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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rollins President Duncan to Women: It Comes Down to Morals vs. Pragmatism


More on the Karpova-Toadygawa story.  This may be the best part of all.  Because you see, Zuskateers, it isn't just Toadygawa who's had his true colors exposed.  Consider this quote from the Boston Globe:     

If the accusations are deemed true, [MIT president] Hockfield will face the task of standing up to one of MIT's greatest luminaries, someone who brings in tens of millions of dollars of research funding.  "This may come down to a question of pragmatism vs. moral leadership for the president," said Lewis M. Duncan, president of Rollins College in Florida and former dean of engineering at Dartmouth College.

There you have it.  Out in print.  If you bring in enough research money, presidents and deans of engineering will let you get away with the most egregious forms of sex discrimination because, after all, it's pragmatic.  Even if it is ILLEGAL.  Go ahead and hang the women out to dry.  Or let them hang themselves; laundry is women's work, isn't it? 


To sum up:  he's rich, you're a bitch.


I know you are all busy with research and preparation for the onslaught of fall semester and arrival of first-year students and resumption of heavy teaching schedules.  So you don't have time to compose witty, angry letters to morons who suggest that illegality is pragmatic and therefore we should just toss our morals out the window because after all, it's just women, and we all know their tiny brains can't handle the math anyway.  I am not, of course, saying that that is what President Duncan himself was saying or implying.  I was just letting my imagination run wild there.  


Nevertheless, you might wish to send a witty, angry letter or email to President Duncan informing him of the danger that statements like his pose for people whose imaginations might run wild and then just stay there instead of coming back to reality.  So I have composed that letter for you.  Feel free to copy and modify as you wish.  You could mail it to him at 

Lewis Duncan, Office of the President, 1000 Holt Avenue-2711, Winter Park, FL  32789

Or you could fax it to him at


You could phone the office and verbally express your sentiments


Or, much faster and easier, you could email him at


So, here's the letter:

Month day, year

RE:  your comments in 7/28/06 Boston Globe article regarding Karpova/Tonegawa/MIT

Office of the President, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Avenue-2711, Winter Park, FL  32789

Dear President Duncan:

As you know, the NIH is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research.   That means taxpayer dollars pay for research like that conducted at Dr. Susumu Tonegawa’s Picower Institute.  In addition, NIH funds center grants, worth millions and millions of dollars over 5 and 10 year periods; the Picower institute has nine such grants totaling a possible $45 million, with Dr. Tonegawa as principal investigator.  As a taxpayer, I am concerned as to whether or not federal funds are being used in an educational setting that discriminates against women - which, of course, is illegal (Title IX).  I think that's enough money for the public to want some accountability.  In addition, the guidelines for Silvio O. Conte Centers for Neuroscience Research, such as the Picower Institute, state:     

[Centers] should provide opportunities for young investigators who have the potential for independent research careers to become skilled in the experimental strategies, approaches, and techniques of modern neuroscience research.  In addition, there should be close coordination between the Center and relevant predoctoral and/or postdoctoral research training programs of the participating institutions.  Special attention should also be given to the recruitment and training of minority students.

As a taxpayer, I am paying individuals like Dr. Tonegawa not only to do research, but to mentor and train young scientists.  Graduate students and postdoctoral students in other laboratories who could benefit from the resources and work in centers like the Picower should and must have access to those resources.  To deny them access is to violate the terms of the federal funding such centers accepted.  To deny them because they are women or minorities is to violate Federal law.  I hope this is not the case at MIT or elsewhere.  I am thinking of asking my senator to look into this.

You were quoted in the Boston Globe as follows, "This may come down to a question of pragmatism vs. moral leadership for the president [of MIT]." I hope this does not suggest that you believe situations where federal funding guidelines may have been violated, or federal laws broken, should be overlooked merely because an individual has been effective in obtaining federal funding.  That certainly is not the leadership I would expect of a university president.  It is definitely not the kind of leadership I'd expect from a president who was previously a dean of engineering.  Such a president should surely have firsthand experience and knowledge of the hardships women face in science and engineering careers in academia.  An unawareness and/or lack of sensitivity to these issues is a serious deficit in personal leadership.  But an inability to steward an institution through a situation that could potentially result in a federal lawsuit is a serious liability for the institution that would hire such a person.  

Sincerely yours,

A Concerned Taxpayer 

12:57:37 PM    comment [] trackback []

Touching Concern of Tonegawa for Karpova's Welfare

Chemchick wanted to know if I had seen this news item and indeed I did remark upon this in a previous post.  I bring it up now because there is an update to report.  I refer, of course, to the disgracefully shabby treatment of Alla Karpova by Dr.Toadygawa, I mean Tonegawa (cat must have walked across the keyboard there) at MIT.  Please note, text in square brackets [ ] is inserted by me to paraphrase or clarify a quoted excerpt.  I don't wish to imply that the Chronicle of Higher Education (or the Boston Globe, below), from which I am quoting, have cats running across their keyboards.    

MIT Scientist Told Postdoc "Unpleasant Competition Will Be Unavoidable"

...[Dr. Toadygawa] was seeking to dissuade—yes, dissuade—[Dr. Karpova] from accepting a job at MIT because their research interests coincided and he is said to have regarded her as a rival.

The [BostonGlobe, which broke the story two weeks ago, cites one message in which the young researcher, Alla Karpova, urged the senior scientist, Susumu [Toadygawa], to give her a chance, even pledging to stay away from research areas he considered his own. Mr. [Toadygawa] has denied trying to interfere in the job offer, but the Globe quotes him as saying in one message to [Ms.] Karpova that "unpleasant competition will be unavoidable." 

The Boston Globe article has more details of the whole sorry affair.  Here are the opening paragraphs of their story; you can read the full transcript of the emails on their site:

Forty minutes after MIT's biology department voted to offer a job to a young neuroscientist, Nobel laureate Susumu [Toadygawa] sent the woman an e-mail warning that her arrival at the university would create serious problems because she would be competing directly with him.

"I am sorry . . . I do not feel comfortable at all to have you here as a junior faculty colleague," [Toadygawa] wrote to Alla Karpova , a postdoctoral fellow in her late 20s, who subsequently turned down MIT's offer and took a job in a Virginia lab.

In e-mails obtained by the Globe, [Toadygawa] strongly counseled Karpova not to accept the job, suggesting that professors trying to recruit her were misleading her into thinking that MIT could provide her a supportive atmosphere.

Well, by all means, let Mr. Toadygawa's comfort be the most important thing in the universe and a central consideration in every hiring decision ever made at MIT.  I would relish the opportunity to someday barf on Toadygawa's shoes.  Zuskateers in the Boston area, if you have a chance...

Here's the really touching part:

[Toadygawa] sent a second e-mail on May 13, saying his McGovern colleagues were enthusiastic about Karpova because she could help them compete with his already successful work at the Picower and were not paying enough attention to her personal welfare.

Why, it brings a tear to the eye.  So it wasn't just about trying to crush the career of a young, highly intelligent female in order to keep her from encroaching on even a teeny tiny piece of Toadygawa's fiefdom.  He was concerned for her personal welfare!  And his nefarious McGovern colleagues were just recruiting her willy-nilly without a care in the world for what was best for her.  When anyone could see that NOT hiring her at MIT was really the best thing for her personal welfare, because of MIT's well-known hostility to females.  From people like...Toadygawa.

10:56:46 AM    comment [] trackback []

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