Campus, News

BU concludes professor sexually harassed female research students in Antarctica

By Elise Takahama and Alana Levene

A member of the Boston University Graduate Student Union speaks at a rally against sexual assault following allegations against BU professor David Marchant. PHOTO BY CHLOE GRINBERG/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University’s Office of Equal Opportunity concluded that geology professor David Marchant — who has been accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment — violated the university’s sexual harassment and equal opportunity policies, after a 13-month investigation.

“The investigators found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Professor Marchant directed derogatory sex-based slurs and sexual comments at Dr. [Jane] Willenbring during the 1999-2000 field expedition to Antarctica,” University Provost Jean Morrison wrote in a letter sent out to faculty Friday evening.

Willenbring was the first accuser to come forward last fall, nearly two decades after working with Marchant on one of his many research expeditions to Antarctica. Willenbring claimed Marchant threw rocks at her while she tried to urinate, pushed her down slopes and tried to goad her into having sex with her brother, according to an Oct. 6 Science Magazine article.

BU investigators found that Marchant “directed derogatory sex-based slurs and sexual comments at Dr. Willenbring,” but did not find sufficient evidence of physical or psychological abuse.

The university based its findings on the testimonies of over 30 witnesses and more than 1,000 pages of records from Willenbring, Marchant and other witnesses, according to the letter.

Unless Marchant, a tenured member and former chair of the department of earth and environment, successfully appeals the findings of the investigation, he will be terminated from the university as “the violations were of a sufficiently serious nature,” the letter read.

In the meantime, he will remain a faculty member on paid administrative leave. BU spokesperson Colin Riley was not available for comment Friday. 

“We take all complaints of sexual harassment very seriously and will always be vigilant in conducting a thorough, fair, and effective investigation,” wrote Morrison in the letter. “We are committed to creating an environment for all members of the University community that is free from sexual harassment.”

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Campus News Editor Fall '17

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