Cambridge scholar ‘bullied’ colleague by saying ‘shut up’ and ‘sit down, woman’
A Cambridge University professor was discovered to have bullied and harassed a junior colleague after telling her to ‘shut up’ and ‘sit down, woman’.
Joe Herbert, professor emeritus of neuroscience, has been accused of behaving in a sexist and denigrating manner towards Dr Bronwen Everill, director of the university’s Center for African Studies, during a row over a controversial report on slavery .
The allegation was deemed “well-founded” by the grievance committee at Gonville & Caius College, where Professor Herbert is a lifetime scholar, according to a report seen by Varsity, the student newspaper.
The professor, who has written a book about the influence of testosterone on male behavior, has been accused of repeatedly ‘shhh’ and telling Dr Everill she was ‘not in charge’ here” at a meeting in which he objected to a report on the college’s ties to slavery.
Gonville & Caius was one of several colleges that launched investigations into the legacy of slavery and forced labor following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
Dr. Everill supervised the report, which was authored by Dr. Nicholas Bell-Romero, postdoctoral researcher. Dr. Bell-Romero, who was hired on a one-year contract, resigned after accusing Dons of censorship when they sought clarification.
“I told you to shut up”
Professor Herbert’s research interests include hormones and brain function, risk factors for depression, and the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain.
In 2015 he published a book called Testosterone: Sex, Power and the Will to Win, which explores how testosterone is involved in driving aggression, competitiveness and risk taking.
Following a meeting to discuss the slavery report with Dr Everill, Prof Herbert emailed him saying ‘you are clearly avoiding rational discussion and only one obvious conclusion can be drawn’, reported Varsity.
In another email, he allegedly wrote, “I told you to shut up because you were yelling at me. You weren’t trying to say anything. Are you still refusing a decent conversation? »
In response to the complaint, he reportedly told the grievance committee: “I don’t think ‘woman’ is a term of abuse, is it?”
The college reportedly asked Professor Herbert to apologize. However, it is understood that no further action has been taken.
Dr Everill attacked the college on Monday for what she said was her ‘official take’ that ‘it is unfortunate that Varsity found out’, rather than regretting ‘that the comrade involved behaved in this way in the first place”.
Slavery report controversy
The Telegraph revealed in June that the dons had accused Gonville & Caius of hiring a ‘woke activist’ to write the slavery report, which allegedly includes ‘politically motivated student distortions’.
Dr Bell-Romero said the fellows’ objections were “disproportionate”.
Gonville & Caius was founded in 1348 and is the university’s fourth oldest college. Famous alumni include Francis Crick, who discovered the structure of DNA; Alastair Campbell, former Downing Street press secretary; and Jimmy Carr, the comedian.
The college’s final report on its ties to slavery, released last month, concluded: “Caius alumni, fellows and the college had significant ties to slavery and slave owners and profited from investments and profits related to slavery and forced labour.
He found that “the legacy of slavery did not receive enough attention in Caius”.
The college had “actively invested money in slave-trade related assets”, taken money “from fellows who had made similar investments in a slave-trading business, and elected an owner of slaves in a junior fellowship,” he noted.
“At a time when slavery was constantly challenged, not least by enslaved Africans who fought the plantation system, the decision to make money from the slave trade and forced labor was a choice for benefit from the wider British slave empire.”
The report was ‘inaccurate and misleading’
The errors were said to include an individual misnamed as having slave ties to the college, but his identity was mistaken for someone else.
A don said: “The assumption underlying the report was that it could be proven that the college had been silent about slavery, which it did not because it made donations to the Society of Abolition, as the report showed on some occasions.
Professor Herbert said Varsity’s report was “both inaccurate and misleading in certain key respects”, but declined to comment further.
The college did not respond to a request for comment.