A Sample Compare/Contrast Section from Kenneth Westhues, The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004, 2006. The case of Justine Sergent is analyzed at greater length in John Mueller, "Research Ethics: a New Tool for Harassment in the Academic Workplace," pp. 290-314 of Kenneth Westhues, ed., Workplace Mobbing in Academe: Reports from Twenty Universities, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.



All a university needs to do is keep the humiliating pressure on. No targeted professor can endure forever. Something has to give.

Justine Sergent was a professor in the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University. In July of 1992, a complaint was laid against her for having failed to get ethics-committee approval for her research on the brain function of pianists.

Sergent said she had made at worst a technical mistake. Her experimental subjects were never in danger. They had given their informed consent. The ethics committee had approved the same experimental treatment for one of her earlier projects. That, she thought, was enough.

The McGill authorities thought otherwise. In January of 1993, Principal David Johnston gave her an official reprimand for academic misconduct.

Sergent appealed to an arbitrator. Before the case could be heard, the Montreal Gazette received an anonymous letter saying Sergent was a scientific fraud. The Gazette published a story on April 9, 1994, headlined “Researcher disciplined by McGill for breaking rules.”

The next day, Sergent wrote a long letter describing the “nightmare” and “harassment” of the past two years. She said there was no end in sight, now that it was “exposed in a newspaper and blown out of proportion, and it allows a discredit on myself, my work and my career, which I cannot tolerate.”
I love research too much to even consider tampering with data or making false claims, and anyone working in my research field or participating in my experiments could testify that I have always paid much attention to the quality and rigor of my studies and to the welfare of the subjects or patients participating in them.

Her letter concluded:
I had a rich and intense life, but there comes a point when one can no longer fight and one needs a rest. It is this rest that my husband, who has supported me in all aspects of my activities and my life, and myself have decided to take.

Justine and Yves Sergent were found dead in their car, in the garage of their home, on April 12. They had run a hose from the exhaust pipe to the passenger compartment. The car’s motor was still running.

On news of the suicides, Principal Johnston confirmed that the investigation into possible scientific fraud in Sergent’s work would continue: “The results will be released when it is completed within the next two or three months.”

Three years later, on March 20, 1997, with the results still incomplete, McGill shut the investigation down. John Kalbfleisch, author of the original article on Sergent, reported in the Gazette: “This means all official inquiries into the matter have been canceled without any public light being shed on Sergent’s death or research.” (See Montreal Gazette 1994-97.)