It’s yet another academic scandal, this time at the university where I was an undergrad, the University of Washington. A top virus researcher, Michael Katze, has been committing all kinds of inappropriate behavior.
In the summer of 2014, as Ebola ravaged West Africa and unleashed panic across the U.S., Michael Katze was a voice of reason. As head of one of the biggest virus labs in the country, he frequently appeared on TV news spots — sharply dressed, with his signature black glasses and deep tan — preaching calm in the face of fear.
But away from the cameras, the University of Washington lab in Seattle that Katze had led for nearly 30 years was descending into chaos. Over the next year, one of his most important collaborators severed its $1.2 million partnership. Employees left in droves. And a lab administrator filed charges accusing him of sexually harassing her and a colleague. In August 2015, the university banned Katze from entering his own lab.
This past January, a university investigation concluded that Katze, 66, had violated the school’s sexual harassment policies with both employees. A second investigation, by the university’s School of Medicine, determined that in the process, he had misused university resources for personal gain, including by asking an employee to do chores for him and solicit a prostitute. It recommended a comprehensive internal audit to determine how far this misuse of public funds went.
This was a guy who was rolling in grant money — he was sitting on top of $30 million in awards — and he acted like some petty pimp, doling out grant money explicitly for sexual favors. And no one noticed?
One of the employees was an administrator whom Katze had hired, at an unusually high salary, on the implicit condition that she submit to his sexual demands. He personally rewarded this woman, known as Mary Roe in some court documents, with “thousands or even tens of thousands” of dollars a year in cash and gifts, the investigation found.
The university found that Katze also sexually harassed another administrative employee, known as Jane Doe in court documents. According to the investigations, Katze asked her to clean his apartment, purchase marijuana and Percocet for him, email escorts and place personal ads for him, and “schedule his manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and hair lightening appointments.” Meanwhile, he joked about having sex with her, made sexual comments about her appearance, sent her sexually suggestive emails, and, on two occasions, tried while drunk to kiss or touch her
He’s still getting paid, but he’s lost his lab, his employees, and his grant money. I guess that’s good. But I still can’t imagine the lack of oversight that would allow such a sleaze to run rampant. There’s clearly a problem with Katze, but there’s also a problem in UW grants administration.