Stanford freshman's determined reporting leads to investigation, president's resignation

Kristen Sze Image
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Stanford freshman's reporting leads to president's resignation
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne's departure comes after accusations of possible manipulated research, first reported by freshman Theo Baker.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In a move that shook up the Bay Area, Silicon Valley and the world of science and education, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne resigned Wednesday after months of scrutiny over accusations of possible manipulated research he oversaw as a neuroscientist. His departure comes after seven years as head of one of the world's leading universities, and after eight months of determined reporting by an 18-year-old freshman.

RELATED: Stanford University president to resign following concerns about his research

Theo Baker is Investigations Editor for the Stanford Daily. He had just arrived at Stanford campus last fall when he decided to dig into murmurings in scientific forums that the president of his university may have allowed falsified scientific data to become published. His stories led the university to hire an outside law firm to investigate. The firm released its final report Wednesday. While it did not find Tessier-Lavigne personally responsible for any falsification of data, it found that he created a lab culture that could have pressured postdocs to do so, and that he should have corrected the mistakes.

Baker and his fellow student journalists' reporting on Tessier-Lavigne earned the Stanford Daily a prestigious 2022 Polk Award, a first for an independent student-run newspaper. And Baker himself was given a "Special Award," described by the organization as a recognition "to honor a reporter who exhibits steadfastness and bravery and whose work does not fall into a typical category." Past winners include Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times and the 1619 Project.

Baker was on ABC7 Getting Answers Wednesday and talked to anchor Kristen Sze about his "utterly strange" journey, taking on his university president, holding his university accountable, and igniting a conversation about research integrity.

Watch the full interview in the media player above.

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