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Neuroscientist BethAnn McLaughlin has left Vanderbilt University.

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#MeTooSTEM founder out at Vanderbilt

BethAnn McLaughlin, the controversial neuroscientist who founded the advocacy organization #MeTooSTEM 14 months ago, said today that she has left Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville “by mutual agreement” with the institution.

“My employment and faculty appointment ended July 8. I value my time at Vanderbilt, and I look forward now to exploring new opportunities,” McLaughlin, 51, said in a statement issued through her lawyers.

McLaughlin was denied tenure in 2017 but appealed, saying her tenure process had been tainted by retaliation for her testimony in a sexual harassment case. A faculty committee in February declined to reverse that tenure denial. Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, who will leave his post next month, accepted the committee’s decision.

Neither McLaughlin nor her lawyer, Ann Olivarius of McAllister Olivarius in Saratoga Springs, New York, would comment further. Vanderbilt issued a statement confirming McLaughlin’s departure and adding: “We thank Dr. McLaughlin for her work at Vanderbilt. We share a strong commitment to the success of women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math], and we wish Dr. McLaughlin well in her future endeavors.”

Sharona Gordon, a biophysicist at the University of Washington in Seattle who in February launched a petition trying to save McLaughlin’s job, suggests McLaughlin was not allowed to comment further as part of a legal settlement: “When the most visible face of the #MeTooSTEM movement is silenced, it sends a chilling message to targets of sexual harassment everywhere that the system is stacked against them.”

McLaughlin lobbied AAAS (publisher of Science) and the National Academy of Sciences to adopt policies allowing the ejection of sexual harassers; both have done so in recent months. She was also a key force pushing the U.S. National Institutes of Health to change its policies to deal more forcefully with sexual harassment, a process now in motion.

McLaughlin’s management of the nonprofit #MeTooSTEM, which was incorporated as a 501C3 charity in May, came under fire recently when women leaving the organization’s board accused her of a lack of transparency and of sidelining women of color.