Prominent biologist David Sabatini is out at MIT after a sexual assault

David Sabatini, a high-profile biologist who was forcibly expelled from the Whitehead Institute in the summer of 2021 after an investigation found he violated its sexual harassment policy, has resigned as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His move comes after three senior MIT officials recommended that he step down.

“Professor Sabatini has resigned from his term as faculty member at MIT … without exercising his policy right to request a faculty committee … to review the recommendation for termination,” said MIT President L.A. Rafael Reif wrote in an email to faculty members this afternoon.

Reef writes that the recommendation came from Alan Grossman, head of the biology department, Dean of Science, Nargis Mavalvala, and provost Martin Schmidt, who “violated Professor Sabatini’s faculty membership responsibilities” and violated MIT’s 2018 workplace sexual consent policy. Relationships “Professor Sabatini had sex with a man on whom he had a career-influenced role, he never disclosed the relationship to his supervisors and he failed to take any steps to leave his mentor and career-influencing role. , As required by the policy. “

Reef added: “The committee had significant concerns about its unprofessional behavior towards some lab members.”

In an emailed statement, Sabatini called the results “both disappointing and in proportion to the actual, underlying information. I look forward to straightening out the record and standing up for my honesty.”

Sabatini, who discovered a key mammalian signal path, abandoned his position and lab at the nonprofit Whitehead Institute in August 2021, at the same time as his fund, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), fired him. An investigation conducted by a foreign law firm for the Whitehead Institute concluded that it had violated the institute’s sexual harassment policy. But Sabatini continued as a faculty member at MIT, which kept him on leave when it investigated his revocation.

In October, Sabatini filed a defamation suit against the Whitehead Institute and two of its scientists: its director, Ruth Lehmann, and a junior colleague who told investigators he had sexually harassed her. In the lawsuit, Sabatini called the Whitehead investigation a “fraud” and alleged that a junior colleague came out to “punish the ex-boyfriend.” The case is ongoing.

A junior colleague in December 2021 called Sabatini’s case futile and vindictive.

Ellen Zucker and Nancy Gartner, lawyers representing the junior colleague, said in a statement: “We are grateful that MIT has taken the concerns of more than one person seriously. Men and women who have dared to move forward and have openly discussed their experiences with Professor Sabatini. “

MIT has Sabatini Defender. Molecular biologist Harvey Lodis has been overseeing Sabatini’s research team since he was on vacation. “They’re doing spectacular work,” he says. “When his people leave the lab, they get excellent positions. Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation. “

But Nancy Hopkins, an emeritus professor of biology who led a groundbreaking push for gender equality in the MIT faculty in the 1990s, called Sabatini’s resignation “a milestone,” noting in an email that “first, MIT had rules that were prohibited.” Faculty behavior in question. Second, a young woman had the courage to demand that the rules be enforced. And third, her voice was heard. “

She added: “It’s remarkable – and another sign of progress – that the head of HHMI and the Whitehead Institute and the dean of science at MIT are all women – both of whom are the first women to hold this position.”

Updated, April 2, 10 pm: This story was updated to note the countersuit of a junior colleague, and comments from Harvey Lodisch were added.

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