MIT biology professor accused of sexually harassing grad student resigns

A prominent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) biology professor and researcher has resigned after the university launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and threatened to revoke his tenure.

Dr. David Sabatini, 54, stepped down on Friday after MIT’s provost, dean of science and Biology department head concluded that his resignation would be the best course of action.

Last year, Sabatini was placed on administrative leave at MIT and fired from The Whitehead institute after a scientist in her early 30s raised sexual harassment claims to the institute’s director, Dr. Ruth Lehmann.

The graduate student – whom DailyMail.com is not naming because she claims to be a victim of sexual misconduct – claimed she was coerced into having sex with Sabatini.

She also claimed that conversations in his lab were ’85percent sexual and 15percent science,’ and he harvested a work environment in which graduate students who agreed to flirt with him were rewarded, The Boston Globe reported.

Following the claims, Sabatini sued The Whitehead, Dr. Lehmann, and his accuser, arguing he was unjustly ousted over false sexual harassment claims concocted by a vengeful jilted lover.

MIT President Rafael Rief announced Sabatini’s resignation from MIT on Friday in a statement directed to students and faculty, saying he had violated the university’s consensual sexual or romantic relationships in the workplace policy.

The statement read: ‘The reviewers found that Professor Sabatini behaved in ways incompatible with the responsibilities of faculty membership …

Specifically, the reviewers found Professor Sabatini engaged in a sexual relationship with a person over whom he held a career-influencing role, he did not disclose the relationship at any time to his supervisors, and he failed to take any steps to relinquish his mentoring and career-influencing roles, as the policy requires.

‘The Committee also had significant concerns regarding his unprofessional behavior towards some lab members.

Dr. David Sabatini, 53, stepped down on Friday after MIT’s provost, dean of science and Biology department head concluded that his resignation would be the best course of action

Until August, Sabatini ran a research lab at the prestigious Whitehead Institute at MIT.  He obtained tenure at MIT in 2006 but was placed on administrative leave after claims of sexual harassment emerged

Until August, Sabatini ran a research lab at the prestigious Whitehead Institute at MIT. He obtained tenure at MIT in 2006 but was placed on administrative leave after claims of sexual harassment emerged

MIT President Rafael Rief announced Sabatini's resignation from MIT on Friday in a statement directed to students and faculty, saying he had violated the university's consensual sexual or romantic relationships in the workplace policy

MIT President Rafael Rief announced Sabatini’s resignation from MIT on Friday in a statement directed to students and faculty, saying he had violated the university’s consensual sexual or romantic relationships in the workplace policy

Sabatini’s resignation follows his firing in August from The Whitehead and his lawsuit against the institute, its director and the woman who claimed sexual harassment.

The lawsuit alleged defamation, wrongful interference with employment, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

According to the complaint, Sabatini had a 16-month-long consensual sexual relationship with his accuser, who worked with him at the institute.

Sabatini was separated from his wife and heading for a divorce at the time, and his lab lover allegedly made it clear to him that she was not interested in an exclusive relationship and had other sexual partners.

After Sabatini pulled the plug on the relationship in July 2019, his lover and colleague ‘continued to attempt to engage with him sexually and emotionally despite his repeated requests that she stop,’ according to the documents.

According to his lawsuit, Sabatini had a 16-month-long consensual sexual relationship with his accuser, who worked with him at the institute

According to his lawsuit, Sabatini had a 16-month-long consensual sexual relationship with his accuser, who worked with him at the institute

Sabatini's accuser claimed that conversations in his lab were '85percent sexual and 15percent science,' and he harvested a work environment in which graduate students who agreed to flirt with him were rewarded

Sabatini’s accuser claimed that conversations in his lab were ’85percent sexual and 15percent science,’ and he harvested a work environment in which graduate students who agreed to flirt with him were rewarded

Sabatini said he made it clear that he was pursuing a romantic relationship with another woman in Europe, but his accuser ‘became determined to destroy his reputation and get him fired.’

Sabatini accused his ex-lover of ‘fabricating claims that [he] had sexually harassed her and had subsequently threatened to retaliate against her if she reported him. ‘

The female researcher went to Dr. Lehmann, the head of the institute, and claimed to have experienced harassment at Sabatini’s lab, which allegedly prompted the director to conduct an anonymous diversity and equity survey.

The institute launched an investigation into the ‘culture’ in Sabatini’s laboratory, which involved interviews with 40 post-doctoral fellows, PhD students and researchers.

Sabatini claims he was not allowed to have a lawyer present when he was interviewed by lawyers hired by the institute, but his accuser retained an experienced employment attorney.

Ultimately, Sabatini was forced to resign from the institute in August.

Over the course of his 25-year career, Sabatini has obtained dozens of grants and tens of millions of dollars of funding for his research.  He resigned from MIT Friday over sexual harassment claims

Over the course of his 25-year career, Sabatini has obtained dozens of grants and tens of millions of dollars of funding for his research. He resigned from MIT Friday over sexual harassment claims

The authors of the report further conceded that they found no evidence ‘that Sabatini actually retaliated against or punished any person for speaking out against him or raising concerns outside the lab.’

Sabatini was also fired from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which funded his lucrative position at the institute.

The 54-year-old scientist had been on administrative leave at MIT since August, until his resignation Friday.

Sabatini earned his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1990 and went on to obtain his medical degree and PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1997.

He became a faculty member at The Whitehead in 2002 and established his own lab there to conduct groundbreaking research into mechanisms that regulate cell growth. He obtained tenure at MIT in 2006.

Over the course of his 25-year career, Sabatini has obtained dozens of grants and tens of millions of dollars of funding for his research.

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