Accuracy patrol

Honestly, they’re still getting this wrong.

The story: senior academic, a male, when a voice on a crowded elevator at a conference invites people to call out their floors, calls out “Ladies’ Lingerie!” Haw haw. Another academic, a woman, makes a complaint, and since this is in the Daily Mail you know the rest.

But then the senior male academic, Richard New Lewbow, telling this sad tale, gets to Tim Hunt.

I know many in my profession are more vulnerable to threats and bullying than I am — at 76 I am near the end of my career. But students and young dons will feel an even greater need to censor their thoughts in a world where people who take offence can muzzle others.

And it is not only young people at risk. You might remember the case of Professor Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning biochemist who made an ill-judged joke to a conference in 2015 about his problems when working with ‘girls’ in the lab — either he fell in love with them, they fell in love with him, or he made them cry.

I certainly wouldn’t endorse this clunky attempt at humour, but the way the academic world turned on him was frightening.

He was forced to resign as a professor at University College London — a Nobel winner’s reputation in tatters over one ill-advised joke.

NO. That is wrong. He wasn’t a professor at UCL; he was an honorary professor, which is an honor as opposed to a job, and an honor that can be withdrawn at any time for any reason, as UCL says very clearly on its website. It wasn’t his job or his career, it was an honorary professorship; he was very sorry to lose it but it wasn’t comparable to being fired. At all.

You’d think a senior academic of all people could manage to get that right.

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