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The University of Washington says that an internal investigation has found virus researcher Michael Katze violated sexual harassment policies – and that disciplinary action is currently under consideration.

“His conduct was inappropriate and not in any way reflective of the university’s values,” UW spokesman Norm Arkans said today in a statement posted online. “This is why the matter is now in the faculty disciplinary process, through which an appropriate outcome will be adjudicated.”

Michael Katze
The University of Washington says virologist Michael Katze has violated university sexual harassment policies. (Credit: UW)

The statement came after BuzzFeed published a lengthy report delving into the details of the investigation. The UW case is the latest in a series of academic sexual-harassment cases to come to light.

Buzzfeed quoted Katze’s attorney, Jon Rosen, as saying that Katze will “continue to vigorously defend against the false and salacious charges pending before the University of Washington adjudication panel.”

BuzzFeed’s graphic account, accompanied by redacted documents from the UW, traces years of behavior – including allegations that Katze engaged in a “quid pro quo” sexual relationship with one female employee and subjected another female employee to a hostile work environment.

Lead investigator Ian Messerle said his conclusions were based on interviews with Katze, the two women and more than 20 other witnesses, as well as a review of hundreds of emails and tens of thousands of texts. The names of the employees have not been disclosed, out of concern for their privacy.

Messerle said the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office opened the case in July 2015, but the report cites incidents that go back to 2010 and even earlier.

Katze’s lab at UW focused on viral pathogens ranging from influenza to HIV and Ebola. The 66-year-old professor was widely quoted in 2014 during the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and was the co-author of an influential paper about genetic factors linked to Ebola’s effects.

Arkans said Katze was removed from his lab and put on home assignment when the sexual harassment complaints were made. BuzzFeed reported that the lab was quietly shuttered in April.

Update for 5:20 p.m. PT June 30: Katze’s attorney, Jon Rosen, told GeekWire that he stood by his response to BuzzFeed and expected Katze to be exonerated. “We’ll let the evidence as it’s revealed at the hearing speak for itself,” Rosen said.

Hat tip to BuzzFeed’s Azeen Ghorayshi for the in-depth report.

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