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April 20, 2017

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | On a professor’s misconduct

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To the Editor:

The recent union drive at Cornell, like those at other campuses across the country, has given a voice to the issues that graduate students face. One of the most pressing issues on which grads have organized  is sexual harassment.

This issue hits close to home at Cornell, which has more active Title IX investigations than any other university in the nation. For graduate students, facts like this are especially worrisome. Per a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities, grad students were four times more likely to be sexually harassed by a professor than undergrads. Professors who supervise grads have unparalleled influence over their future careers, which can create an environment in which grads feel they do not dare to lodge complaints.

As a graduate student at Cornell, I am extremely troubled — in fact, disgusted — by the conduct of Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department David Collum. For years, Collum has publicly shared extremely sexist, bigoted and misogynistic statements. These statements make me wonder how he can supervise female and/or LGBTQ students without creating what the law and Cornell’s policy call a “hostile work environment.” Allow me to share some examples:

He has used transphobic slurs to describe transwomen, calling them “trannies.”


He has made posts indicating that he sees allowing young people to identify as their preferred gender as child abuse. He then supported that claim by referencing the American College of Pediatrics (a fringe group founded to push anti-LGBTQ beliefs).


He has tweeted support for Mike Cernovich, a rape apologist whose social media record includes statements like: “Have you guys ever tried ‘raping’ a girl without using force? Try it. It’s basically impossible. Date rape does not exist”



He has repeatedly tweeted rape-apologetic views, pushing the myth that rape on college campuses is a “perceived” threat, for example:

“In an effort to stem a perceived epidemic of sexual violence against women, the Department of Education sent strong messages to universities” -David B. Collum, Year in Review 2015

He has told men accused of sexual assault to sue their victims (“accuser”).


He told a friend to “bring roofies” (a date rape drug) on a trip to Las Vegas.DC4

The problem of allowing such a person to supervise graduate students and graduate workers is compounded by Cornell’s policies with respect to complaints of sexual harassment: as the Department Chair for Chemistry, official complaints via Cornell’s Policy 6.4 would go through him personally. How can graduate students at risk for sexual assault and bias feel safe knowing the man handling sexual harassment complaints is a rape apologist?

Sexual harassment is a real issue which should not be taken lightly, and having a rape apologist who encourages the use of date rape drugs serve as Chair of the Chemistry Department makes it impossible for such cases to be dealt with objectively.

Cornell advertises itself as a “caring” institution, where grad students are supposed to feel — and be! — safe. But with people like Collum sitting at the table where these issues should be addressed, it makes one wonder how many cases are handled with the dignity they deserve. Indeed, it makes one wonder whether any student in the Chemistry Department would dare to bring a complaint, even in the case of the most egregious misconduct. Harassment is extensive in many labs that employ graduate students, and research shows that the high prevalence of sexual harassment in labs has been one of the major factors discouraging women from going into the STEM fields.

Cornell needs to join other universities and have official sexual assault complaints handled by a neutral and objective third party.

David Collum cannot be trusted to advise students and he needs to be removed from his position as Chair of the Chemistry Department.

Kevin Hines, grad
Robert Escriva, grad
Ethan Susca, grad
Mel White, grad
Rose Agger, grad
Kolbeinn Karlsson, grad
Jane Glaubman, grad

  • who hired this loser

    this guy’s a joke. seems like he just whines on twitter all day about things he knows nothing about. there’s no way he’s qualified to be chair, and he should step down (or be dismissed) so someone who can actually do the job can replace him. it’s too bad he’s got tenure, because if he actually worked in the real world, he’d be rightfully canned.

    • Female chem grad who needs evidence that support your false accusations

      A couple posts from twitter that are months and even years apart and you think all he does is sit around all day on twitter? Dave Column’s qualifications come from the fact that he is one of the BEST physical organic chemists in the world, not to mention the fact that he completed a Ph.D. in two years. Tenure stems from his brilliant academic research, NOT from his personal twitter account posts. There are many “real world” employees and management officials who not only make comments against women but will also take action to physically harass them and use their authority to get away with it (simply google this and numerous accounts will show up). Dave Column is a fantastic chair and not once have I experienced any sort of misogynistic comment from him. He fully supports all graduate students and I have yet to hear a complaint from ANYONE in his group.

      Please do not make the bold accusation that he is not qualified to be chair and cannot properly do the job simply based on a few twitter posts that have NOTHING to do with his real job as a chemist and chair of the department. In order to make this accusation, please provide evidence as to how a brilliant chemist like Dave has failed to make the Cornell Chemistry department as great as it currently is.

      • if you know him so well why cant you spell his dang name

        being good at chemistry doesn’t magically make david collum good at his chairship at all, which requires a completely different skillset he clearly doesn’t have

        • Grad1

          Dave would be in the top one or two people that many of us in the department would feel comfortable going to for help in a horrible situation. Even when his term ends he will still be a go-to. He may say insensitive things every once in a while but this man is very approachable, down to earth, and he would absolutely fight for you if you needed help.

          I can understand why it may look otherwise from his twitter page but the reality is that any chemgrad would be hard pressed to find a more understanding faculty member.

    • Angry female chem grad

      This is absolutely absurd. How can you say he is not qualified for his job or should have not gotten tenure based on his tweets! Tweets do not accurately represent someone’s work or personality. Drawing this conclusion is just simply wrong. Any grad student would be lucky to have someone like Dave Collum on his or her graduate committee. Being one of them, I am honoured to have him advise me and my research.

      • Grad Worker at Cornell

        Not tenure, chairship. He got tenure like a million years ago…and being an appropriate adjudicator for sexual harassment claims has nothing to do with how fast one finishes his PhD or how many papers he publishes.

        It’s actually pretty alarming how many chem grads are posting responses to this that are missing the point by a wide margin and deriving totally absent conclusions from the letter. Does the Cornell chemistry program actually cause grads to lose their ability to read and synthesize words grouped together that aren’t Dave Collum’s? An investigation for another day, perhaps.

        • Female chem grad

          We’re not missing the point at all. I think it’s safe to say we all recognize the importance of a safe work space…what we are trying to do is stop others from making illogical fallicies and invalid assumptions about a person they know nothing about.

    • Thomas Collum

      Who are you? Until you say that out in the open using your true identity, you’re the joke.

      Thomas Collum, Dave’s son

  • Had bad expirences

    This man is awful. He is creating a hostile enviornment for many of his students.

    • grad

      Have you actually talked to any of his students?

      • Kevin Hines

        We talked to grads in Chemistry, yes.

        • female chem grad who feel VERY safe

          But have you spoken to any of HIS students?

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            The letter demands that he step down as chair, and it doesn’t say that he is directly doing anything to HIS students (creepy emphasis on the possessive). If he is, that would be grounds to charge him under other portions of the law.

            The logic here is thus: if Jeff Sessions publishes a series of tweets that jokes/claims that sex or race based discrimination is funny, or isn’t real, his ability to prosecute equal protection cases without bias is going to be called into serious question. Finding out that he has never faced a claim himself from HIS employees doesn’t change that one whit.

            “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”–but Dave has supplied COPIOUS evidence of his views. Intentionally, in public.

        • Different grad

          You didn’t answer the question, just like most union reps.

          Did you talk to any grad students in Collum’s lab?

          • Female chem grad

            Worker at Cornell,

            Your comment is not relavant to this current thread. The initial post in this thread said that Dave Column is creating a “hostile environment for his students.” At this point in the comments, we are asking that the grad who said this give us direct evidence of this claim by asking if they have spoken to any of Dave’s students. We are not commenting on the article but rather the accusation made with no evidence by “grad.”

    • chem grad

      I have heard no negative experiences from members of the Collum lab with Dave. And I would actually feel more comfortable bringing up difficulties as a graduate student with him than I would with other professors. Yes, he makes lots of politically incorrect twitter posts. But in my experience he’s a good guy, a good advisor and professor, and a tremendous chemist. I’m glad he is in the department and I always look forward to my interactions with him.

      • Grad Worker at Cornell

        The letter demands that he step down as chair, and it doesn’t say that he is directly doing anything the students working in his lab.

        The logic here is thus: if Jeff Sessions publishes a series of tweets that jokes/claims that sex or race based discrimination is funny, or isn’t real, his ability to prosecute equal protection cases without bias is going to be called into serious question. Finding out that he has never faced a claim himself from his employees doesn’t change that one whit.

        “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”–but Dave has supplied COPIOUS evidence of his views. Intentionally, in public.

        • Reasonable person

          You guys realize that Dave Collum’s term ends in July anyway right?

        • Snowflake

          Saying tranny does not mean you hate transexual people. This was quite common before the snowflakes decided it was offensive.

          Just like saying idiot doesn’t mean you hate people with IQ of 0-25 and saying moron doesn’t mean you hate people with IQ of 50-70 (original definitions). Retarded used to be the politically correct term before SJW’s decided they had nothing else to be upset about. This is history repeating itself.

          Likewise, being willing to wait for due process in rape allegations does not mean you are ok with rape. The only possible way these this could be ignored is if there are other motivations for this character assassination.

          Do not equate Dave Collum with Jeff Sessions. That is idiotic and moronic.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            It is not an equation, it is an analogical comparison and not a personal one. You know, analogies:

            Dave::Jeff as Chemistry Department::United States as University Code of Conduct::US Constitution as Collum Lab::Department of Justice. Fun!

            Dave Collum as chair creates the conditions by which due process exists in his department. He doesn’t “wait for” it.

            Also, just wondering: Are you saying I am both someone with an IQ of less than 25 *and* someone with an IQ of more than 50 but less than 70? Or just generally “retarded”? Hard to tell

            (Also, the term “retarded” has been considered derogatory and started to be considered an inappropriate word for developmentally disabled folks since the 1960s.)

            According to your “equation” (I’ll call it the Snowflake Theorem) using the N-word to refer to black people, which used to be considered totally normal, should have never ceased. It was only until those darn SJW black people in the NAACP started objecting that we weren’t allowed to just call an N-word an N-word without people getting mad at us!

            I wish we still lived back in the good old days when wives still had to address their husbands as “Lord.” Too bad the whole “wait, women shouldn’t be the property of men” thing made that obsolete and is now considered insane. Snowflakes!

          • Graduate Student

            If you truly don’t see the distinction between “Snowflakes” comment and the nonsense you spilled onto the page there doesn’t seem to be much room for civil discussion.

            It seems like the proponents of this propaganda know none of Dr. Collum’s views but they know, KNOW, that he’s a bad person. This is the perfect example of unearned and self proclaimed moral superiority.

  • no more pizza parties please

    In the words of the man himself, “forever is a very long time” which is why we should think twice about giving people like David Collum a tenured position of power over students.

  • Alex

    What the authors of this article don’t say is that the real reason they are on this witch-hunt against Collum is that he was bold enough to speak out against the union. They are still sore. First they leaked his private email opposing the union, and now they want revenge. So they dig through every politically incorrect thing he has ever said and imply that he sexually harrasses people, without any evidence, bordering on libel. Why does the Sun publish this? I for one am glad that Cornell has a few professors who are willing to be politically incorrect at times.

    • grad

      Thanks for saying this Alex! I agree entirely with your comment.

    • grad

      Where in the article do the authors imply that he’s harassing anyone? They are saying that he shouldn’t be handling harassment cases in his department.

    • Kevin Hines

      We never implied that he sexually harrasses people. He is a rape apologist; that is a fact. Rape apologists should not be handling cases of sexual assault because they have a bias that will make objective decisions near impossible.

      The Sun published this because it is Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW) at Cornell and how sexual assault is handled on college campuses is an active topic for debate. The university has an interest in protecting it’s faculty who are responsible for bringing in grant money. These cases need to be dealt with by an outside party that isn’t worried about how much federal money a professor is bringing in.

      A professor has no right to create a hostile work environment. As the department chair, the work environment he creates extends outside of his lab.

      • Female chem grad in support of Dave

        I would like some evidence of Dave creating a hostile work environment before making that bold statement. Making assumptions based on his twitter posts is not valid evidence.

        • Kevin Hines

          Actually, according to the HR department his public views are valid evidence since he doesn’t make any statement separating them from Cornell.

          Dave’s use of transphobic slurs:

          A. Prohibited Discrimination
          “When an employment or academic decision that results in negative and/or different treatment of an individual based upon his or her membership in an Equal Education and Employment Opportunity (“EEEO”)-protected class, such as . . . reinforcing the use of stereotypes that unreasonably impacts a person’s environment or opportunities”

          Dave’s rape apologetic views:

          B. Protected Status Harassment
          “Protected-status harassment occurs when [the faculty] creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.”

          His very public views meet this criteria

          • A transgender person who thinks you are being ridiculous

            Either you are dodging the question or you are still not understanding. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are avoiding the question. . You need evidence that he is a transphobe (which is a nonsense word) and rape apologist (more nonsense). So far you have provided zero evidence.

      • frustrated chem grad

        To say that Dave is a rape apologist is completely out of left field and patently false. This bold claim requires bold evidence which you have not provided in the least.

        THIS IS VIRTUE SIGNALING AT ITS FINEST. Try thinking for yourself one of these days.

        • ‘virtue signaling’ is fake my friend

          lol do you need help finding your way back to r/redpill

      • TC

        “He is a rape apologist. That is a fact.”

        We can stop reading anything else you have to read right there. This is Critical Theory Religion vocabulary, and nothing postulated as a tenant in any religion can be called “fact.” If you were a conservative evangelical Christian and said, “he is a tool of the dark forces of Satan, that is a fact” you’d be rightly laughed off this newspaper’s page. Just because your particular religion is in vogue does not make anything you say worth listening to.

        Renounce your neo-marxist religion, come back to us with actual scientific facts, and then make your case. Maybe then you’ll be worth listening to.

      • Tom

        Should people that always side with a female accuser handle alleged sexual assault cases?

    • Ethan Ritz

      I for one am glad that Cornell has a few students who actually care about sexual harassment victims enough to try to make things safer for them. This isn’t about ‘political correctness’ – this is not a game, even if you’d like to pretend it is. It’s a dead serious matter and I’m proud of these students for speaking out. If these tweets are a reflection of how his mind works, then Collum isn’t fit to be Chair, nor be in any position of institutional power over anyone at all.

      • Female chem grad

        To make the assumption that only a few students care about sexual harassment is extremely bold, and most likely wrong.

  • grad

    Have any of the letter writers actually spoken to *any* grad students in the chemistry department or even better spoken to several ? As a female grad student in the chemistry department I have to say that I feel perfectly safe here and would have NO concerns about bringing a harassment claim to the department.

    • Kevin Hines

      We did. We heard stories from students in the Chemistry Department that we could not put to paper because the students are too afraid of going public. I’m glad you feel safe, but many others do not.

      • another chem grad

        This is absurd. The Collum group is an extremely happy group as is the rest of the chemistry department. Dave’s intuition and advice is revered among the department.

        There is plenty of debate left to be had about the transgender issue first of all, and every other example is taken completely out of context. Have any of you ever seen The Hangover. Dave was making a joke about roofies with reference to that movie. LEARN TO TAKE A JOKE and stop being oversensitive and policing other peoples language. IF there is anyone in the department that does not “feel safe” they are an infinitesimally small minority. To say that “many others do not” feel safe is ignorance at best and willful misinformation at worst.

        The union advocates have been spewing complete nonsense about the department and how terrible it is. This is reprehensible behavior and it interferes with peoples ability to find truth.

        • Kevin Hines

          “IF there is anyone in the department that does not “feel safe” they are an infinitesimally small minority.”

          Oh, so who cares? Gotcha.

          “LEARN TO TAKE A JOKE”

          Rape isn’t a joke. Jokes are funny. Telling someone to bring roofies isn’t a joke.

          • Not Kevin Hines

            This is a red herring. No one said you shouldn’t care about sexual assault. But it is very important to have a sense of proportion as to how much this is actually happening.

            Another red herring. No one said rape is a joke. And no one even joked about rape. You seem to be reading to far into what Collum says in an effort to find anything that you can be upset about.


            Here is the link to the movie you must not have seen. OMG, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakis are all rape apologists. Everyone, lets go get them fired!

      • yet another chem grad

        You know what? I’m calling BS. If you actually did speak to Chem grads that felt too intimidated to speak out against a prfessor, this article would be targeting a very different person for different reasons.

        • Grad Worker at Cornell

          What? The article “targets” public statements *Collum* has made concerning sex and gender based discrimination, assault and harassment. Those statements alone are enough to rise to the level of an official complaint.

          Are you implying that there is a faculty member in Chem that has been systematically abusing grads with impunity? Well, then, maybe if Dave Collum weren’t the chair that person’s victims would feel comfortable making claims! Or if there were another way to file claims–say a neutral third party–those grads would feel free to make the claims without jeopardizing their jobs and future prospects.

          Man, the defensive responses to this by grads in chemistry are in full blowback mode…calling bullshit by admitting there is a problem with faculty intimidation in chemistry is circumlocutory at best

          • grad student

            “concerning sex and gender based discrimination, assault and harassment.”

            evidence, evidence, evidence…

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            Nice misleading edit, @grad student

            “public statements *Collum* has made concerning sex and gender based discrimination, assault and harassment” maybe found in the above article’s screenshots.

          • yet another chem grad

            I was specifically calling out Kevin’s claim that he spoke to anyone in chemistry. Because yeah, we have problematic faculty just like most fields here but Dave isn’t one of them. So, if he actually reached out to chemistry grad students or if chemistry grad students reached out to him, I highly doubt Dave would be the person getting attacked here. In fact, during Dave’s time as chair (and please note chairs rotate on a 3 year basis and his immediate predecessor was a woman) I would say a few issues with faculty overstepping were handled very well.

  • female chem grad

    As a graduate student in the chemistry department, I have been supported and encouraged 100% of the time during these past 5 years. I have never been dissuaded to bring up any problem to ANYONE in the department, including issues about Dave Collum. To imply that there is a “hostile work environment” without actually being part the department and to imply that somehow our safety is threatened based on a series of tweets is an insult to the chemistry graduate students, the chemistry department, and Cornell.

    • Kevin Hines

      I’m glad you feel supported, but your situation isn’t reflective of everyone within the department. We reached out to multiple chemistry students who feel intimidated in the department, but as you may understand they were not comfortable coming forward to be public about it. To protect their privacy I will not release their names or their stories.

      Perhaps we should be troubled by the fact that they are more comfortable telling me rather than their fellow chemistry students and/or their professors.

      • another chem grad

        Just how many? Keep in mind, at 150 students this field is massive so there are bound to be students in difficult situations but they are not representative of any kind of pervasive problem. Certainly no one from the Collum lab would claim they are intimidated. And we do stand by each other whenever one of us comes forward with issues. Not saying the department is perfect, but this article does not address any of the real issues faced by chemistry grad students here. Chem went overwhelmingly against CGSU, mostly because we feel we are treated very well here and CGSU failed to touch on any issue we do care about.

        • Kevin Hines

          You are correct. It is a massive field. That is why comments like “I have been supported and encouraged 100% of the time” aren’t good arguments against removing Prof. Collum from his position as Chair. The fact is, there ARE students in Chemistry who don’t feel safe coming forward with formal complaints against professors – this is a problem.

          And I’m sorry, but you could not be more wrong about “[difficult situations] are not representative of any kind of pervasive problem.” Sexual harassment by professors is a major problem in academia. I’m glad you have not had to deal with it, but it is a scary reality for many voiceless people.

          • another chem grad

            I wholeheartedly agree that sexual harassment is a major problem in academia, and I also agree that such complaints should not be handled by faculty chairs in any department. But this is a personal attack on a professor, and a claim that the entire chemistry department is a hotbed of sexual assault either perpetrated by professors or covered up by professors. It is frankly insulting to the chemistry department, and unwarranted. The burden is on you to show that 1) these students who feel intimidated into silence are being silenced by David Collum and not some other professor and 2) they do represent a pervasive problem within the chemistry department.

          • another chem grad2

            you just said that one example of being encouraged is not representative of the entire field. Then you went on the say that there ARE students who don’t feel safe. The hypocrisy here is absolutely amazing.

            The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this is a pervasive problem.

          • Kevin Hines

            The website isn’t showing a “reply” button for the other two comments here, so I’m sorry if you don’t get an email notification for this comment.

            “The burden is on you to show that 1) these students who feel intimidated into silence are being silenced by David Collum and not some other professor”

            You are asking me to out students. I will not talk about their stories. Their privacy and safety are more important than winning an internet argument.

            “2) they do represent a pervasive problem within the chemistry department”

            Again. You are asking me to tell the stories of these students and I will not do that.

            Since I am unable to tell their stories, this letter demonstrates some of the reasons WHY they will not come forward. You may not see it, but having a boss who accept rape apologetics makes coming forward incredibly scary for people. It doesn’t feel like a problem to you because people are more comfortable being silent than putting a target on their back.

          • Kevin Hines

            “The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this is a pervasive problem.”

            Per a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities, grad students were four times more likely to be sexually harassed by a professor than undergrads. Because of the direct influence professors and advisers have on their future careers, these assaults often go unreported. Harassment is extensive in many labs that employ graduate students, and research shows that the high prevalence of sexual harassment in labs has been one of the major factors discouraging women from going into the STEM fields (as per the same study).

          • another chem grad

            Well we can agree on one thing, the Sun’s comment section software leaves much to be desired. I don’t want you to out anyone, and the comment section on an article is not the place to start conducting investigations. But you are coming at us with very serious accusations, going so far as to imply the graduate students in chemistry themselves are silencing victims. If you’re going to do that, you need at least some evidence for it. Yes, the AAU results were very damning. Yes, this university and others have some serious work to do to make sure victims of sexual assault are not silenced. But if you are going to attack the entire chemistry department you are the one who needs to provide proof. One article grabbing inflammatory tweets from someone and claims that there are chemistry students reaching out who feel intimidated into silence is not enough. Maybe we’ll get another article with actual evidence in the future but I highly doubt it.

          • chem grad

            To actually get a comprehensive view of what graduate students in the chemistry department think about Dave you would need to do an anonymous survey of graduate students in the chemistry department, asking them what they think about Dave. Until then, all you have is a alleged anonymous complaints against Dave vs a number of people posting that they like Dave and think he is a good advisor, professor, etc.

      • female chem grad

        Of course, I wouldn’t ask you to publish the names of students who are unhappy. That would be invasive and unprofessional, as well simply rude. However, I’m troubled by the fact that you’re assuming a few (multiple = what? 5, 10, 100?) out of a department of 150 graduate students is representative of the whole. I’ve had an overall positive experience, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have close friends who haven’t. There will always be those who are unhappy in their situation, and the incredible diversity of students and professors within the department can almost guarantee there will be clashes. I can cherry pick good data or bad data easily, but each subset doesn’t verify its own validity. Driving this smear campaign against the department I chose to have called home for 5 years is a disservice to those who are unhappy and need support.

        • Kevin Hines

          Because David Collum and other professors in Chemistry are in charge of the future of graduate students in Chemistry, the students I talked to are rightly worried about going public. The sad fact is that most sexual assault goes unreported because of the power structures in place. This isn’t just about students “who are unhappy in their situation,” this is about students who are victims of sexual harassment and assault. David Collum is contributing to the culture where victims are too afraid to come forward and that puts everyone in danger.

          • female chem grad

            This is not true just of Chemistry. The department you choose and the advisor you choose in graduate school controls your graduation. Dave Collum literally has no affect on my graduation. None. He’s not on my committee and there is no paperwork that crosses his desk when I defend. Yes, he’s chair. Chairs rotate every 3 years or so. He’s the second one while I’ve been here, and that’s in 5 years. I find it highly disturbing you’re going after the same professor that stood up to you during the election. I can name other departments that have issues as well, yet you’re focusing on the department that, largely en masse, stood against you. There are multiple outlets a graduate student can use if there is a problem: the dean, the ombudsman, the police, etc.
            Understand I am not defending the silencing of sexual assault and harassment, such heinous acts should always be reported and dealt with swiftly. I’m also not defending the method which Cornell handles such cases. I am defending my department you have chosen to attack.

          • Kevin Hines

            “Dave Collum literally has no affect on my graduation”

            I’m glad. But he has an effect on other people’s graduation and future.

            He also has connections to the other professors in the field and the dean. He doesn’t need to be your PI or committee member to determine your future and/or if you come forward about sexual assault.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            @female chem grad

            “stood up to you during the election”–stood up to whom? Kevin? This isn’t revenge, I don’t think. If Dave exposed himself as a person of interest, that was his own doing.

            FWIW Dave Collum’s “standing up” to the union took the form of trying to mobilize hundreds of other faculty to interfere in grad voting against the rules, and also, to violate labor law by trying to hold an event designed to reward voters who voted against the union. Oh, and also saying cranky stuff to the Sun and slightly-less-cranky stuff to a right-wing Cornell Website. He also sent out alarmist emails to others about the subject periodically before the election period.

            Why on earth does a guy like him need to desperately interfere in graduate student life like that if not to try to keep “HIS grads” under his thumb? No other faculty was doing stuff to that extent even if they went close to the line. Finding out that he actually has a history of shitty statements is by dint of his having published them…

        • grad

          “He also has connections to the other professors in the field and the dean. He doesn’t need to be your PI or committee member to determine your future and/or if you come forward about sexual assault.”

          So you’re saying that he could override my PI and my committee’s decision on graduation or their recommendation letters for jobs etc? Not true in the least. Your statement implies that he has insane power over the other professors and that they have no backbone. What an untrue insult to the faculty in this department.

          • Kevin Hines

            “So you’re saying that he could override my PI and my committee’s decision on graduation or their recommendation letters for jobs etc”

            I did not say that. Read it again:

            “He doesn’t need to be your PI or committee member to determine your future” – As a prominent figure in the Chemistry department and in the field in general, he can have great influence on your future goals.

            “He doesn’t need to be your PI or committee member to determine . . . if you come forward about sexual assault.”

            If you know that the chair is a rape apologist and will see your formal complaint about sexual assault, you may be less likely to actually go forward with the complaint. Remember, these complaints are NOT anonymous.

  • Another female chemist

    Apparently the handful of students you found were disheartened by this department’s operations, but if you had instead reached out to a majority of the students, you would have discovered that most of us are satisfied and not threatened whatsoever by this professor. With a department this size, there are bound to be conflicts, but that’s no reason to use a small data sampling to support your claims.

    I’ll tell you something about being a part of this department for many years. The professors here are highly collaborative, and as a result, the students engage in a lot of gossip. Issues that arise with certain faculty members will get spread, and we hold these faculties accountable for them. As one of my professors said a while ago, this department is like a dysfunctional family with a crazy uncle thrown in the mix — we have our share of conflicts, but we look out for one other, and we take care of each other.

    • Kevin Hines

      “The professors here are highly collaborative”

      Indeed. This is why we are calling for Cornell to change how they handle cases of sexual assault. As department chair, formal complaints will land on Collum’s desk. The Chair works (and is friends) with other professors in Chemistry, which creates a bias that makes objectivity nearly impossible. This professor also has even more bias as a rape apologist.

      I’m glad there are many students in Chemistry who feel safe, but should the voice of these safe students block out the voices of those too afraid to speak up? I wrote this for those students who can’t come forward themselves.

      • another chem grad

        There have been plenty of cases of lying about sexual assault. This is why due process is so important. To call the “accuser” a victim is presuming guilt. This is immoral behavior.

        • Kevin Hines

          People have lied about murder and other crimes as well, but why don’t we see a massive online movement of murder apologist like we do with rape?

          Most of the time these cases don’t get the chance to have due process. Only 35% of cases are actually reported!

          • Trigglypuff

            This doesn’t make any sense. How can you say 35% are reported if the others were not reported.

            You missed missed point. You have provided zero evidence that he is a rape apologist other than a tweet that was taken completely out of context. Lack of due process at Cornell has resulted in an attempted suicide and you seem to be encouraging this behavior.

            This is like saying that one in four women are sexually harassed which is an aggregious statistic and false propaganda. Are you implying that Dave is ok with rape?! Do you see how absurd that sounds? You completely missed the point of his tweets because you are perpetually offended. By writing this article you have outed yourself as a foolish social justice warrior.

        • Grad Worker at Cornell

          Wow, OK. Yes, Dave Collum has also put out public statements claiming that the problem of harassment/assault is only “perceived” which is not-so-subtle code for “this isn’t really happening.”

          His defenders on this thread aren’t really helping him…saying that students in his lab “would never claim they are intimidated” is a bit on the nose. If they were intimidated they would likely “never” not say so, because such things are vastly underreported.

          The point is not that he has “intimidated,” assaulted or otherwise did anything himself–it’s that his public statements tend toward a reasonable conclusion that he would view a person’s claims that they have been victimized with bias that disadvantages them.

          If he thinks it’s funny to joke that he is taking roofies to Vegas then he might also think it’s funny if a female RA is the butt of her PI’s harassment if it takes the form of jokes. Which it often does. Really, really unfunny ones.

          • Triggered

            I like how you added the word “only” which completely changes the meaning of your statement and is not what he said at all.

            his joke was a Hangover reference, not a joke about going to vegas to rape people. But I guess context doesn’t matter.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            @triggered so the idea being that one must watch the film The Hangover and instantly understand that the plain meaning of his statement is harmless.

            I’ve seen the film. I’ve also been roofied. My vast experience and context unfortunately still doesn’t help me grasp why the chair of a large department at an R1 university thinks it’s appropriate to crack jokes to his buddies about bringing date rape drugs on a trip. That he would then be in charge of deciding whether the circumstances under which a grad student encountered sexual harassment or violence in the workplace–especially if it meant getting one of his peers/buddies in trouble–is sort of insane.

            If Collum didn’t think that all the nasty things he posted online would be read and that it wouldn’t connect to his position in the university, then he either doesn’t really take his job seriously and seeks attention on the Internet at the expense of his professional reputation, or he is really that ignorant and doesn’t think anything he has posted is as disgusting as it really is. Either way he is at least unsuitable.

      • Another female chemist

        Thank you for focusing on one thing I wrote. The few who may feel voiceless here are always encouraged to speak out, if not through this department, than through other means. We’ve had issues in the past years with certain faculties that got dealt with and investigated. I do not appreciate your insults on how this department operates or creating the impression that the faculties all protect each other like best buddies, particularly from an outsider. Kindly focus on issues in your own department.

        • Kevin Hines

          “Kindly focus on issues in your own department”

          Believe it or not, but I actually care about students outside of my department. Weird, right?

          I’m sorry you feel like I’m insulting the entire chemistry department. The truth is that these types of issues happen far in many departments across academia. I’m focusing on the Chemistry department because David Collum was foolish enough to make these statements publicly, which allows us to show direct evidence of his views and relate it to the bigger case.

          “The few who may feel voiceless here are always encouraged to speak out”

          Seeing as how they didn’t, this claim is no believable.

          • grad

            ““The few who may feel voiceless here are always encouraged to speak out”

            Seeing as how they didn’t, this claim is no believable.”

            Or it just means they chose not to despite that encouragement.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            @grad @another female chemist

            Here is what happens when assistants “speak out” (and what are currently the subjects of lawsuits at Berkeley and Chicago):

            Grad assistant experience sexual harassment that interferes with life and job

            Grad assistant works up courage to report

            Grad assistant is advised:
            Don’t take it any further. Nothing will happen
            Maybe you can quit (already done because grad can’t be in same room with harasser)
            Could you please try to switch labs instead? We don’t want to upset him, he’s really important (grad gets no help and no reception from other PIs because they don’t want to anger their colleague and/or they are in solidarity with him against the grad)
            Ok, we’ll talk to him (same thing keeps happening to other students, turns out they just mention it at a cocktail party)
            Ok, let’s file charges (weak grievance procedure and admin unwillingness to upset valuable faculty allows claim to languish, go nowhere)

            Grad leaves institution without her degree and has no recourse.

            Cheerful scenario.

    • chem grad

      Can confirm department gossip. Department issues get spread fast among the general population of graduation students.

  • Another Female Chemistry Grad

    As a female chemistry graduate student, I must say that I always feel supported and safe in my work environment. If I had to, I would be perfectly comfortable talking to our Department Chair, Dave Collum, about sexual assault. I sincerely doubt that this article is in any way representative of the opinions within the chemistry department. If you had actually talked to any of his students you would know that Dave Collum manages his group very well and that the dynamic within his research group is exceptional!

  • Reasonable person

    This is a smear job. The thing about smear jobs is that the law of entropy is on your side. It is nearly impossible to defend yourself from unethical critics.

    It is much easier to call someone a “bigot” or “rape apologist” than it is for that person to prove that he isn’t these things. Actually, the very act of attempting to defend yourself from these claims often makes you look guilty. Most people assume where there is smoke there is fire.

    Your tactics are unethical.

  • Ima C Hemist

    As a grad student in Dave”s lab, I feel perfectly safe in the working environment and have never been threatened for voicing my opinion (blinks for help in Morse code).

    Seriously though, the Cornell Sun is turning into a garbage tabloid as bad as the English Sun.

  • Reasonable person

    “Waaaahhhhh! Words hurt my feelings.”

    -Kevin Hines

    • Yan-di

      Apparently reasonable people resort to ad hominem attacks.

  • Nicole

    How can an institution such as Cornell publish such an unfactual and personally attacking article such as this? This is absolutely ridiculous. This is not the level of journalism that should be allowed to be present. This is not saving anyone, this is doing damage to the professor that can’t be undone. It’s calling him guilty until proven innocent. Get off your high horse. You’re not taking the high ground. And so many commenters are calling out “facts” left, right, and center, which are actually the most biased of biased opinions. Leave this stuff for…well nobody, but certainly not Cornell.

    • grad

      The point of the article is to encourage discussion about a structural problem that doesn’t go away by refuting the claims against Professor Collum. The latter should be treated as a separate, though no less important, issue.

      • Irrelevant

        Did we read the same article? It seems pretty clear to me that the point of this one is to have Collum removed.

        • truthtelling

          It’s really all about ethics in gaming journalism

  • Nomfundo Makhubo

    Any person who is ‘brave’ enough to publicly encourage friends to bring date rape drugs to events can not be trusted to deal with any case on sexual harassment! There is absolutely no way around this! He has consistently posted bigoted, sexist statements publicly and has made it clear that in his view, sexual harassment in higher ed is only a “perceived” issue. These are the very type of defenses by fellow grads that make it difficult for those who experience harassment to speak up. There is always been some excuse to justify the sexually violent things done and said and if there isn’t one, we just say it was a joke! A lot of these comments are just a reflection of how so many people seem to think things don’t exist just because they haven’t personally experienced them.

    • NoAFTMoneyToCGSUReps

      Aren’t you the CGSU steering committee member who’s getting paid by AFT? Color me shocked that you’re stepping up for Hines.

  • restraining myself from provocative names

    I’d like to know how people in the chemistry department who have had instances of sexual assault or harassment that they feel they can’t talk about ended up finding solace in some guy named Kevin Hines.

    If there are others out there who are wanting someone to talk to you may find the numerous resources available on Cornell’s Sexual Harassment and Assault – Response and Education website helpful.

  • Fed-up

    The guy (at least his social media persona) sounds like an asshole. But the article is manipulated in such a way to make him look like a sexual harasser and a criminal not just an asshole. This is a tactic for a faction of the union aligned with AFT to secure power and eliminate opponents. In fact a presentation of these tweets was shown at the most recent general body meeting to help sway a vote which would have severely limited union members who are paid by AFT to serve in leadership positions.

  • Chems wth

    I’m shocked at all the chem grads’ responses to this piece. Regardless of the author motivations his comments on rape culture (whether a joke or not) are clear indications that he is just not qualified to be a DEPARTMENT CHAIR. How can you not see this? I don’t care if he is funny or charming, this is clearly a person who cannot be in a position of such instiutional authority in a place (academia) where many many instances of sexual harassment and abuse have come to light years after they happened. My respect for chem grad students at Cornell just went down significantly (but I guess they were not that high to begin with…)

    • Don’t judge chemists on bad reporting

      This is because us chemists judge each other based on scientific achievement, as it should be. Just because a scientist is politically incorrect or an asshole doesn’t make him a bad scientist. And everybody in the department knows how Dave jokes and talks and still enjoy his presence. I know it sounds weird to you but we don’t get offended by jokes; I know it’s a weird concept to you but we judge people based on what they do, not what they say.

      Sincerely, a gay chemistry graduate student who feels accepted here

      • Not so fast

        There are 150 graduate students… Not all of us are this detached.

        • Still fast yo

          I’ve still yet to meet a chemist grad student who dislikes Dr. Collum, and the vast majority of those I talk to laugh this stuff off, probably just as Dave does. Just like I laugh this stuff off as it has no sound foundation and is clearly guided with a pre-determined bias.

          • Still not so fast

            Cause liking Dave and recognizing problems are mutually exclusive and all.

      • Grad Worker at Cornell

        Not everything he posts are (crass and totally inappropriate) jokes. There are serious statements reflecting his opinions about sexual harassment and assault on campus in particular that strongly indicate he doesn’t think it’s s real problem, and even that if there is a problem it’s one of false reporting, a position unsupported by data.

        It’s great he’s such a great scientist, probably should be at the very minimum to be the chair of a science department. That is not the standard by which the ability to adjudicate sexual harassment claims is judged, which a chair is also tasked with.

        Collum made these statements publicly–usually something people do with the intention they be read and considered by everyone. If he wanted to only be judged by his own department or discipline, he should have locked his Twitter account.

  • CU back in the classroom

    Words cannot describe how disturbed I am at the fact that so many graduate students, obviously intelligent in a field that relies on critical thinking, are missing the importance of this article in terms of speaking out for the few who do feel unsafe or are troubled that their concerns may not be handled properly given the obvious biases on the man in charge, all because they, the majority, may feel safe.

    You may all be expert chemists, but you clearly need to return to undergrad and take courses on philosophy, logic, and history. The attitudes of the comfortable and their forceful insistence that nothing is wrong because they are fine and believe others are also fine has kept many a person and group down throughout history.

    • Individual

      No thanks I want a job

      • Individual

        If you want to talk about history how about language policing in the Soviet Union.

      • Grad Worker at Cornell

        Yeah, it does help you to get employment when it’s clear to your prospective boss that you have no critical thinking skills that would oblige you to recognize and think about misconduct by your employer as unjust.

        Most people don’t even know what rights they have, much less have the ability and will to think about and speak up about them with others. It sucks that so many grad at Cornell are so eager to buy into the corporate fiction that the ability to do so is an unmarketable and therefore stupid skill set. Serves the purposes of power quite nicely. “Ignorance is Strength”–Orwell would be unsurprised.

        • Freedom

          Lol everything thats happening right now that’s Orwellian is coming from left-wing ideologues/utopian statists like yourself.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            Utopian statists suck…yeah, Freedom. Let’s go to a for-profit online unaccredited university to “break free”! I can’t wait til we get our MS in General STEM Studies! I hear it only costs $50,000 and we don’t even need books! It’s all outlines and power points!

            Until then, I’ll enjoy sidewalks, federal research grants and food without rusty nails in it. Catch up with you later.

          • Freedom

            cool strawman

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            I’m not arguing with you. I’m mocking you. Subtle but important difference.

          • grad

            this difference is irrelevant when you throw strawmen to manipulate someones point.

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            @grad a straw man is intended to switch the stakes of an argument and take down a point that wasn’t originally made to “win.”

            @Freedom’s comment was already a “straw man,” if you want to call it that–I thought they were simply being an asshole and trying to insult me, not arguing. So I mocked him. Probably not very mature, but oh well. I had fun.

            If you need an answer, I don’t consider myself a “utopian statist,” which I believe is a phrase made up by the guys who run Red State or something.

    • Maynotoverinterpret

      So as an educated student in philosophy and logic etc… You are telling me that I have to arrive at the same conclusion as you and not really think about the comments the authors have put out. As an educated student you are telling me context to certain comments do not matter.

      I am not denying that some of the tweets are inappropriate, I think no one is. But it is the interpretation the authors have arrived at, i.e., people are suggesting that after interacting with collum they are of the opinion that this personna they have created from his Twitter page is inaccurate.

      I don’t personally like Dave collum but have interacted with enough to know that he is generally very helpful to graduate student requests and has often stood up for student interests.

    • chem grad

      This article provides a biased and purposefully skewed view of Dave Collum in order to make a specific argument that is likely made more to discredit Collum, the Chemistry Department, and the anti-Union movement, that it is made to bring about discussion of sexual violence on Cornell’s campus.

      Dave Collum made inappropriate tweets, but most anecdotal accounts of graduate student’s interactions with Dave point to him being a good advisor that is very capable of handling graduate student/faculty disputes in a non-biased way.

      Anonymous complaints against Dave would benefit this discussion more if specific details were reported while maintaining the anonymity of the accuser. Additionally, though an anecdote, my experience within the Chemistry Department is that students feel comfortable and are capable of reporting issues to a variety of different faculty members and staff within the department, in addition to Dave.

      This also isn’t to say that every single student within the chemistry department would feel comfortable filing/pursuing a complaint or issue they have (though the majority of graduate students in the department likely do). Every effort should be made to make these students feel more comfortable to speak out against things they don’t agree with or feel negatively impacted by – this is something Dave Collum would agree with. To the best of my knowledge and understanding, Dave Collum does not stand in the way of students speaking their mind and voicing their complaints. Most chemistry graduate students like feel similarly because they actually know Dave Collum and interact with him beyond his twitter account.

  • A Friend of Dave’s

    This is nothing more than a mudslinging and smear campaign because of Dave’s outspoken stance against graduate student unionization. Those who penned this shameful and slanderous piece had to seriously go out of their way to dig up and take out of context the information provided and spin it in order to fit their narrative.

    Anyone who knows him knows that he is firm in his beliefs and isn’t afraid to speak out against the liberal academic establishment. That seems to be unallowed these days by the triggered snowflakes.

    He is also a man of integrity and has served the University and the Department with the utmost in professionalism.

    You lost the unionization vote. Time to move on, folks.

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      It isn’t slander. He published these gross tweets and other statements with his name, title and photo attached. Putting content out into the “marketplace of ideas” means that you get judged as its source. What, are you telling me Mr Zero Hedge doesn’t understand how markets work?

      It’s so interesting how libertarians tout their right to free speech right up until the second that speech is judged by those receiving it. Once its worth is called into question and traced back to the speaker, then they become–yes–SNOWFLAKES.

  • A Friend of Dave’s

    What about Dave’s right to free speech?

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      He absolutely has the right to free speech and the corollary right for private citizens to judge it, and him, according to its content. Free speech isn’t the right to say whatever you want in public and no one can say anything about it. That would be the divine right of kingship.

      His right to free speech as a chair–his employment–is not unlimited. It’s hard to argue that his ability to deal with sexual harassment/assault claims should be considered separately from public statements relating to such topics where he is easily identified as the speaker. He has essentially advertised his lack of objectivity about this–a main job requirement–and for that, he gets judged.

      Also, his own department’s students seem to be admitting (in the form of defending him) that he says stuff like that all the time and that everyone just ignores it or laughs it off. The chair is primarily responsible for the culture of the department and it sounds like his “free speech” has contributed to a culture of “haha! Jokes about serious issues!” That its all just a joke to the chemistry department indicates that if someone were to work up the courage to say anything, they wouldn’t be taken seriously and would be encouraged to think of it as a joke!

      • chem grad

        To the best of my knowledge, complaints within the chemistry department are taken seriously.

        • chemist5

          “The chair is primarily responsible for the culture of the department”

          Maybe in your department the chair is primarily responsible for the culture of the department. Not in chemistry. If you aren’t in the chem department then you really, truly cannot make the claim that Collum as the chair primarily sets the culture of the department because you have no personal, first-hand knowledge of department culture. THAT is the real issue in this discussion and why it’s just going in circles – people who do not have first-hand knowledge of this department are trying to tell people who do how their department functions. And with that I am going to stop reading these comments because I have MUCH better things to do…

          • Grad Worker at Cornell

            Then he isn’t doing his basic job, @chemist5. Search “department chair responsibilities.” Another reason he should be fired.

  • The REAL Kevin Hines

    Have any of the people who are concerned actually talked to Dave Collum? Or are you just reducing him to how he presents himself on the internet? There doesn’t seem to be one mention of actually meeting with him and seeing if the avatar is in sync with the person. Further, I don’t find a few tweets used to conveniently fit this narrative to be very compelling.

    I won’t apologize for Dave’s tweets. As chair he should keep it a wee-bit more professional. However, if you actually talk to him you’ll learn that he takes issues of sexual assault, harassment, and rape very seriously. He also isn’t prone to taking things at face-value and will consider all evidence as presented.

    PS – I think you really shot yourselves in the foot mentioning the union vote.

  • Definitely NOT Kevin Hines

    As an aside, I’ll bet that Kevin Hines and his cronies that signed off on this piece are super fun at parties! (*sarcasm*)

    • crone zone

      buddy, helping to create a safe community for students is fun and cool. its back baby, It’s good again awooo (wolf howl)

  • Definitely NOT Kevin Hines

    Tell me, then …. Are the students who share Collum’s beliefs and ideologies supposed to feel “safe” if you do nothing but attack him/them and try to bring them down????

    How about considering how they feel??? Do they not deserve to feel safe and welcome also???

    • Ethan Ritz

      I sincerely hope they feel safe from sexualized violence, everyone deserves that. But no, I really don’t think anyone should feel like rape and transgender rights are joking matters, and I want Cornell to be a place where people *are* uncomfortable expressing bigoted viewpoints. I think the comparison you’ve made is really dishonest – the rights of David Collum to mock matters that are his job to handle professionally are not comparable to the rights that people have to feel safe in their bodies at their place of work. Nobody in this letter is threatening him physically or demanding him to lose his job, simply asking for him to step down from a position where he handles sexual harassment & discrimination cases if he’s ok with making fun of those things online.

  • justFYI
  • What a joke

    Well, don’t know any of the authors of this letter besides Kevin Hines, so to you, Kevin, you can go fuck yourself.

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