An outspoken campaigner against sexual harassment in science is facing a crisis of leadership at MeTooSTEM, the volunteer organization she founded last year to support victims and hold perpetrators and institutions accountable.
Since November, seven members of the leadership team have resigned, citing concerns about the behavior of its founder, BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
In their resignation letters, former MeTooSTEM leaders said that McLaughlin kept them in the dark about key decisions and reacted with hostility when they asked about the small organization’s finances and legal structure. They also worried that McLaughlin had alienated allies through her combative tweets.
Me Too Stem claims “women in STEM have the highest rate of sexual harassment outside of the military” and deplores that of an annual 37 billion dollar National Institute of Health budget not a cent of grant money has been diverted from “abusers” to, say, Me Too Stem.
McLaughlin won the “Disobedience Award” from these folks:
She’s already lost a tenure track position for alienating her allies. I like to think it’s Karma for this:
BethAnn McLaughlin has no time for James Watson, especially not when the 90-year-old geneticist is peering out from a photo on the wall of her guest room at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center.
“I don’t need him staring at me when I’m trying to go to sleep,” McLaughlin told a December 2018 gathering at the storied New York meeting center as she projected a photo of her redecorating job: She had hung a washcloth over the image of Watson, who co-discovered DNA’s structure, directed the lab for decades—and is well-known for racist and sexist statements.
The washcloth image was part of McLaughlin’s unconventional presentation—by turns sobering, hilarious, passionate, and profane—to two dozen experts who had gathered to wrestle with how to end gender discrimination in the biosciences. McLaughlin, a 51-year-old neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, displayed the names of current members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who have been sanctioned for sexual harassment. She urged other NAS members—several of whom sat in the room—to resign in protest, “as one does.” She chided institutions for passing along “harassholes” to other universities. “The only other places that do this are the Catholic Church and the military,” she said.