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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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« Springfield hospital proposes expansion | Main | MIT professor ends hunger strike »

Friday, February 16, 2007

Former MIT president, student paper counter Sherley

Former MIT president Paul E. Gray took issue with James E. Sherley's characterization of Gray's overtures on Wednesday, and an editorial today in the student newspaper, The Tech, said Sherley's claims of racism lack evidence.

Sherley, an African-American stem cell scientist, says he has lost 20 pounds while on a hunger strike since Feb. 5, when he demanded MIT reverse its denial of tenure and take actions to address what he calls a racist environment. In an e-mail yesterday, Sherley alleged that Gray was sent by the MIT administration to "bully" him.

Thursday's e-mail from Gray, an electrical engineering professor, said he visited Sherley to express his personal views of his tenure case and protest.

"I was not 'sent' by the administration. I am not an errand boy. Your messages are rich with claims of lies by members of the administration. You would do well to ascertain the facts before spreading your own lie about me."

The editorial in the student newspaper said evidence of racism in Sherley's case is lacking.

"If his allegations of conflicts of interest, personal vendettas, and misleading public statements are indeed true, they would certainly constitute a breakdown in the tenure process, and would warrant some form of action to safeguard against future problems. However, even if one were to accept every single one of Mr. Sherley's allegations at face value, there would still be no evidence of racism," the editorial says.

"In lieu of any substantive evidence, why would Mr. Sherley, and why should we, automatically assume that racism is the most likely cause for the denial of his tenure? It may well be the case that an offense has been committed against Mr. Sherley in the denial of his tenure. But an offense committed against an individual who happens to be a minority race is different from an offense committed against an individual because they happen to be in a minority race both may be unethical, but the latter is racism while the former is not."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 12:05 PM
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