lab bench, while no one else was around, and asked her out. They had never previously spoken, and he refused to take no for an answer. Once he had her phone number, he sent more than a dozen text or email messages that evening, some explicitly about her body…
The student … felt comfortable with me reporting the incident to the lab PI. When told, the PI claimed it “didn’t count” because I wasn’t in the student’s direct chain of command; he claimed it was hearsay. The student would have to tell the PI – her employer and senior thesis research supervisor – herself. Moreover, he claimed that he’d just met the student about her project and “she seemed fine; she didn’t mention anything.”
…The PI took no action, further reinforcing the (false!) idea that it was okay for a colleague to be talking about the student’s body. Failure #4. At the very least, using this as an opportunity to establish and clarify parameters for appropriate interaction as a lab group could have been a great outcome of this incident, but that did not happen either. Failure #5.
…To this day, it’s not even clear if he knows that there was any fallout from his interaction with the student. He probably really doesn’t understand that the multiple, tiny choices he made about how he approached her, what he said, and his refusal to listen to her ‘no’ led the student to feel unsafe and preyed upon. I bet he definitely never imagined that she was about to quit as a result. If asked, he would even probably say he considers females as smart as men and that he respects and likes his lab colleagues. But if that’s really true and if he (and everybody) wants to make the academy a safe space for women at all levels of scholarship, there’s no place for commenting about women’s bodies, however harmless the intent.
Yes, revoking tenure for this is (probably) over the top. But in this job climate, there are plenty of talented people looking for positions who wouldn’t tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace.