Bill Ackman is a hedge-fund billionaire who was very concerned that an MIT professor allowed a student to promote a pro-Palestine rally. He’s more worried about denying Palestinian civil rights than he is about known sexual harassers in the classroom, though.
Ackman is a major supporter of David Sabatini to the tune of millions of dollars per year. Sabatini, you may recall, was fired twice from major institutions and his attempt to be hired by NYU was aborted by huge demonstrations by the faculty and students there. He is not a good guy. He ran a party lab for dudebros.
In 2021, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute fired Sabatini, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research forced him out after an investigation by an outside law firm found he violated the institute’s sexual harassment and relationship policies. That investigation found that Sabatini conducted a clandestine sexual relationship with a woman scientist and asked her to meet him for sex on institute grounds. At the time, he was mentoring her in a program he directed while she launched a lab at the Whitehead. The investigation also found, among other behavior, that he created a lab culture that rewarded sexualized banter; implicitly threatened a faculty member who refused to make a place in his lab for a visiting woman scientist whom Sabatini later married; and created a “pervasive” fear of retaliation, for example implying there would be career consequences for lab members who reported unfavorably on him to the outside investigators or who discussed rumors that he was sexually pursuing a woman undergraduate from another institution.
I figured that with three strikes he was finally out, no matter how much money a rich boob threw his way. I even made a prediction: “He’ll go get a job in construction or pharmaceutical sales and we won’t have to worry about his unpleasant influence on academia anymore.”
I was wrong, so wrong. He’s starting up a new lab in Prague.
David Sabatini, the high-flying biologist who lost positions at three prominent U.S. institutions after breaching sexual misconduct policies, last month began a new job as a senior scientist at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry Prague (IOCB), a powerful arm of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS). The hire has divided Czech scientists and is likely to ignite debate about whether and when institutions should give second chances to those who commit sexual misconduct.
He’s like an antibiotic-resistant venereal disease. He keeps flaring up when you least expect it, and when you think you’ve finally beaten it back.
IOCB Director Jan Konvalinka said in a statement: “We believe that [Sabatini] has been punished enough for his previous actions and that the research community will be served best if this brilliant scientist returns to research.” He added that IOCB “will require that Dr. Sabatini follows the same high standards of conduct and respectful behavior that is expected from every other principal investigator.”
Yeah, that’s what the Whitehead, MIT, and NYU all said, too. When will people learn that “high standards of conduct and respectful behavior” aren’t in his repertoire?
Probably about the time that rich Republican jerks stop bankrolling him, I bet.