David Sweatt, a top neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, has been accused of drugging and raping a student last year. Despite the allegations against him, Sweatt remained in his position at the university until recently, 11 months after his accuser reported the abuse to school officials.
Sweatt was officially placed on leave in August, shortly after a tweet by another scientist. Following a blog post in which Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, praised the neuroscientist, a University of Washington climate scientist by the name of Sara Myhre tweeted something notably less endearing about Sweatt.
“Hello NIH Director,” she wrote. “Do you know that Dr. David Sweatt, the ‘gifted painter’ you are lauding here, has been accused of drugging and raping a student?”
The next day, Myhre tweeted that “Sweatt is a serial rapist. There are multiple women victims.”
Incident Reported to Vanderbilt in 2017
In 2017, an anonymous Oregon Health & Scent University (OHSU) student alleged that she was assaulted by Sweatt at a 2015 scientific conference. Although Vanderbilt was alerted to the incident, the school’s Title IX office says the anonymous student “did not wish to be identified to Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action and Disability Services (EAD) office or to make a report.” Further, the office claims that after exhausting all options, Vanderbilt simply “did not have sufficient basis for conducting an investigation.”
But Myhre’s tweet changed everything.
In addition to her public comments on twitter, Myhre reported having been contacted by two other women who were both able to confirm, separately, the “extent and nature of the allegations” against Sweatt. Shortly after Myhre’s tweets, an official investigation was launched by the university’s EAD.
“Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously,” wrote the university in a recent statement. “We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.”
“Potential Safety Threat”
When Sweatt’s alleged victim alerted officials at her school last year, OHSU warned Vanderbilt of the “potential safety threat” posed by Sweatt. Yet the chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Pharmacology remained on campus for another 11 months.A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.
When Sweatt was finally placed on leave in early August, Larry Marnett, Vanderbilt’s medical school dean of basic sciences, released an email to inform colleagues.
“I want to make you aware that as of today David Sweatt, Chair of Pharmacology, is on leave,” Marnett wrote,
“Providing a safe and welcoming environment is a priority, and we take seriously any complaints of misconduct,” wrote another Vanderbilt spokesperson. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.
Sweatt’s bio was removed from the school’s website last week.
Sweatt has denied any wrongdoing.
“Beginning in August, and set in motion by people with a destructive, political agenda that is not tethered to reality, Dr. Sweatt has been targeted by anonymous, irresponsible and unfounded allegations,” wrote the neuroscientist’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg. “He has always conducted himself, both professionally and in his private life, in a respectful, thoughtful and consensual manner.”
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