Montana State Geneticist Resigns After Harassment Allegations
Montana State Geneticist Resigns After Harassment Allegations

Montana State Geneticist Resigns After Harassment Allegations

An internal report finds Hikmet Budak touched students inappropriately and discriminated against them based on their country of origin, sex, marriage status, and other factors.

Jun 4, 2019
Ashley Yeager

ABOVE: MSU, ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ

Montana State University cereal geneticist Hikmet Budak has resigned after an investigation found evidence that he had sexually harassed students and discriminated against them. The work environment was so intimidating that several students left his lab and one considered suicide, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports.

The university’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) conducted the investigation and found a “preponderance of the evidence” that Budak created “a hostile environment that was rampant with harassment,” Emily Stark, the director of the OIE, tells the Chronicle. According to the OIE’s report, which was anonymously sent to the Chronicle, Budak often touched female students, making them feel uncomfortable. The report also found that he often hired young female students over male students, joked about shooting his students, called students fat in Turkish, yelled at female but not male students, and fired a female staff member because of her family status.

Budak denied the allegations that he discriminated against students. He did admit to having an affair with a postdoc in 2018 but said he did not report the relationship to university officials because he was married at the time. Montana State has a conflict of interest policy requiring such relationships to be reported.

Budak’s alleged behavior has affected his career beyond Montana State. The University of Worcester is reviewing an honorary degree it had awarded Budak in 2017, according to the Worcester News. And Illinois Tech, which had announced May 8 that Budak was joining its biology department, will no longer be hiring him, the Chronicle reports.

The inappropriate and unprofessional behavior seriously affected Budak’s students. One female student said she “actually became suicidal” for a short time, according to the New York Post.

Another student, the first in her family to attend college, said she considered leaving academia. “All of your ideals just collapse,” she said, according to the report. However, she has chosen to continue her studies with the goal of becoming a professor to “fight this kind of guy.”