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College president resigns after 'liking' tweets critical of COVID vaccines, trans surgeries for kids
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

College president resigns after 'liking' tweets critical of COVID vaccines, trans surgeries for kids

After coming under fire several months ago for "liking" tweets critical of COVID vaccines and trans surgeries for kids, Dr. Mark Tykocinski has resigned as president of Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University.

What are the details?

Jefferson CEO Joseph G. Cacchione said in an email last week to the university community that Tykocinski is stepping down “to focus on his research and clinical translation efforts” but would remain a full professor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, adding that he also will no longer be interim dean of Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

The Inquirer noted that Cacchione's announcement didn't include any reference to Tykocinski’s Twitter activity.

Several employees and students concerned about Tykocinski’s tweet likes noted to the paper that his resignation is a relief.

“It was one of the outcomes that we wanted,” a medical school student who asked for anonymity over fear of retribution told the Inquirer.

What's the background?

More from the paper:

Tykocinski, 70, a Yale-educated molecular immunologist and academic leader who has been at Jefferson for nearly 15 years, was elevated from provost to president last July.

In April, some Jefferson employees who asked for anonymity because they feared retribution approached The Inquirer with concerns about Tykocinski’s social media activity, given that it was on an account that clearly identified him as Jefferson’s president and dean of the medical college.

An April 29 Inquirer story reported that Tykocinski "has used his Twitter account to 'like' tweets that question the science of COVID-19 vaccines, call gender reassignment surgery 'child mutilation,' and are critical of diversity offices on college campuses, among other controversial topics."

The paper at the time said Tykocinski in the last year "liked" nearly 30 tweets from Alex Berenson, whom the Inquirer said was "once called 'the pandemic’s wrongest man' by the Atlantic."

Cacchione then messaged faculty, employees, and students and ripped Tykocinski's "careless use" of Twitter, adding that "at his level, he is held to a higher standard and should have known better," the Inquirer said in a follow-up story.

Berenson responded on Twitter at the time by saying "academic freedom is dead" — and Twitter CEO Elon Musk added that the school's response is "absurd."

Tykocinski then said in a statement to the Inquirer that he “liked” the tweets in question in order to bookmark them so he could "learn more about the subject matter or the particular viewpoint."

“What I did not understand was that by liking a tweet, it could be interpreted as endorsement of the thought expressed or the person expressing it. ... I certainly had no intention of endorsing the content of individual tweets or the person tweeting," he added to the paper.

“I regret my lack of understanding of how ‘liking’ a tweet is an implied endorsement. I also regret how my lack of understanding of the Twitter platform caused some to question my views on these complex issues," he also told the Inquirer.

The paper added that in regard to COVID-19 vaccines, Tykocinski clarified: “I do not believe vaccines are harmful. The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines were originally made available through an accelerated [emergency use authorization] process: and hence, the speed in which they were developed saves millions of lives. There is still much to be learned. Academic institutions play a key role in answering these questions.”

The Inquirer added that when asked if he regarded transgender surgery as child mutilation, Tykocinski replied: “This is not my clinical area of expertise. In general, any issue involving children should be referred to clinical experts at children’s hospitals who offer the full complement of services necessary.”

A Jefferson spokesperson told the Inquirer at the time that the college "intends to use this opportunity as a teaching moment regarding the understanding, impact, and prudent use of social media.”

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