Episode from the podcastNashville Sounding Board

Episode 30 - Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin on #MeTooSTEM and Vanderbilt tenure struggle

Released Thursday, 28th February 2019
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My guest on this episode is Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a faculty member in the School of Medicine. Dr. McLaughlin is the founder of the #MeTooSTEM nonprofit group and was awarded the MIT Disobedience award for her advocacy for victims of sexual harassment and misconduct. We recorded this interview on February 28th, the same day that her employment at Vanderbilt was set to expire following an unusual tenure process.

Change.org petition: https://www.change.org/p/vanderbilt-don-t-fire-pro…

Topics by minute:
1:20 - Personal background and education
2:07 - What drew you to the field of neuroscience and what was your path to becoming a neuroscientist?
3:30 - Your post doc adviser was a man. What was that experience like and how did it contrast with that of other women?
5:00 - Do you think that sexual harassment is worse in STEM programs than in private industry and other parts of academe? If so, why might that be?
6:40 - What is your research specialty and what’s your record of obtaining grant funding?
8:07 - What was the nature of your own experience with harassment? When did you first become aware of the scale of the problem generally and specifically in STEM?
13:27 - Taking off the blinders and becoming an activist
14:34 - What are the specific shortcomings of the Title IX process?
15:52 - Being a Title IX witness against a colleague
20:25 - What was the nature of your activism or political involvement prior to #MeTooSTEM?
24:00 - Where did the idea of #MeTooSTEM come from? What has been the response both nationally and at Vanderbilt?
26:07 - You frequently use the term “harassholes”...was that your creation?
26:25 - Today (2/28/19) the National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins released a statement apologizing to victims of sexual harassment and highlighting what NIH is doing to change the culture of sexual harassment in science. Director Collins tweeted a special thank you to you and said your “leadership with the #MeTooSTEM movement has given a voice to victims of harassment. Her activism has been valuable in shaping #NIH’s discussion on how to strengthen our efforts.” Have you ever gotten that kind of support and acknowledgement from Vanderbilt administrators?
27:10 - Has your #MeTooSTEM work interfered with your research and grant ability?
30:35 - How do you think your tenure case relates to your activism? The timeline as I understand it is that you were initially recommended and approved for tenure but then that decision was reversed after Vanderbilt Med School CEO Jeffrey Balser asked for the committee to review the decision. Can you talk about your tenure process and the nature of your grievance?
30:45 - So we’re talking here on February 28th...what’s the current status of your case? Is your employment in the hands of Vanderbilt Chancellor Zeppos?
35:50 - You’ve said that you’ve lost 4.5 years of your career and there is no path back. What steps can be taken to lower the price of defiance?
39:45 - Anita Hill, now a professor at Brandeis, wrote you a letter of support. She called you a hero and wrote, “The impact on you and your career are not to be underestimated.” How did that feel??
41:17 - How can listeners support you?
46:25 - What are your plans for the future of #MeTooSTEM?

Nashville Sounding Board is a podcast dedicated to discussing social and political issues affecting Middle Tennessee.

NSB is produced by Benjamin Eagles. Views expressed by Benjamin Eagles in this podcast and on social media are his alone and do not reflect the views of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Music by Craig Turner and Joe Halberstadt

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