Vanderbilt responds to sexual misconduct allegations against David Sweatt

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Vanderbilt responds to sexual misconduct allegations against David Sweatt

Head shot of Dr. David Sweatt, PhD (Chairman and Endowed Professor, Neurobiology), 2015.

Head shot of Dr. David Sweatt, PhD (Chairman and Endowed Professor, Neurobiology), 2015.

Steve Wood UAB Photo

Head shot of Dr. David Sweatt, PhD (Chairman and Endowed Professor, Neurobiology), 2015.

Steve Wood UAB Photo

Steve Wood UAB Photo

Head shot of Dr. David Sweatt, PhD (Chairman and Endowed Professor, Neurobiology), 2015.

Sam Zern, Editor in Chief

At a scientific meeting in 2015, David Sweatt, a professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology in the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted a graduate student from Oregon Health and Science University, Buzzfeed reported yesterday. The student reported the incident to OHSU in 2017, who then reached out to Vanderbilt. Sweatt was put on leave for an investigation in August 2018, 11 months after Vanderbilt became aware of the situation.

Vanderbilt released a statement to The Hustler, detailing the timeline of events and reiterating their commitment to taking “swift and appropriate action” regarding complaints of misconduct.

“Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously,” the statement said. “We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.”

Faculty members were alerted to Sweatt’s leave via email, sent by Larry Marnett, Dean of Sciences. No mention of the allegations were made in the email.

The Dean makes the decision whether to place a faculty member on administrative leave while an inquiry is taking place into the alleged misconduct,” Marnett said. “I made that decision in the case of Professor Sweatt. I also made the decision to focus my communications with the department’s faculty on the practical aspects of the decision rather than the reasons for undertaking the inquiry. Other Deans may have different policies about what they include in such communications, and this is often dictated by the nature of the alleged misconduct and confidentiality policies.”

Sweatt is being represented by Andrew Miltenberg, a lawyer specializing in campus misconduct due process and Title IX. The Hustler contacted Miltenberg on Oct. 31 via email and on Nov. 1 via phone, but has yet to hear back. Miltenberg told Buzzfeed that Sweatt denies any wrongdoing, and that the accusations were “set in motion by people with a destructive, political agenda.”

Sweatt’s page is no longer visible on the Department of Pharmacology website, though his lab’s page is still active.

Read Vanderbilt’s full statement below:

Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously. We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.

When a report of sexual misconduct is made by any member of our community, we take swift and appropriate action. The safety and security of the Vanderbilt community is our utmost concern.

In the fall of 2017, OHSU informed Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action and Disability Services Office (EAD) that an unidentified former OHSU graduate student had provided information about an incident involving Dr. David Sweatt. As soon as Vanderbilt’s EAD Office received the information, they worked immediately to substantiate it. Vanderbilt’s EAD Office promptly asked OHSU to ask their former student if they wished to report the matter to Vanderbilt. The former OHSU student did not wish to be identified to Vanderbilt EAD or to make a report. Vanderbilt’s EAD Office continued to pursue the issue until they had exhausted all available lines of inquiry. Since Vanderbilt EAD had no other information about the incident at the time, including the identity of OHSU’s former student, they did not have a sufficient basis for conducting an investigation or taking any other immediate action.

Vanderbilt EAD followed up with OHSU several months later, before any accusations concerning Dr. Sweatt appeared on social media, to determine if OHSU’s former student had reported any additional information. When Vanderbilt’s EAD Office receives reports, it respects the complainant’s right to choose whether to participate in any investigation. Vanderbilt EAD received no additional information at that time.

In August 2018, additional allegations were posted on social media. This new information provided Vanderbilt’s EAD Office with enough additional information to start an official investigation.

Dr. Sweatt is currently on leave. The investigation is ongoing. Vanderbilt is carefully following its processes in this matter, as is done in all reports of this nature, to protect the privacy of the parties and preserve the fairness of the process.[/su_expand]

The Hustler will continue to provide updates as we learn more.

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