Backlash erupts as NYU plans to hire scientist accused of harassment

Graduate students, faculty and alumni of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest a re...


Graduate students, faculty and alumni of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest a report that the school may soon hire Dr. David Sabatini, a biologist facing allegations of sexual harassment.

About 200 people lined First Avenue outside NYU Medical Center, chanting and holding up signs with slogans like “No means no” and “No to Sabatini.” They said they felt betrayed and confused by the possibility of Dr. Sabatini joining their school, which was reported in Science magazine.

“I hope he doesn’t get hired,” said Grant Hussey, a medical school graduate student. “The record is clear.”

Credit…Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images

Dr. Sabatini, 54, is an eminent biologist, best known for his discovery of the mTOR protein, which regulates cell growth in animals, as a graduate student. In a statement, he said the sexual misconduct accusations were false and declined to comment on a potential job at NYU.

“As I have always maintained from the start, I disagree with the way this case has been characterised, and I intend to set the record straight and defend my integrity” , said Dr. Sabatini.

Last August, Dr Sabatini was placed on administrative leave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he ran a research lab through the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research, after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him – led by a law firm separate from the university – found that he had violated the institute’s sexual misconduct policy.

That same day, Dr. Sabatini also resigned from the Whitehead Institute and was fired by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which funded his work at MIT.

He resigned from MIT earlier this month after three faculty members recommended his tenure be revoked, according to a letter to the faculty by L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, and obtained by the Boston Globe.

In the letter, Dr. Reif wrote that faculty members had reviewed the allegations and found that Dr. Sabatini had violated the school’s policy on consensual dating in the workplace. They were also concerned about his “unprofessional” behavior with lab members.

At the protest, Megan Kirchgessner, a postdoctoral fellow at the medical school, said she was disappointed the school was considering hiring someone accused of sexual harassment when the role could have been offered to someone from a background. an under-represented scientific community.

“It was kind of a cynical reality check moment,” Dr. Kirchgessner said.

Deborah DeLair, a professor at the medical school, said hiring Dr. Sabatini would contradict the school’s policies on sexual misconduct.

“The rules should apply to everyone, whether or not you’re a well-known researcher,” she said. “You can’t say one thing and do another.

Several faculty members wrote a letter to the dean and associate dean of the medical school urging them not to recruit Dr. Sabatini. The letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, said such a move could have a profound impact on the school’s reputation. By Wednesday, it had been signed by about 90 faculty members.

“While we understand that there are still ongoing legal proceedings and the public does not yet know all of the facts, we are concerned that this hiring signals a change in policy that conflicts with our commitment to providing a supportive environment. respectful training, a culture of respect for women and zero tolerance for misconduct,” the letter reads.

In a statement, Dafna Bar-Sagi, associate dean of the medical school, said the administration is evaluating the allegations and will not make hiring decisions that “deviate” from school policies.

“We are looking closely at Dr. Sabatini’s case because it is clear that many aspects of his departure from MIT and the Whitehead Institute have never been publicly discussed,” Dr. Bar-Sagi said. “Furthermore, dozens of Dr. Sabatini’s peers and colleagues have shared views with us that are at odds with the investigation and its outcome. That said, we take concerns expressed by our faculty and trainees very seriously. »

It was not immediately clear what position Dr. Sabatini was being considered for or what stage the hiring process was at.

In October 2021, Dr. Sabatini filed a lawsuit against the Whitehead Institute and his accuser, a former colleague, claiming he had been wrongly accused of sexual harassment by the colleague, with whom he said he had a consensual relationship. . The accuser filed a countersuit in December, claiming that Dr. Sabatini had forced her to have sex, that he had created a “toxic and sexually charged laboratory environment” and that he had ” cared for” while still a graduate student under his supervision.

Standing outside NYU on Wednesday, several medical school students and employees said that if Dr. Sabatini were to be hired, they would not attend his seminars and would avoid any school activities he attended.

“We’re still at the point where we hope we can make our voices heard enough before that happens,” Dr Kirchgessner said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Backlash erupts as NYU plans to hire scientist accused of harassment
Backlash erupts as NYU plans to hire scientist accused of harassment
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