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N.Y.U. Will Not Hire Scientist Accused of Harassment After Backlash

New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine will no longer consider Dr. David Sabatini, a biologist facing accusations of sexual harassment, for a faculty position after news that he was in the running prompted a backlash among students and faculty members last week.

Lisa Greiner, a spokeswoman for N.Y.U. Langone Health, said in a statement Tuesday that the administration and Dr. Sabatini had agreed that he should withdraw from consideration after the medical school reviewed a wide range of responses from its community.

“We heard voices of support from many dozens of Dr. Sabatini’s colleagues, lab alumni, and peers who described their firsthand experiences working with him,” Ms. Greiner said. “But we also heard clearly the deep concern from our own faculty, staff, and trainees.”

In his own statement, Dr. Sabatini cited the outcry against his potential hiring, which was first reported in Science magazine, and the mounting public pressure on the medical school’s administration. He maintained that allegations against him were false.

“I deeply respect N.Y.U. Langone Health’s mission and appreciate the support from individuals who took the time to learn the facts,” Dr. Sabatini said. “I remain steadfast in believing that the truth will ultimately emerge and that I will eventually be vindicated and able to return to my research.”

About 200 graduate students, faculty members and alumni showed up last week to protest news that the Grossman School of Medicine was considering hiring Dr. Sabatini.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

Ms. Greiner added that it was Dr. Sabatini who had initiated conversations about potentially joining the medical school’s faculty, and that both sides had since decided it would “not be possible.”

Dr. Sabatini is a biologist best known for his discovery of the mTOR protein, which regulates cell growth in animals.

In August 2021, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology placed him on administrative leave after an independent investigation found that he had violated the sexual misconduct policy at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research, a nonprofit research institution affiliated with M.I.T., where he ran a lab.

On the same day he was placed on leave at M.I.T., Dr. Sabatini resigned from the Whitehead Institute and was fired by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit organization that had been funding his research.

He ultimately resigned from M.I.T. in April, after three faculty members who reviewed the allegations recommended revoking his tenure because they found he had violated the school’s policy on workplace relationships and behavior, according to a letter to faculty from L. Rafael Reif, M.I.T. president, obtained by The Boston Globe.

A former colleague at the Whitehead Institute accused Dr. Sabatini of sexual harassment early last year, claiming that he had “groomed” her when she was a graduate student under his mentorship, and done the same to other young women in his lab.

The former colleague also claimed Dr. Sabatini had coerced her into having sex with him, and that he had asked her if she was sexually active and “fun” before recommending her for a research position at the Whitehead Institute.

In October, Dr. Sabatini filed a lawsuit against the Whitehead Institute and his accuser, claiming his relationship with the woman had been consensual and that the allegations of sexual harassment were false.

The accuser filed a countersuit in December, which detailed some of the sexually suggestive comments she said he frequently made about her and other women, such as remarks about the size of her breasts, often during whiskey tastings he hosted at his lab.

“Sabatini had created, encouraged and condoned a toxic and sexually charged lab environment and had engaged in otherwise impermissible conduct,” the countersuit read.

News that N.Y.U. was considering hiring Dr. Sabatini was met with outrage by students, faculty and alumni, who staged a walkout from the medical school last Wednesday that drew about 200 people.

Melissa Cooper, a postdoctoral fellow at the medical school, said she was relieved that Dr. Sabatini would not be hired. But she said the situation had highlighted a need to involve more graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in personnel decisions, and argued that they should have been part of the hiring committee from the start.

“I’m really, really glad that what we said seems to have made an impact,” Dr. Cooper said.

“We’re the people who work with them every day,” she added. “Our opinion on this matters quite a lot.”

Stephanie Saul contributed reporting.

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