Friday, July 1, 2016

UW, you have some explaining to do!

And another one bites the dust. I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the progress that has been made in trying to remove serial harassers from their lofty perches. When I was an undergrad visiting potential grad schools, almost without fail one of the female students would pull me aside and tell me who not to be alone with. At the time, it was understood that nothing could really be done about it, so there was an informal network to try to warn potential victims (obviously an imperfect system at best).

But holy cow! If even half of this about Michael Katze is true (and I have no reason for any doubt), I am actually shocked at the depths to which UW has sunk. According to their own spokesperson:
“There seemed to be a pattern of, I almost want to say, abusive behavior,” Norm Arkans, the UW spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News. “Starting back in 2006 and then over several succeeding years, those were dealt with with letters to him, admonishments, etcetera. But did somebody miss a pattern of behavior? Likely.”
  and also
(Katze had been accused of financial improprieties in 2007, when an employee sent an email to the School of Medicine’s dean’s office saying that Katze had approved outrageous fees for work unnecessarily outsourced to a company whose board he sat on. According to the UW spokesperson, the university did not investigate those allegations.)
Keep in mind that Katze got tenure in 2009. So before giving him tenure, UW knew that 1) Katze was an abusive sexist, racist jerk and 2) Katze was at least accused of financial shenanigans. Shouldn't these things have been looked at prior to granting tenure? All ethical considerations for protecting students and employees aside, the man was a lawsuit waiting to happen, and UW said sign me up? Not in 1979 or 1989, but in 2009 (you know, when social media exists, making secret keeping more difficult)?

Granted, in 2009, no one would have guessed that science culture would change enough that when UC Berkeley tried to give Geoff Marcy a good scolding instead of actual punishment that his own departmental colleagues would publicly demand more action. Or that Caltech would actually suspend Christan Ott for sexual harassment. Or that Jason Lieb would resign from the University of Chicago before they could get around to punishing him (of course, UChicago has its own explaining as to why they hired someone in 2014 with multiple red flags in his file in the first place).

Lame statement from UW here


Anonymous said...

Katze was promoted to Associate Professor in 1991 and to full Professor in 1995, if I recall correctly, so he has likely had tenure since 1991, and Buzzfeed's date is incorrect.

prodigal academic said...

Hmm that is an odd thing for Buzzfeed to get so incorrect. I can't find an online bio that provides that info, but Buzzfeed should have been able to check it. It is still horrifying that there have been complaints for 10 years before anything happened, even if he already had tenure when the complaints started rolling in. Thanks for the comment.