Former MIT professor accused of sexual harassment withdraws from NYU hiring consideration

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(NEW YORK) — A former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor accused of sexual harassment withdrew his candidacy for a position at New York University Langone Health, after news of his potential hiring received backlash from the NYU community.

Dr. David Sabatini, a biologist, resigned from MIT last month after a review found he violated its workplace policy on consensual relationships and recommended his tenure be revoked. Sabatini allegedly failed to disclose a sexual relationship he had with “a person over whom he held a career-influencing role” and didn’t take any steps to “relinquish his mentoring and career-influencing roles,” according to a letter by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

The committee conducting the review also had “significant concerns regarding his unprofessional behavior toward some lab members,” the letter added.

Sabatini has denied allegations of sexual harassment and has said the relationship at the center of the investigation was consensual. He has sued his accuser, as well as others, for defamation. His accuser has also countersued.

Sabatini said he was withdrawing his name from consideration, but maintained that he will “eventually be vindicated.”

“False, distorted, and preposterous allegations about me have intensified in the press and on social media in the wake of reports last week that New York University Langone Health was considering hiring me. I understand the enormous pressure this has placed on NYU Langone Health and do not want to distract from its important mission. I have therefore decided to withdraw my name from consideration for a faculty position there,” Sabatini said in a statement to ABC News on Tuesday.

He added, “I deeply respect NYU Langone Health’s mission and appreciate the support from individuals who took the time to learn the facts. 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.”

NYU Langone Health, the university’s academic medical center that includes the school of medicine, said in a statement Tuesday that both Sabatini and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine “reached the conclusion that it will not be possible for him to become a member of our faculty.”

“Our overarching mission at NYU Grossman School of Medicine is advancing science and medicine to save lives. That is what compelled us to give careful reflection to hiring Dr. Sabatini after he initially reached out to us,” NYU Langone Health said.

It added, “In the course of our due diligence, we heard voices of support from many dozens of Dr. Sabatini’s colleagues, lab alumni, and peers who described their first-hand experiences working with him. But we also heard clearly the deep concern from our own faculty, staff, and trainees. Our thorough review and deliberate approach was essential for us to make an independent evaluation consistent with our institutional priorities.”

News that Sabatini may be hired by NYU was first reported on science.org, which also reports that Sabatini has been forced out of or fired from three leading institutions for sexual harassment or for violating workplace or consensual sexual relationship policies.

Members of the NYU community, including its union for graduate workers, a group for women in STEM and a group of STEM researchers planning on forming a union, organized a protest against Sabatini’s hiring last week.

A petition against Sabatini’s hiring had gathered more than 400 signatures as of Tuesday. As long as Sabatini was being considered for a position, signatories pledged to not give or attend any talks, seminars, conferences or symposia hosted by NYU Langone Health. They also vowed not to teach any courses at NYU Langone or collaborate with any labs at NYU Langone.

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