|Rod Scott: Accused of sexual harassment|
Last month I reported on the serious bullying allegations against paleontologist Nick Longrich, a faculty member in the department and a researcher in its brand new Milner Centre for Evolution. After the university upheld the bullying complaints and they became public, the Leverhulme Trust--which had awarded a nearly 1 million pound grant to Longrich--rescinded the award.
More recently, I have learned that department member Stephanie Diezmann, an expert in infectious fungi, is under investigation by the university for bullying and destruction of intellectual property. Diezmann is reportedly in the middle of a move to the University of Bristol, but it is not yet clear whether Bath has informed that institution about the allegations against her. (My queries to both the Bath and Bristol university press offices about this have not yet been answered.)
In a department where faculty bully students, can sexual harassment be far behind? The answer is apparently no. I have now talked to several sources who can document that the university--including its human resources department and the head of the Biology and Biochemistry Department, David Tosh--have been aware for at least three years about allegations of sexual harassment of students against Rod Scott, an expert in the molecular genetics of plant reproduction. (Scott is also a former head of the department.) At least two other male faculty members in the department have also allegedly engaged in harassment or other inappropriate behavior, I am told by multiple sources.
To protect victims and witnesses, I am not providing details of the harassment, although I can assert that the allegations are based on solid, credible information from sources whose identities I know. (These are best described as confidential sources, rather than "anonymous" sources.) The sources also allege that the human resources department at Bath has discouraged victims from filing complaints, in both subtle and overt ways. Finally, and most seriously, there are indications that Scott may have tried to retaliate against victims who decided to make complaints.
There are some signs that the university knows it has a serious problem. After the revelations about Nick Longrich, Bath posted confidential contact information for reporting misconduct on its internal Web site (accessible by students, faculty and staff), and made a show of concern. Yet until the university begins to weed out the abusers by willingly making its investigations public and allowing the guilty to be named and possibly fired, students and staff will continue to live in fear of bullying, harassment, and retaliation.
I welcome comments on this blog post, anonymous or otherwise; anyone who contacts me about this can be assured of complete confidentiality.
Important update 5 October:
Yesterday I was informed by the University of Bath press office that the misconduct charges against Stephanie Diezmann had not been upheld after an investigation and disciplinary proceedings. I am reproducing the university's statement below. However, this conclusion was reached despite the fact that the university is in possession of extensive documentation supporting contentions that Diezmann engaged in bullying of at least one student and that she destroyed a student's intellectual property in an apparent act of retaliation. The circumstances of the latter, well documented allegation are particularly serious and there were multiple witnesses to the event. Diezmann will soon move to the University of Bristol which was also allegedly aware of a history of bullying at the time she was hired.
As of this writing, Diezmann has not responded to my request to tell her side of the story.
To protect sources, I will not be able to provide more details at this time. But I do hope that Bristol takes steps to protect students from bullying once Diezmann takes up her new post later this fall.
This is the university response, sent to me by email:
Here’s our statement re the two questions you asked about Stephanie Diezmann.
A University of Bath spokesperson said: “The University can confirm that an investigation has taken place into alleged misconduct by a member of academic staff. The conclusion of a formal disciplinary hearing was that there had been no misconduct. The member of staff concerned has herself made her future employer aware of the investigation and its outcome.”