Vanderbilt panel weighs in against tenure for #MeToo scientist | Science

Vanderbilt panel weighs in against tenure for #MeToo scientist | Science

Students sat in on 27 February at the office of Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos in Nashville in support of #MeToo advocate BethAnn McLaughlin.

Shun Ahmed/Vanderbilt Hustler

A faculty grievance committee last month upheld a decision to deny tenure to BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville who has become a prominent spokesperson for the #MeToo movement in science.

“We do not find any justification to overturn the recommendation … to deny tenure,” the five-member, ad hoc Grievance Committee, composed of professors from diverse disciplines at the university and its graduate schools, wrote in a report obtained by ScienceInsider.

The committee’s word in the 12 February report is not final. The university’s chancellor, Nicholas Zeppos, can overturn its decision if he justifies his move in writing to the executive committee of the university’s Board of Trust.

McLaughlin has not been seeking other work. “What happened to me was not OK,” McLaughlin says. “Anyone looking to take a tenure track job at Vanderbilt should have grave misgivings if this is considered a regular process.”

She was denied tenure in November 2017 and filed a grievance that month. She alleged an “egregious delay” in her tenure decision, violations of her civil rights including retaliation by the university after she served as a witness in a sexual harassment investigation, ethics violations by a colleague who “made baseless allegations” about her tweeting, and failure by the university to follow reasonable procedures when it twice hired outside law firms “to delve into my life, emails, and social media. … a grave misuse of power and an unreasonable inquiry.”

“Vanderbilt’s actions are illegal and should be rescinded. Dr. McLaughlin should be given tenure and restored to her proper place on Vanderbilt’s faculty,” says her lawyer, Ann Olivarius, of McAllister Olivarius in Saratoga Springs, New York. But the Grievance Committee says it “found no irregularities in the process” that led to McLaughlin’s tenure bid being voted down.

Vanderbilt has declined to comment on the particulars of the case, citing the need to hold personnel matters in confidence. But Susan Wente, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Vanderbilt, said in this statement on 6 March: “We do not tolerate sexual discrimination or misconduct, nor do we tolerate retaliation against those that stand up against it.” She added: “The tenure review case driving recent conversations is ongoing and under close review.”

McLaughlin, 51, has in the past 10 months become an outspoken advocate for women in science, particularly those who have been sexually harassed. Tweeting as @McLNeuro, she has assailed scientific societies and agencies, urging them to eject harassers. She also launched a nonprofit called #MeTooSTEM to support survivors. She met personally last month with Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On 28 February, Collins flagged McLaughlin’s advocacy in a statement apologizing for the agency’s slow response to sexual harassment.

McLaughlin became a tenure track neuroscientist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2005. In 2015, her department and the Faculty Appointments & Promotions Committee approved her tenure, according to university documents. The Grievance Committee report describes two evaluations by committee reviewers. One wrote: “Her department is very supportive and manuscript productivity is high.” The other wrote: “I support this promotion, but with modest enthusiasm. The publication record is more modest than I would like. … but the key aspect is the upward trajectory.”

But after that approval, McLaughlin’s tenure process was derailed. First, it was frozen for 17 months in 2015 to 2017 while a three-member Faculty Investigation Committee conducted a disciplinary probe of her for allegedly posting anonymous, derogatory tweets about colleagues. The probe was launched after complaints by Aurelio Galli, a neuroscientist then at Vanderbilt, against whom McLaughlin testified in a sexual harassment case in 2015. (A Vanderbilt investigator eventually told Galli’s accuser that the evidence couldn’t support a finding of sexual harassment. A judge dismissed a separate sexual harassment lawsuit against Galli by a former graduate student in December 2014.) “I have never been found guilty of sexual harassment or retaliation,” says Galli, now a neuroscientist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The committee investigating McLaughlin’s behavior…

Original Article Source…


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