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Story Abour Native American Professor Who Supposedly Died Of Coronavirus Appears Completely Made Up

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  • Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin, the founder of the organization MeTooSTEM, posted a eulogy for a Native American professor at Arizona State University.
  • The Native American professor, known as @Sciencing_Bi on Twitter, died after a battle with coronavirus, McLaughlin tweeted.
  • Certain irregularities with @Sciencing_Bi’s online persona soon became apparent and both that account and McLaughlin’s were suspended for violating Twitter’s “spam and platform manipulation policies.”

News that a Native American professor died Friday of coronavirus after her university forced her to teach a seminar in April prompted dozens of angry reactions from academics and journalists. But according to the university and numerous people who followed the story, the professor and her supposed death appear to be completely made up.

The Twitter accounts of Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin and the Hopi Arizona State University (ASU) professor known as @Sciencing_Bi were suspended by Monday morning for violating Twitter’s “spam and platform manipulation policies,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. The suspension came after McLaughlin, who is a former faculty member at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Matrix Biology, posted a lengthy eulogy for @Sciencing_Bi on Friday.

The ASU professor had criticized the university for forcing her to return to work during the pandemic before she supposedly died from the virus, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. However, ASU had transitioned to virtual learning in March, according to The Arizona Republic.

“She was a fierce protector of people,” McLaughlin tweeted after announcing the Hopi professor’s death, according to Twitter screenshots. “She let me take my shoulders away from my ears knowing she was meaner and more loving than everyone else.”

She added: “She changed so much of how I thought about advocacy and power.”

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After McLaughlin announced the professor’s apparent death, several scientists subsequently posted eulogies for the professor, who was well-known on social media. California State University Northridge biologist Jeremy Yoder tweeted that he is “seriously considering returning to religion just so I can believe in a hell for Donald Trump to go to” in response to the announcement of the professor’s apparent coronavirus death.

“The death of @Sciencing_Bi is on the hands of those who compelled her to teach in the midst of COVID,” tweeted California State University Dominguez Hills biologist Terry McGlynn, The Daily Beast reported.

Some irregularities with @Sciencing_Bi’s death soon became apparent, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Several people, including reporters, have reached out with questions for details about Sciencing_Bi’s death, her identity, or why parts of her story don’t add up,” Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, a professor at University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, tweeted Sunday. “I don’t have answers. I don’t have access to any more information than is on her account. I’m sorry.”

Several Twitter users then alleged that the photos which @Sciencing_Bi supposedly tweeted were actually stock photos. Attention then turned to McLaughlin because she had tweeted about meeting @Sciencing_Bi in person and broke the news regarding their death.

McLaughlin had posted a picture in 2018 of a person kayaking who she identified as @Sciencing_Bi in the post’s caption. McLaughlin, who also tagged @Sciencing_Bi in the photo, told The Daily Beast the photo was actually of her daughter. She said she was unsure how the mixup occurred.

Michael Eisen, a professor at University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, said he had advised @Sciencing_Bi via Twitter direct messages when they were filing a sexual harassment complaint against Harvard University. He said McLaughlin and MeTooSTEM were also working directly with @Sciencing_Bi.

“I have no idea what [McLaughlin] was using [@Sciencing_Bi] to accomplish here, since eventually it would be clear there wasn’t a real process. I suspect the goal was to insinuate [MeTooSTEM] into the Urton cases so as to build up the reputation of [MeTooSTEM] and [McLaughlin],” Eisen tweeted Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, this appears to be a hoax,” said Jerry Gonzalez, an ASU spokesperson, according to The Daily Beast. Gonzalez added that the university was unable to verify the existence of @Sciencing_Bi.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, the ASU Department of American Indian Studies head said he had not heard of @Sciencing_Bi, but that he would likely have known her if she was Hopi, according to The Arizona Republic.

“From what I can tell, the claims that are attributed to @Sciencing_Bi are a hoax, and a sick one at that,” Gilbert told The Republic.

McLaughlin founded MeTooSTEM in 2018, an advocacy network which provides informed counsel to survivors of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

“MeTooSTEM focuses on holding individuals and institutions accountable for removing those who have committed sexual assault and misconduct from leadership, teaching, and positions of influence,” according to it’s website.

McLaughlin has been the subject of criticism from individuals who have resigned from MeTooSTEM citing her hostile management style, according to BuzzFeed News. The only two black women who worked for the organization resigned in April 2019 saying that “white leadership input was prioritized over our own.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that she created a Native persona, if she did, if she wanted to shore up the perception that she had good relations with a woman of color,” Kim TallBear, a professor of Native studies at the University of Alberta, told The Chronicle of Education.

McLaughlin did not respond to a request for comment.

ASU did not respond to a request for comment.

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About Thomas Catenacci

2 comments

  1. This story reads as though it was BethAnn’s better-half in life that died . . . from TDS.

  2. Never heard of this before but it’s an interesting story. A regular mystery. Who’d have thought in today’s world this could happen? I’m sure McLaughlin has a good explanation as soon as she makes up one. I tend to be a doubter and I doubt there was a Hopi friend, let alone a Hopi professor, in her life except upstairs in her attic.

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