Press "Enter" to skip to content

Boston University fires geologist who sexually harassed women in Antarctica


After a lengthy process, Boston University fired geologist David Marchant in the wake of a prominent sexual harassment case.

Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Meredith Wadman

Boston University (BU) today fired David Marchant, the geologist whose alleged harassment of women at remote Antarctic field camps Science first described 18 months ago.

A faculty Hearing Committee that handled Marchant’s appeal of BU’s November 2017 decision to terminate him had instead recommended that he be suspended for 3 years without pay and prohibited from leading university Antarctic expeditions, according to a letter sent today by BU Provost Jean Morrison to faculty in the Department of Earth & Environment. (Marchant had chaired that department.) However, BU’s president, Robert Brown, overruled the Hearing Committee, deciding that termination was appropriate. In a final, required step under the university’s faculty handbook procedures, BU’s Board of Trustees today accepted Brown’s recommendation. “The decision of the Board of Trustees is final,” Morrison wrote.

“I often say no one ‘wins’ a sexual harassment case, but I’m wrong: Science, academia, and BU are better today because of this announcement,” says Jane Willenbring, the associate professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, whose 2016 complaint to BU’s Title IX office about Marchant’s behavior toward her in Antarctica at the turn of the century launched the investigation of Marchant. She added: “I’m grateful to the many women and men who told the truth about his behavior.”

Marchant, in a statement issued through his lawyer, Jeffrey Sankey of Braintree, Massachusetts, vowed to fight his termination in court. In the statement, Marchant maintains that he has “never” engaged in any form of sexual harassment, “not in 1998 or 1999 in Antarctica or at any time since.”

He calls the investigation conducted by BU’s Title IX office “a travesty, operated by an administration who has capitulated at every turn to the fear of adverse publicity at the expense of providing due process to an esteemed professor who has worked for nearly 20 years since these false allegations supposedly occurred without a single complaint.”

Source: Science Mag