Trigger warning: sexual harassment and vulgar/racist language included.
In an unprecedented turn of events, the UW fired microbiology professor Michael Katze after two investigations into his misuse of university funds and sexual harassment. He gained tenure at the UW in 2009, a time at which Katze already had numerous complaints against him on record.
Katze ran his own lab for approximately 30 years, was the associate director of the Washington National Primate Research Center, and The Daily’s archive shows he studied drugs and vaccines, ranging from the flu to hepatitis to Ebola.
The professor was banned from entering his own lab in Aug. 2015 after the university found Katze, at age 66, sexually harassed co-workers, students, and researchers. The first investigation found he repeatedly made sexually-charged comments to females, demeaned, screamed, and swore at employees, and threatened people with job loss should they retaliate. The report is 53 pages of interviews and statements from multiple victims.
A warning against this behavior was given to him in 2013. In addition, the UW knew about previous complaints, for example, calling a coworker a “f—ing b—-” in 2006. More complaints sprinkle 2010, 2012, and 2013.
Most notably, Katze had a quid pro quo relationship with one of his own employees, a Latin and legal term underneath Title IX meaning he would require sexual favors in return for employment. The investigation stated he made “unwanted sexual contact” and demanded “tolerance of unwanted sexual messages and comments,” proven by text messages.
He financially obligated the victim to stay in the workplace by giving her much higher pay that she would not have gotten elsewhere and gave her gifts including travel and cash.
The physical sexual harassment involved grabbing a woman’s butt and breasts and showing her his penis multiple times. Katze asked this same woman to get him a prostitute and suggested during a separate occasion that she join him in a threesome.
In addition to his profanity and sexual harassment, Katze was known to be racist. He made comments like “don’t they teach English in China,” and called black people “Negroes.”
A second investigation found Katze used university money for personal endeavors, like buying furniture and paying for its delivery and oversight, paying a parking ticket, and providing IT support to a non-UW employee.
In December 2015 and April 2016, the ex-professor then sued the UW and Buzzfeed News’ Azeen Ghoryashi, who broke the story, but lost both suits. Ghoryashi interviewed 26 former lab members and colleagues of Katze. To the UW’s investigator, most expressed that they didn’t feel going to the administration would resolve anything. UW spokesman Norm Arkans told Buzzfeed that Katze had previously received letters, admonishments, and other reprimands, but somehow they missed the pattern until sexual assault allegations were made.
A former Columbia University faculty lab worker under Ian Lipkin told Buzzfeed that Katze is working there as a consultant, which the school’s directory confirmed, but upon request for comment was removed. Arkans said this new job was not sanctioned by the UW.
Both women who Katze sexually harassed lost their jobs. One resigned in March 2016 for a $150,000 settlement from the UW while the other was offered a $30,000 settlement and resignation but declined, after which the lab closed and she was laid off.
Katze attempted re-appealing the UW’s decision but President Ana Mari Cauce sustained it.