Prominent Scholar Was Banned From Rutgers Campus


Christopher Shea in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A long-simmering feud between the prominent evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers and a colleague at Rutgers University took a strange turn last month, when Mr. Trivers revealed that he had been banned from the New Brunswick campus for five months last year for violent and threatening behavior.

He says the accusations were trumped up, prompted by his efforts to bring an alleged academic fraud to light. Mr. Trivers says he was allowed back on the campus last fall, provided that he stay at least 20 feet from the office of a colleague he'd argued with.

In “Fraud at Rutgers,” an angry post on his Web site last month, he explicitly contrasted his treatment with that of the men's basketball coach, Mike Rice, who—at first—received a mere three-game suspension when the university became aware of his beaning players with basketballs and shouting slurs at them. (Mr. Rice was subsequently fired, in April.)

“Rutgers turns a blind eye to real violence by its basketball coach but uses its antiviolence policy to harass a professor with no violent tendencies but who is acting as a whistle-blower,” Mr. Trivers wrote.

Lee Cronk, the anthropology professor from whose office Mr. Trivers has been banned, says that when Mr. Trivers confronted him in March 2012, he felt genuinely disturbed. The university declined to comment on the subsequent investigation, which—according to documents provided by Mr. Trivers in which he responded to the charges—found a pattern of violent or threatening behavior by Mr. Trivers.

The professor's reference to whistle-blowing opens the door to a complex saga of academic infighting, one that involves both substantive and personal issues. Since 2008, Mr. Trivers has contended that one of his six co-authors on a 2005 paper, “Dance Reveals Symmetry Especially in Young Men,” published in Nature, had doctored the data, leading to a bogus result.