Top Researcher’s Departure Prompts Faculty Protest at U. of Utah Institute

After 11 years as chief executive and director of the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, Mary Beckerle will leave the posts, a move that has faculty members upset.

The university’s senior vice president for health sciences, Vivian Lee, notified the faculty in an email on Monday but did not offer an explanation, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

At a meeting on Tuesday morning, faculty members could be heard chanting, “Vivian Lee has got to go” and “Who do we want? Mary!” They also disrupted speakers who were addressing questions about the institute’s future.

“How do you expect to be able to recruit a world-class cancer-center director after firing the best one in the country?” one person was heard saying at the meeting. “You will have a very hard time keeping anyone at HCI.”

A “Reinstate Dr. Mary Beckerle” petition was sent on Tuesday morning to the University of Utah’s president and to its Board of Trustees, and has since drawn more than 250 supporters.

“We could not be more confident in Dr. Beckerle as our leader and completely disagree with the decision,” the petition says. “We sign to voice our objection to this decision and the manner in which it was carried out.”

Ms. Lee wrote of Dr. Beckerle that, while she was director, she “helped to raise the university’s Huntsman Cancer Institute’s national status to new heights.”

Ms. Lee and Dr. Beckerle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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