That said, I was curious to know if there was anyone who thought that he should go to prison, other than to teach all chemistry PIs a lesson (an option, I note, that I find unjust. Patrick Harran should not go to prison for the sins of all academic chemistry.) I did receive two responses from people who thought that he deserves prison time. The first response by VT:
Harran deserves some prison time.
Lots of people sell pot. Only some get caught. Those who are caught get punished. I think someone in one of your comments section compared it to drunk driving. I think that this analogy is actually the best. You can drive drunk. You may or may not get caught. If you do get caught, you are going to be busted. If you get caught after having an accident which kills someone, you will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. And, unless your lawyers are good/your pleas for mercy are stellar/your judge is understanding, you are doing jail-time.
Harran was unsafe. He got caught. He got caught when there was an accident that killed a student. The question here is severity of the punishment. Harran did not kill his student (as in the DUI analogy). But he was responsible for her safety. I think he gets time. 3-6 months.
I don't see how he gets out of jail-time for this. Especially considering that his jury of peers will most likely not include any scientists.
It is my opinion that, if Harran serves time, he deserves to go back to his current job at UCLA.The second contribution is from KO (one notes that Sangji was an employee, not a student -- the concept of personal responsibility still holds, in my opinion):
I do believe that Professor Patrick Harran deserves jail time.
This opinion is based off the structure and nature of the student/PI (principal investigator) relationship. A graduate student is not considered a full time employee of the University. Therefore, not subject to the oversight of OSHA or other federal regulatory offices and this is therefore a direct liability. In the case of industry, individual employers are generally protected from personal liability due to the nature of corporate law. Since the university cannot claim the student as a full time employee, they accept full liability for said student. And the person in charge of the student's training and direct oversight is the PI. It reasons that the personal liability rests on the PI shoulders and the University takes liability for the system ensuring compliance and safety. In this case both are at fault. However, since you cannot arrest a university, the university should be held financally responsible and the PI held personally responsible for the safety and well being of the students. Since the PI is not running a corporation or even an LLC then the PI is not protected and hence fully liable.After reading all the comments, I think there are 3 or 4 general strains of thought about why Professor Harran deserves prison time:
- Harran going to prison will encourage chemistry PIs to change their ways.
- Professor Harran's the PI, he's the captain of the ship, someone died on his watch, he deserves punishment.
- He was being unsafe, he got caught, he's subject to the letter of the law.
- If this happened in a meatpacking plant and Harran was the supervisor, he'd be facing charges and prison time. Why is it different if it happened at a laboratory?
I think his tenure should be revoked. As for community service, if he gets probation and no jail time: volunteer work in a rehab hospital that treats burn patients. That will bring home the seriousness of his negligence in supervising Sangji.This to me seems to be a punishment that's probably closest to what will actually happen.
Readers, what do you think?