David Marchant, still a geologist, but no longer a Boston University employee, has learned what my friend who teaches at University of California explained: “I can be fired for any reason… except incompetence.” (Science Mag)
The alleged unkind words and actions toward three people occurred in the late 1990s (2017 Science Mag article), but no complaints were made until October 2016 (at least 17 years after the alleged facts).
Had these aggrieved individuals wanted to sue former Professor Marchant, they would generally have had to do so within three years (Massachusetts law) of the events.
(Separately, the accused geologist seems to be a bit of a skeptic regarding climate change catastrophe. He is co-author of a paper telling people not to worry about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melting and leading to a 60 meter rise in sea level. The Ice Sheet has been around for 14 million years, the paper says, and thus has survived some very warm periods indeed.)
Even if we assume that we can establish 20-year-old facts to perfect accuracy, should there be a statute of limitations for this kind of situation? We could say that what Dr. Marchant (his Ph.D. hasn’t been rescinded yet!) allegedly did was like murder and it can’t be forgiven so we need to punish him even though he might have changed completely during the intervening years. Or we could say that people do evolve over a period of two decades so we want to consider only accusations regarding reasonably recent behavior.
What if, for example, Dr. Marchant had changed gender ID between 1999 and 2019? Would it still make sense to get rid of her on the theory that her presence made it difficult for women?
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute page on this guy (getting this grant is a huge honor for a scientist; let’s see if the page stays up!)
- additional sin from Science Mag: An additional supporting letter came from Stephanie Thomas, who was in Antarctica as an undergrad with Marchant and three other male professors in 2002. After reading about the investigation in Science, Thomas, now an energy analyst with Public Citizen in Houston, Texas, wrote to BU investigators that Marchant entered her tent and told her: “I am the king, and you are my servant,” and “I am the master, and you are the slave.”
- “Women in Science” (why it is not economically rational for women to go into academic geology, regardless of the congeniality of senior faculty)