clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A sexual misconduct case that rocked anthropology ends with resignation

Brian Richmond leaves the American Museum of Natural History

amnh-american-museum-of-natural-history-flickr vagueonthehow

Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History who has been investigated three times for the same accusation of sexual misconduct, has resigned his post effective December 31st, according to the museum.

For the remainder of Richmond’s time at the museum, he will continue to work offsite, as he has been required to do for the last year, according to a statement from Anne Canty, a spokeswoman for AMNH. He will receive a year of salary as his severance, in keeping with the AMNH policy for tenured curators. The museum has not yet begun the search for his replacement. Richmond did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

As of February of this year, Richmond was the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation that totaled more than $1 million.

Richmond was the subject of a blockbuster investigation in Science magazine in February, which discussed several accusations against the paleoanthropologist. One of his employees publicly accused him of having sexually assaulted her during the final evening of a meeting on human origins in Florence, Italy. (Richmond claims in the Science article that the sexual contact was consensual.) An initial investigation resulted in him being removed as her supervisor. She later went public with her claims, which spawned a second investigation. This second investigation uncovered three undergraduates who say they’d been groped by Richmond at a research site in Kenya, but the investigation concluded in June 2015 and no action was taken.

A third investigation was opened in the wake of reporting from Science. “The investigation ended with Brian’s resignation,” said Canty, the AMNH spokeswoman, in an interview.

“I have an overwhelming sense of sadness, and some hope,” wrote Bernard Wood, who mentored Richmond for 12 years at George Washington University, in an emailed statement to The Verge. After the accusations surfaced, Wood spoke to a number of current and former GWU students about Richmond’s behavior. He was instrumental in removing Richmond from a post at Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is co-run by GWU and the National Museums of Kenya, last year. Wood wrote of being saddened by the “individual’s alleged behavior” and how it affected young women, particularly one who decided to leave the academy.

Incidents like these are all too common in the sciences; numerous sexual harassment scandals have recently surfaced. Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, resigned his position after he was found to have kissed and groped his female students. Jason Lieb, a molecular biologist at the University of Chicago, was said to have made unwanted sexual advances to graduate students; he also resigned. Caltech astronomer Christian Ott was suspended for harassment, a first in the university’s history. Miguel Pinto, a bat researcher, was banned from the Smithsonian after admitting to groping a co-worker in a report by The Verge; Texas Tech is now investigating an alleged decades-long culture of sexual harassment in its biology department, also following a report by The Verge.

However, Wood wrote, he is hopeful that “this episode, which is just one of too many examples of male entitlement, will mark a watershed in all our efforts to make the scientific workplace welcoming to all.”