A cold case

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Science  13 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 162-165
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6360.162

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Boston University (BU) is investigating sexual harassment complaints made against a noted Antarctic geologist by two of his former graduate students. The women allege that David Marchant, then an assistant professor, harassed them while they were isolated in small research groups in Antarctica. In supporting documents and interviews, several other women report similar treatment from Marchant in that era. The first complainant, Jane Willenbring, now an associate professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, alleges that Marchant repeatedly shoved her down a steep slope, pelted her with rocks while she was urinating in the field, and called her a "slut" and a "whore." Marchant, now a department chair at BU, declined to comment or to provide his written rebuttal to the complaint, although other documents suggest that he denies the allegations. Some women who have worked with Marchant stoutly defend his character, calling him upstanding and professional, and say that they do not recognize the man described in the complaints. The case raises the question of whether women can successfully press complaints many years after allegedly abusive incidents.

  • * Editor's note: This article includes crude language and disturbing details.

  • This story was supported by the Science Fund for Investigative Reporting.

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