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UC Davis grants tenure to Kristie Koski

Decision follows 4 years of bureaucratic turmoil for the physical chemist

by Sam Lemonick, special to C&EN
December 21, 2023


The University of California, Davis, has granted tenure to physical chemist Kristie Koski. The decision ends one chapter of a 4-year saga of punishments, lawsuits, and recriminations that Koski has said is exacting a toll professionally and emotionally.

Kristie Koski poses in lab coat and safety goggles.
Credit: University of California, Davis
Kristie J. Koski

Koski, who joined the faculty at UC Davis in 2013, submitted her original tenure application in 2019. Her review process included a number of irregularities. The chair of her department, with whom Koski had had prior disagreements, produced a letter of censure against Koski during the chemistry faculty’s vote on her candidacy. It accused her of bullying or intimidating two trainees.

One trainee had not followed all the check-out steps when he left her lab for another job. Koski had voiced concerns to her chair that the other may have sexually harassed undergraduates he worked with. Koski was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the latter case.

Despite a positive vote from her peers, UC Davis administrators and a faculty senate committee recommended against her tenure, and she was officially denied in 2020. Koski subsequently filed complaints with UC Davis and two separate lawsuits. One suit has been resolved, with a judge ordering the university to pay an amount that was cut from her salary as punishment. The second trial has yet to be scheduled.

UC Davis started Koski’s tenure process from the start again this summer, including a new application with an amended letter of censure. In May, Koski’s department peers again voted to recommend she receive tenure.

William Casey, a UC Davis geochemist, says that rather than follow the university’s typical tenure application procedure, Koski’s package was sent to the administration at the University of California, Irvine, rather than be handled by UC Davis administrators. Some, like Vice Provost Phil Kass, are accused in Koski’s lawsuits of helping to improperly build the case against her original tenure application.

The university shared the news of her promotion with the chemistry department on Dec. 20, according to a university spokesperson.

Koski’s lawyer, Sharon Vinick, confirms that her client received tenure. She says Koski’s lawsuit will proceed nonetheless.


This story was updated on Dec. 29, 2023, to correctly represent timing for Koski's second trial. A February court date has been scheduled to set a trial date, but the trial itself is not occurring in January.



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