Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"I have become toxic"

This is in no way to dispute the idiocy of his sexist comments, but there's a part of me that's offended over what has subsequently happened to Tim Hunt, strongarmed into resigning from his post at UCL to preserve the university's reputation. It's an archetypal example of how a Twitterstorm over something relatively trivial can blow up and devastate lives, and you have to feel for those whose fleeting moment of madness destroys a long and distinguished career, or alternatively nips a promising career in the bud.

Hunt must now accept that he's not famous for his 2001 Nobel prize (the detail of which was missing from many reports), but instead infamous in the eyes of the general public for his remarks. As he himself admits, "I am finished. I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but I cannot see how that can happen. I have become toxic. I have been hung to dry by academic institutes who have not even bothered to ask me for my side of affairs.” Perhaps, once the dust has settled, he might be able to rebuild his reputation - but, at 72, time isn't on his side.

All that said, Hunt certainly didn't do himself any favours by only offering an apology for any offence caused rather than for the comments themselves, which he now maintains were meant "in a totally jocular, ironic way" having previously implied that he was in fact being honest. After all, to err is human; but to compound that initial lapse of judgement by erring again, after a period of reflection, is less excusable.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

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