The University College London Council has backed the decision of the university’s executive of accepting the resignation of Sir Tim Hunt noting that it acknowledges that all parties agree that reinstatement would be inappropriate.
The UCL Council said that it reviewed all of the circumstances of the resignation of Sir Tim Hunt as an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Life Sciences on June 10 including the exchange of emails between Sir Tim and UCL and is satisfied that his resignation was accepted in good faith.
Prof Hunt made comments about his “trouble with girls” during a toast at a lunch for female scientists in June. His comments immediately invited widespread criticism from the scientific community – so much so that the scientist resigned from an honorary post at UCL.
Hunt later said that he was left with no option by the university and so he had to step down. However, soon after his resignation, his supporters including Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins, called for his reinstatement.
The short statement from the UCL council also acknowledges that the extent of media interest and coverage in the matter was unprecedented, “and Council recognises the distress caused to Sir Tim and Professor Mary Collins.”
According to reports citing University insiders, the media coverage and controversies surrounding the comments made by Sir Hunt threatened to overshadow the genuine challenges universities are facing concerning gender bias. One of the sources, who is said to be a UCL council member, was quoted by The Guardian as saying “It’s the story that just kept on running, to the huge detriment of UCL.”
The report further notes the member as stating that though there were a range of views within the council about the comments, the members were united on one front and it was that UCL had handled the whole thing badly.
“No one thinks it’s been handled well – there’s a lot of dismay about that”, the source added.
The Council also publicly acknowledged this shortcoming in its statement. It said: “Council recognises that there are lessons to be learned around the communication process. Consequently it has requested that the executive undertake a review of its communications strategy.”