Petition update

The case for BethAnn McLaughlin's tenure

Sharona Gordon
Seattle, WA, United States

Mar 8, 2019 — 

BethAnn McLaughlin’s job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center is in jeopardy after the Faculty Executive Committee voted to approve her tenure, but reversed their decision after intervention by the Dean. Tenure at VUMC is based on performance in research, teaching, and service. Let's look at each of these criteria, one at a time, and evaluate the strength of her tenure portfolio. Based on this evaluation, it seems clear that denying her tenure is rooted in retaliation against her for acting as a witness in a sexual harassment case and her continued activism for women in STEM.

Research: Prof. McLaughlin has received two prestigious R01 grants from the NIH, supporting research over the periods 2005-2010 and 2015-2019. In addition, she has been awarded grants by IARPA and the Dan Marino Foundation. She has an additional grant proposal pending at NIH. She has over 40 peer-reviewed publications, with 30 of these published since she was appointed an Assistant Professor in 2005.

Teaching: Including symposium participation, medical school lectures/grand rounds, undergraduate student mentoring, graduate thesis committee participation, and supervision of postdoctoral scholars, Prof. McLaughlin’s teaching activities span three pages of her CV. Based on the comments left in response to the petition, her students find her teaching to be inspiring.

Service: Prof. McLaughlin has served on numerous NIH study sections, indicating that the NIH finds her expertise sufficient to judge her peers’ grant proposals. She served on the Scientific Board of Directors of the Cornell Burke Research Institute. In her role as Reviewing Editor for Journal of Neuroscience, she has shaped many publications in her field. Other noted service accomplishments include: getting Rate My Professor to drop their hot chili pepper rating, which demeaned all faculty, especially women; founding, a forum for targets of sexual harassment to share their experiences and seek/provide support; bringing “safe rooms” to international scientific conferences, hosting MeTooSTEM information sessions online and in person; and providing personal advising to over 200 targets of sexual harassment in academia. She was recognized for this work by the 2018 Disobedience Award from the MIT Media Labs.

Based on my experience as a full professor in a related field at the University of Washington School of Medicine, I see ample evidence to support granting Prof. Mclaughlin tenure. If her record of sustained accomplishment is not sufficient, it is hard to imagine that anyone could ever qualify. Tell Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos know that Prof. McLaughlin’s career of research, teaching, and service should be rewarded with tenure by signing this petition and sending email to

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