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Oct 14 2013

Biology Online fires Ofek, apologizes to Dr Lee

A site admin lays it out on the Biology Online forum:

We would like to express our sincerest apologies to Danielle N. Lee (DNLee) and anyone else who may have been offended by the way our recently hired employee, Ofek, handled the conversation with her. Ofek’s behaviour was completely out of line and after gathering the facts we immediately terminated his employment. Ofek failed to show the respect and prudent behavior expected of him as a contributor to Biology Online.

From the moment that Biology Online started, it has always been a cordial avenue to exchange invaluable information and discussions among scientists, professionals, students, and biology savvy individuals from different parts of the world. Offensive and discriminatory behavior has always been discouraged. We intend to preserve this core function of the website. After an immediate and fair deliberation of the situation we decided to terminate the services of Ofek for his failure to represent and keep what we value in Biology Online.

We would also like to express our gratitude to the people who made us aware of the situation and to all loyal patrons of the website for your continued support. We assure you that Biology Online will continue providing its audience a congenial place for discussions and free biological information for everyone.

Biology Online Team

Should we feel sorry for Ofek? Not really. I’m more concerned about the many many people who are the objects of Ofek’s style of hipster misogynist contempt and dismissal. I think hipster misogynists need to start getting messages that hipster misogyny isn’t a marketable skill. Unfortunately, it is a marketable skill in way too many sectors, but that’s why we need more people saying, “Not here, it’s not.”

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Scote

    Color me suspicious. How do we know that an actual person is being fired rather than an internet handle?

  2. 2
    ShowMetheData

    Oh fuck, Ofek’s fucked.
    I am glad Biology Online got it done and we do not have to endure a not-pology.

  3. 3
    PatrickG

    Ofek’s behaviour was completely out of line and after gathering the facts we immediately terminated his employment.

    Good on Biology Online for not mincing words or actions. I also like that they make it clear that this wasn’t some knee-jerk response, but that they — speedily — conducted an investigation, drew conclusions, and based their actions accordingly.

    But, of course, as we’ll all learn shortly, the Real Crime™ here is that a man got fired because a woman talked about his behavior publicly.

    /snark

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Scote – how do we ever know? We don’t, usually. But Biology Online is clearly several people, with links to more people. That would be a risky thing to try, especially with all these pissed off science types watching. Their self-interest seems to lie more with dumping Ofek and trying to repair their reputation rather than risking it by pretending to dump him. Now maybe if he’s their beloved baby brother, and they’re lying to us while he changes his name…but that seems more far-fetched than the alternative. It’s possible though.

  5. 5
    clamboy

    This is good news, but as others have pointed out at that forum, the email sent to Dr. Lee left something to be desired in terms of professional-level language.

  6. 6
    Scote

    @ Ophelia: We might have a better idea if they named a real person being fired rather than a handle. I think the self-interest of Biology Online is something we can’t presume too much upon. As you note, who knows how high up Ofek was. Is Ofek the owner, perhaps not? But if someone beloved by the owners was responsible, the “self-interest” for Biology Online would be to give the appearance of firing someone. Not far fetched at all given the use of anonymous handles. But I agree with you that it is conjecture on my part. I’m just not the trusting sort. I don’t even believe in the maxim “Trust but verify” (because that statement can be more accurately and concisely stated as “Don’t trust”.)

    Regardless, the apology by Biology Online is superior to the notpology by SciAm.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Scote, well, they say Ofek is a recent hire, and another source says he’s been there about 3 months. Again, they would look stupid (or worse) lying about that, and there are several people involved so secrets would be likely to leak, so…I doubt they’re lying about it. This isn’t billions in corrupt funds we’re talking about.

    I don’t really think autobiographical statements about how trusting one is or isn’t are really relevant to this kind of thing. I don’t think anyone who reads this blog considers blind trust a good route to understanding. A basic level of skepticism can be assumed.

  8. 8
    Gretchen

    Wow, good for Biology Online. And how sad that it’s so shocking to see the right thing being done.

    Ophelia, have you ever done a profile of hipster misogyny? If so, I’d love to read it. If not…I’d love to read it. :-)

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Gretchen – heh – no, not as such, but I’ve certainly written a lot about the phenomenon. I should perhaps go through all such posts and add “Hipster misogyny” as a tag…

  10. 10
    rnilsson

    @9: Look out, or you might stirrup S-r-h! She seems likely to (have a) fit (over) such tags.
    Not to mention her innumerable unmentionable friends. On Internet.

  11. 11
    WCLPeter

    clamboy said:

    but as others have pointed out at that forum, the email sent to Dr. Lee left something to be desired in terms of professional-level language.

    There is also something to be said about using clear and plain language too. How often do we see an apology / non-apology crafted in exquisite legalese, designed solely at reducing any risk or liability to the company / person, and often requiring someone with a Legal and / or Masters Degree to translate their statement into common language the rest of us can understand?

    The email sent to Danielle was nothing short of perfect – they unreservedly owned the problem and took corrective steps to repair the damage. Its not often we see such clear and plain language, or actions, in an apology from an organization that I don’t much care if it has a bunch of flowery legal type words all over it.

  12. 12
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    There isn’t anything unclear or ornate about addressing Dr. Lee, in your first interaction with her as a stranger, as “Dr. Lee”, rather than “Danielle”; there’s nothing particularly professional about trying to invite the person affected by your employee’s bad behaviour to join with you in making sure the employee gets all the blame, while dissociating yourself and your organization from any responsibility.

    It’s not a bad apology, but it’s not a good one, either. You don’t assume the person you’re apologizing to is going to be okay with you, a stranger, being all chummy and “we’re in this together” and “isn’t our ex-employee a terrible person, but we, of course, have no responsibility for hiring such a dreadful person for our marketing department”.

  13. 13
    freemage

    Eh, they owned up to it in saying, “We hired the wrong person.” Barring evidence of prior complaints against Ofek that would qualify for investigation, they can’t really be expected to cop to more than that. Misogynists, sadly, don’t have their status as such tattooed on their foreheads. And assuming this was the first complaint against him, his immediate dismissal is the single best way to ensure there’s not going to be a recurrence at that company.

  14. 14
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    This is very good news.

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