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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, July 2, 2007

Sherley locked out of MIT

sherley150.bmpJames L. Sherley (at right in February photo), the African-American stem cell scientist who went on a hunger strike in February to protest what he called racism in MIT's decision to deny him tenure, has been locked out of his laboratory, he said today.

In an e-mail to MIT president Susan Hockfield, he said his staff had been laid off, the locks to the doors of his lab changed and campus police officers stationed in the hallway outside. The university had set a June 30 deadline for his departure, which he disputed.

"I maintain that the forced closure of my laboratory is an illegitimate injustice by your office," he wrote. "MIT is in active violation of the agreement it made with me on February 16 to develop a fair external resolution process without a deadline."

MIT has said previously that its tenure decision is final and that the agreement reached when he ended his hunger strike did not reopen that process.

"His appointment did end June 30," MIT spokeswoman Patti Richards said tonight. "It had already been extended and he did have full access to his lab and office for the duration of his faculty appointment."

Claude Canizares, vice president for research and associate provost at MIT, responded to Sherley's letter to Hockfield.

"As I have stated, as recently as last week, we are deeply disappointed that you have repeatedly declined for several months to develop a transition plan that would have allowed you and your staff to continue your research outside of MIT and for you to participate in the orderly closure of your lab," Canizares's e-mail says. "You chose not to communicate and not to participate in the necessary decommissioning of your lab and relocation of the research by June 30. As supervisor for your staff until June 30, you bore primary responsibility for them and should have taken steps to assist them in their transition."

In his reply, Sherley placed the blame on MIT.

"The responsibility for the present act is MIT's alone," he wrote. "The members of my research group understand this issue fully, as do many in the MIT community."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 08:54 PM
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