Prestigious MIT Professor Who Opposes Embryo Research Faces Ousting by University

By John Jalsevac

James L. SherleyCAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, January 2, 2007 ( – James L. Sherley, the controversial researcher and recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a $2.5 million grant for “highly innovative research”, is threatening to go on a hunger strike after having lost his appeal to obtain tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has been a professor since 1998.

  The move on the part of MIT to deny the researcher and professor tenure for good has ignited a heated dispute in which many of Sherley’s supporters are charging that the professor was denied tenure because of his stance on embryonic stem cell research. Sherley is well known as a proponent of adult stem cell research, and as a staunch opponent of embryonic stem cell research.

  Earlier this year, in an interview with MercatorNet, Sherley stated that there is scant evidence that embryonic stem cells will ever be used to cure any diseases, and hypothesized that adult stem cells are the much more promising source of cures.

  He also roundly condemned scientists who engage in embryonic stem cell research (which includes a number of his colleagues at MIT) for ethical carelessness and suspect motivations.

“In the minds of many scientists,” he said, “being first to clone human embryos guarantees a Nobel Prize and bronze statues in their likeness. When such motivation for fame and fortune is combined with the fragmentary, variable, and overall uncertain regulatory environment surrounding human embryo research, the risk for ethical misconduct is high and pervasive.”

  Sherley himself alleges that he was opposed for tenure at MIT by his colleagues in part because his research “poses an intellectually disruptive threat.” 

  He has threatened to go on a hunger strike beginning February 5, unless he is granted tenure.

“I will either see the provost resign and my hard-earned tenure granted at MIT, or I will die defiantly right outside his office,” wrote Sherley in a letter distributed to his colleagues.

  In that letter the researcher also charged the university with racism, saying that his fellow researchers “might tolerate and even celebrate such a challenge from a white faculty member, but never from one who is black.” was unable to contact Sherley for comment. MIT has stated that it does not comment on matters of tenure. A statement from the university says, “MIT has a well-established procedure for reviewing and granting tenure to faculty. This process is thorough and extensive, and we are confident it was followed with integrity in this case.”

  To respectfully express your concerns, contact MIT at:

  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  77 Massachusetts Avenue
  Cambridge, MA

  Tel: (617) 253-1000

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