Repression in the laboratory

Luis M. Morales

In the Yankee college scene, even the most venial erotic slip can bring down the ruin of any scientist or academic, no matter how eminent. It is not even necessary to charge him with rape or sexual harassment to destroy his career, since now the Holy Office of “political correctness” also sanctions the abominable crime of sleeping with a colleague. This is confirmed by the report titled “He was an internationally renowned cancer researcher; now he is unemployed”, which journalist Suzy Weiss published on May 18 in the magazine common sense.

David Sabatini, the excommunicated sinner, is one of the world’s leading molecular biologists. Until recently he ran a lab at MIT’s Whitehead Institute, where he supervised the work of 39 researchers. Dedicated to investigating a carcinogenic protein discovered by himself, the scientific community predicted the Nobel Prize in Medicine for him and the big companies that subsidize science invested millions of dollars in his projects. But in 2019, Sabatini made a fateful mistake: he won over a young colleague, Dr. Kristin Knouse, despite the fact that Whitehead authorities had just enacted a new Mutual Consent Sexual and Romantic Relationships Policy, which bans lab heads have affairs with their partners or co-workers. Sabatini was not Knouse’s boss, but in any case the doctor broke that puritanical code, which seems to have been conceived expressly to arouse temptations.

At first, the lovers were only looking for sex without commitment, because Dr. Knouse did not want to stop sleeping with other leading men, but when she found out that Sabatini was dating a microbiologist, she felt like a second-rate flask and began to vent her spite in text messages where she accused the scientist of not loving her with the same fervor. “I’m sorry, but I think you’re going crazy,” he replied, perplexed by this drastic turn. Knouse’s denunciation was immediate. The institute authorities accused Sabatini of having seduced his colleague without asking their permission and after a Kafkaesque process in which he was never able to defend himself, they forced him to resign. As the process ruined his reputation, he can no longer practice science in other universities in the United States.

What did Sabatini do to deserve that punishment? According to the report issued by the authorities of the institute, his sin was to create in his apartment “a sexualized undercurrent” that exerted an indirect influence on Dr. Knouse. “Although no evidence was discovered that Sabatini discriminated against or skimped on support for women in the laboratory -they concluded-, his proclivity to show a predilection for researchers who shared his personality traits and agreed to put science above all, created obstacles additional for female staff”.

The vagueness of those charges would be enough to exonerate Sabatini before any judge. In fact, he has already filed a lawsuit against the Whitehead Institute for wrongful termination. But the university or business courts of the United States do not require evidence to sanction a suspect of sexism: it is enough for them to collect testimonies against him. How did the country that used to boast of being the most liberal on earth get to this situation? An excessive concentration of power corrupts the noblest causes. The civilist movements of the 1960s (feminism, gay liberation, black power, etc.) have not managed to completely impose themselves on the republican right, since in the provinces of the Bible belt there is a stubborn resistance to modernity, and in fact, some conquests of feminism, such as the right to abortion, could soon be reversed in the Supreme Court. But in their strongest bastions, the universities, the mafias that emerged from these libertarian movements commit abuses of power identical to those of the conservative side.

Both evangelical fanatics and college dictatorships would like to impose chastity belts on their parishioners. Fortunately, the true liberals are opposed to both sides, which basically seek the same thing: to elevate their creed to the rank of a single thought. It is a good sign that journalists like Suzy Weiss are not afraid of being labeled traitors to the cause for denouncing the outrages of the cancel culture, the dominant ideology in the academic world. Unfortunately, the sheepish youth of the campuses approve of the strategy of propping up libertarian conquests with ridiculous prohibitions. Not having sexual relations with colleagues violates human rights. It’s scary to think about the consequences of adopting arbitrariness like this in Mexico.

Enrique Serna

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Repression in the laboratory