The student newspaper at Columbia University published a three-part series today documenting how strict procedural protections for tenured professors have compromised the university’s ability to eject from campus tenured faculty, including prominent neuroscientist Thomas Jessell, who have been found guilty by the university of sexual harassment, misconduct, or assault—or who have lost or settled lawsuits alleging the same. Columbia announced 13 months ago that it was dissolving Jessell’s lab and removing him from “all administrative posts” after a university investigation revealed “serious violations of University policies and values governing the behavior of faculty members.” At the same time, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, dropped its support for Jessell’s work. (The student newspaper, Columbia Spectator, later reported that Jessell violated rules on consensual sexual and romantic relationships.) But Columbia Spectator reports today that “at least eight months later … Jessell remained on campus working with students and using research facilities, according to multiple … researchers” at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger told the Spectator: “There are extremely strong protections for tenure. … You cannot remove or deny a faculty member the rights of tenure without going through a process that is basically a trial, something that is so difficult in many ways that it’s never been used.”