StatCounter

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

University of Bath's mounting problems: Add sexual harassment to bullying [Updated]

Rod Scott: Accused of sexual harassment
Something stinks in Bath, and its not coming from the Roman spas that gave this city in Somerset, England its famous name. Rather, the rot is coming from the nearby University of Bath and its Department of Biology and Biochemistry.

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complaints and they became public, the Leverhulme Trust--which had awarded a nearly 1 million pound grant to Longrich--rescinded the award.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.”
   

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

An interesting move by the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol offering a bully in Stephanie Diezmann a position. The same School that has recently been exposed for harbouring a bully and it’s staff engaging in research misconduct and fraud (see: https://forbetterscience.com/2018/09/17/abder-kaidi-fraud-and-bullying-scandal-unravelling/).

There are serious questions the School and University needs to answer especially covering the incompetence of its senior management and Head of School (Head of School who incidentally has issued rape alarms to staff and students who expressed concerns about bullying and harassment...nice one Anne Ridley!)

The School had intel on the bullying history of Stephanie Diezmann and still proceeded with offering her a position on the grounds that she would “bring in funding” and was “REF returnable”. It’s disgraceful practices from a School that is known for serious issues of bullying, harassment, discrimination and intimidating its staff and students. The Abder Kaidi case scratches the surface and it is hoped that in coming weeks and months more will be exposed to the public.

Michael Balter said...

Thanks for your comment. I have asked both the Bath and Bristol press offices if the investigation concerning Diezmann at Bath had been conveyed to Bristol, neither have responded yet. Please feel free to get in touch with me privately, confidentiality guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

Bristol University is also in big trouble with research from Esther Crawley, and their attempts to smear those raising concerns about her work.

This is a bit of a complicated topic, but some info can be found in these blogs from David Tuller:

http://www.virology.ws/2017/12/13/trial-by-error-the-smile-trials-undisclosed-outcomes/
http://www.virology.ws/2017/05/03/trial-by-error-continued-my-libelous-blogging-on-virology-blog/http://www.virology.ws/2017/11/29/trial-by-error-the-crawley-chronicles-continued/


Bristol seems to have embraced an approach to academia that focusses on trying to play the system, rather than making a useful contribution to society through useful and rigorous research.

Leonid Schneider said...

Anonymous message I received over my site's contact form today, probably because of my own Bristol reporting:
"Stephanie Diezmann is in the process of moving from Bath to Bristol, due to take up her post at the University of Bristol on 1 November and the concerns about Stephanie were shared with the interview panel nonetheless the panel proceeded to offer her a job. We had intel that she had a history of bullying students and the red flags were evident but the panel were more concerned with her research and money than her conduct.

Noteworthy, that Stephanie is joining the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine the same School that as Abder Kaidi has just left.

There seems to be a destructive pattern emerging of concerning practices and no care for staff and students...recruiting staff at all expense despite known issues pre-recruitment".