Science Website Fires Asshole Who Called Biologist a 'Whore'


Another day, another very necessary apology to Dr. Danielle N. Lee, a biologist, STEM diversity advocate, and contributor at Scientific America who was called an “urban whore” after she politely declined to work for free.

This one comes directly from Biology-Online, which used to employ the man who directed the sexist, racist, and deeply unprofessional comment at Dr. Lee in the first place. I say “used to employ” because the post (which was written by a site administrator) makes clear that he’s been fired for his behavior:

We would like to express our sincerest apologies to Danielle N. Lee (DNLee) and anyone else who may have been offended by the way our recently hired employee, Ofek, handled the conversation with her. Ofek’s behaviour was completely out of line and after gathering the facts we immediately terminated his employment. Ofek failed to show the respect and prudent behavior expected of him as a contributor to Biology Online…
After an immediate and fair deliberation of the situation we decided to terminate the services of Ofek for his failure to represent and keep what we value in Biology Online.

The admin has also included a screenshot of the email sent to Dr. Lee by one of the site’s partners, which is a fine gesture. In my opinion, it’s a bit too casual and not quite contrite enough — but, hey, at least it’s something:

Hi Danielle,
My name is Alan and I am a partner at Keebali — the company that owns Biology-Online. I’ve just now been made aware of your correspondence with Ofek and I’ve got to tell you that I was totally shocked!!! Ofek was recently hired to grow biology-online’s relationships with bloggers and scientists in the biology arena. We obviously made the wrong hire! The way he corresponded with you is completely unthinkable and unacceptable – I am speechless!! What was he thinking??
Please accept my apology on behalf of biology-online. Ofek has been terminated effective immediately. We are terribly sorry about this situation and hope the future will offer us an opportunity to establish a new and fruitful relationship.
Thanks and regards,

It’s relieving to see that so many people are taking this so seriously; as with the apology offered by SciAm, however, one has to wonder how much of it is sincere and how much is a frantic attempt to dodge bad publicity and backlash. What will Biology-Online do in the future to make sure that none of their employees perpetuate institutional racism and sexism? An apology is a good first step, but Biology-Online needs to address the corporate culture that spawned this response. Anyone in possession of an atomy of sensitivity should recognize that calling a woman of color (or anyone!) a “whore” is unthinkable and unacceptable in any setting, and a clearly fireable offense in a professional one. So, now the company has to consider how one of the employees — someone that they ostensibly trained for his job —wouldn’t know that, and they have to work to make sure that nothing similar happens ever again.

DNLee, for the record, is good and thankful for the support:

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