I thought it was clear. The case is closed. UCL released their official statement.
But strangely, I’m being bombarded with claims that the statement was
ambiguous, that it didn’t say what it seems to say, that I’ve misquoted it. Really? What’s ambiguous about:
Council unanimously supports the decision taken by UCL’s executive to accept the resignation.
Council acknowledges that all parties agree that reinstatement would be inappropriate.
I think it’s pretty clear that UCL confirmed that their decision to strip Hunt of an honorary title was a correct one. And I think that all along they’ve been absolutely crystal on their insistence that promoting equality does not involve stereotyping women in science, even as a joke. To now claim that their statement is open to interpretation is just plain weird.
It’s also an example of straightforward denialism to now try to rewrite history. His remarks at the Women’s Science and Technology Associations at the 2015 World Conference of Science Journalists were quoted by multiple sources; he has acknowledged what he said, and that he meant it; the Korean group that invited him asked for an apology, and he gave it; yet somehow, that one source claimed that he said “seriously now” after his stereotyping completely changes the meaning of everything? This is beyond absurd. This is a desperate grasping at straws.
It also ignores the fact that in 2014, he said:
I think people are really good at selecting good scientists but I must admit the inequalities in the outcomes, especially at the higher end, are quite staggering. And I have no idea what the reasons are. One should start asking why women being under-represented in senior positions is such a big problem. Is this actually a bad thing? It is not immediately obvious for me… is this bad for women? Or bad for science? Or bad for society? I don’t know, it clearly upsets people a lot.
Here’s what it all means. It does not mean that Hunt is a terrible scientist (I know his work, it’s important stuff), it does not mean that he has to give his Nobel back or get fired from his real positions. It means that Tim Hunt has not thought very deeply about inequities in science. He questions whether it’s even important. Even after all this criticism, he’s baffled that anyone would find his opinions objectionable, and he’s still not questioning his own privilege.
If an institution is trying to correct those inequities, that makes him a terrible public representative of institutional values, and it is right and honorable to ask him to step aside from those duties and instead do what he does well — research.
But he’s a Brave Hero of Science, so the fanatics will continue to demand that he be treated as infallible and semi-divine, right?