BuzzFeed science reporter Azeen Ghorayshi has published a deeply reported exposé on Michael Katze, a University of Washington professor the university says violated its sexual harassment policies, retaliated against employees, and misused public funds. Katze's behavior went unchecked by his employer for years, BuzzFeed reports.
Katze, who ran a lab conducting highly valued research on Ebola and other viruses, sued the UW and BuzzFeed News to stop the release of the university's investigations into his conduct, and lost.
Ghorayshi's piece documents the results of two investigations, one from the university and another from the university's School of Medicine, showing how Katze treated two employees in particular.
One of the employees was an administrator whom Katze had hired, at an unusually high salary, on the implicit condition that she submit to his sexual demands. He personally rewarded this woman, known as Mary Roe in some court documents, with “thousands or even tens of thousands” of dollars a year in cash and gifts, the investigation found.
One of the university's lead investigators also interviewed 26 of Katze's current and former employees about his behavior. Here's how that investigator described Katze's conduct:
Messerle wrote that interviewees described Dr. Katze as “someone who became angry when challenged, who became sarcastic and cruel when upset, and someone capable of going to great lengths to retaliate.” Katze also used racist and sexist slurs, the report noted, sometimes referring to black people as “negroes” and “describing women as ‘bitches’ or ‘fucking bitches’ and on at least one occasion as a ‘cunt.’”
According to Ghorayshi, the university is still paying Katze a salary even though a faculty panel is considering firing him. A UW spokesperson told BuzzFeed that Katze's troubling behavior had been documented as early as 2006, which the university responded to for years by sending him admonishing letters. He's held tenure since 2009.
The UW released this statement in response to Ghorayshi's article:
When the sexual harassment complaints were made, Dr. Katze was removed from his lab and put on home assignment. A thorough investigation was commenced through UCIRO, the University’s complaint, investigation and resolution office. The investigation found that Dr. Katze had violated University sexual harassment policies.
His conduct was inappropriate and not in any way reflective of the University’s values. This is why the matter is now in the faculty disciplinary process, through which an appropriate outcome will be adjudicated.