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Prominent geneticist at UC Irvine after harassing science



Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

8, 4:40 PM

The eminent evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala has offered his resignation to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), as of July 1, the university said yesterday With. The assault followed an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment by Ayala, which began last November and included complaints from four women – two professors, a deputy dean and a doctoral student – at the School of Biological Sciences. The Biological Sciences Building was named after its benefactor Ayala until this week.

"Given the number and breadth of substantiated allegations, along with the power differences in the game, I believe that Professor Ayala in a position of honor would be wrong," wrote UCI Registrar Howard Gillman, announcing that Ayala has no emeritus status withdraw from future campus activities and remove its name from both the Life Sciences Building and the UCI Library.

Gillman said the university had interviewed more than 60 witnesses during their investigation of the allegations. "While reporting misconduct is always difficult, the actions of these women were particularly brave because their reports were about one of the most prominent members of our faculty," Gillman wrote.

Gillman added that Ayala's name will also be withdrawn from several graduate scholarships, scholarship programs and endowed chairs. Ayala gave the school $ 10 million in 2011, which should be paid out over 10 years. The university did not want to say how much was paid or how the remainder of the gift was handled. It also declined to comment on details of allegations of sexual harassment that were not described in Gillman's testimony.

Ayala, who graduated from the UCI in 1989, issued a statement that reads:

"I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman – to welcome female colleagues, with a kiss on both cheeks to compliment them on their well-made colleagues whom I respect uncomfortably, never intended to do so, nor do I want them, my family or this institution through the lengthy process of further investigation, hearings I have too much respect for them and too much work to do, I will continue my research with renewed strength and thank my colleagues around the world for their support. "

The Four Complainants who were asked for identification are all in the School of Biological Sciences: Professor Kathleen Treseder, Assistant Professor Professor Jes sica Pratt, Deputy Dean Benedicte Shipley and PhD student Michelle Herrera.

Treeder and Pratt referred questions to their lawyer Micha Star Liberty, a lawyer for sexual harassment in Oakland, California. Shipley and Herrera could not be reached after the deadline.

In an interview, Liberty said that its clients – three of the four complainants – are considering "all available legal options".

"It's frustrating and totally disingenuous for UCI They said they complained and acted quickly in November," says Liberty. "That just is not true, they did not investigate when a complaint was filed three years ago."

The university declined to comment on Gillman's statement in addition.

Liberty would not identify the complainant three years ago, the nature of this complaint or the mechanism by which the alleged complaint was made. But she says that the complainant is also one of the four women whose complaints started the investigation begun in November 2017.

Liberty goes on to say, "UCI seemed to care only about caring for its illustrious and profitable professor rather than focusing on the labor rights and titles IX rights of these women." Title IX is the federal law, the sexual law Harassment in educational establishments makes illegal.

Liberty claims that Ayala's behavior toward female students, co-workers, and colleagues were infused with unwanted touch and sexually-based language and messages, often in front of other people. For example, she said, he once told a professor who made a report in a meeting, "Why do not you sit in my lap while you're giving the presentation? It would be much more interesting."

Ayala's lawyer, Susan Estrich, says: "The comment about sitting on his lap was a poor attempt at humor in a crowded room in 2015, for which Professor Ayala apologized some years ago."

Liberty also claimed that Ayala was in front of Treseder, whom he nominated for membership of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS), explained how blacklists were typically performed by nominees – comments she considered a veiled blacklist threat to her nomination. Ayala is a NAS member and only members can nominate new members – and vote on them.

"Professor Ayala has consistently made it clear that he would never mislead a candidate for the Academy, let alone a nominated candidate." Estrich replied.

According to Liberty, Ayala's behavior towards doctoral student Herrara prompted investigations that began in November 2017. Ayala's deeds were testified by Herrara's superiors, who also complained at the time to support Herrara. During the investigation, the other two women reported as complainants. One was the woman who had complained 3 years earlier.

They stepped out, Liberty says, because "they were fed up with experiencing this kind of behavior, they were worried about this graduate student, who had much less power than they became victims, and they wanted that behavior to stop were also tired of enduring this behavior themselves. "

Liberty claims that the UCI has told her in the course of the investigation that Ayala has threatened to sue the university and the complaining women for libel.

Estrich says, "No Time was slandered for slander."

Ayala, 84, has become a prominent presence in American biology since leaving his native Spain and the Dominican priesthood in 1961 to work at Columbia University to study. He pioneered molecular evolution and genetics and made a landmark discovery of the parasites that cause Chagas disease, a sometimes deadly disease that afflicts millions in the tropics. He is a former president of the AAAS, which publishes Science ; a NAS member; and a $ 1.5 million Templeton Prize winner for an "extraordinary contribution to validating the spiritual dimension of life". Ayala has spoken out on ethical issues related to the study of human evolution and is a prominent spokesman in the debate between evolution and creationism. He is also a winemaker who owned more than 2,000 hectares of vineyards in northern California at the time of his donation to UCI in 2011.

Kristen Monroe is one of Ayala's colleague and political scientist who directs the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific's study of ethics and morality, where Ayala regularly attended meetings and was a founding member. She says, "I am amazed and surprised at the charges against Professor Ayala, as nothing in our interactions over 20 years indicates that he treats women with anything but respect and courtesy."

Ayala's colleague Camilo Cela-Conde, a retired professor at the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain, who together with Ayala has written six books on human evolution, today published a statement titled "Professor Ayala's Sentence ". "I read with dizziness, shame and displeasure." the name of Ayala was removed from the UCI buildings, Cela-Conde wrote, noting that Gillman stated that Ayala's name on the buildings was wrong. Cela-Conde added, "I wonder if I'm saving more than $ 4 million. Donate millions of Professor Ayala to UCI and destroy his science career would be right."

Cela-Conde took the university's interviews more than 60 witnesses. "What the statement does not mention is that only a fraction of the witnesses proposed by Professor Ayala were actually interviewed," he wrote. "The lack of fairness throughout the investigation process is very obvious – false news seems to provoke wrong investigations."


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