A white male professor in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Chemistry Department is at the center of allegations of posing as a woman of color (WOC) on Twitter. The professor has been placed on leave and is no longer teaching. Numerous individuals have since come forward stating that they had been harassed by the account.
The Science Femme Twitter (@piney_the) account, allegedly run by Craig Chapman, and Chapman’s personal account were deleted on Sept. 29.
Dr. Gina Chaput, a molecular microbiologist at North Carolina State University, first interacted with The Science Femme on Sept. 26, when an account she followed was harassed by them. She “liked” some of that account’s tweets to defend her.
In response to Chaput’s “liking” of the tweets, she said Chapman falsely accused her of violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules. In the tweet Chapman posted a picture of Chaput, tagging OSHA and others, and noting her lack of eye protection and her use of headphones.
Chaput said she took the photo before her wetlab work began and Chapman’s tweet “was a clear attempt to harm my career. Everything they were saying was false…their goal was to ruin my reputation before I started my career.” On September 26, Chaput liked tweets from an individual defending themselves against Chapman. She believes The Science Femme’s tweet toward her were in response to this previous social media reaction.
Susanna Harris, post doctorate at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, works in digital science communication and supports her graduate students through her company Ph.D. Balanced.
Harris was informed of The Science Femme when friends of hers on Twitter were upset by the account’s claims and tweets. “I took a look at it back then, and I have dealt with people who have claimed to be others for a while. A lot of tweets did not seem genuine.”
“I was hoping other people would come to that same conclusion – that it was a troll account that people would ignore,” Harris said.
“After calling [The Science Femme] out, I posted a few things,” she said to The New Hampshire. “Somebody sent them the information about what happened with Mike Adams, the professor at UNC-Wilmington earlier in the summer.”
Adams gained national attention from his social media posts that were viewed as racist, sexist, and homophobic in nature. Over the summer Harris called for Adams’ removal from UNC-Wilmington. In July, Adams committed suicide. The Science Femme account discovered these tweets and used them to link Harris to Adams.
She said The Science Femme accused her of having a role in the death of Adams.
“I did want him to be removed from the university, and I helped propel that discussion,” Harris said. “There’s a difference between wanting someone to get fired and wanting them to die. This person…used that information directly against me. At first, it was ‘this person is a bad person’ to by the end of it saying that ‘I had a direct hand in his death’ and all the way going to say ‘I had killed him.’”
Harris said Chapman’s allegations were extremely damaging, especially because a lot of her work is conducted through social media. She started to get anonymous messages through her website, and had her email used to make accounts on pornographic websites.
In his email to graduate students and staff, the chair of the UNH Chemistry department Glen Miller condemned Chapman’s actions, but expressed his personal support of him, and hoped this wouldn’t end his career.
A petition has also circulated among the student body, calling for the immediate removal of Chapman, with multiple individuals coming forward alleging harassment.
Some Twitter users have called the posing as a woman of color online “digital blackface,” a new form of racism in the digital sphere.
Chapman has not responded to request for comment and Miller declined to comment as per UNH Human Resources.
On Sept. 30, UNH announced that they were launching an investigation into “allegations on social media about a member of our faculty.” It is not confirmed that this investigation and the allegations against Chapman are related.
“In order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation, the university is unable to comment further,” Mantz said in a statement to The New Hampshire.
Photo Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire