Yale News

A federal investigation into School of Medicine professor Haifan Lin has been discontinued, according to his lawyer.

The Department of Justice notified Lin’s legal counsel, Abe Rein of the firm Post & Schell, that its investigation had been “discontinued” as of Wednesday, March 30, according to a statement from the firm. The professor had been under investigation by the DOJ since at least July 2020 following a March 2019 inquiry by the National Institutes of Health regarding “the sufficiency of reporting of outside support” by several Yale faculty, including Lin. Lin was suspended by University Provost Scott Strobel and School of Medicine Dean Nancy Brown in January in light of an internal investigation due to what the University claimed was “credible information” provided by the NIH. Faculty members decried the suspension and investigation, saying that the China Initiative, a DOJ anti-espionage campaign, unfairly discriminates against researchers of Asian and Chinese descent. It is unclear whether Lin’s specific case fell under the umbrella of the Initiative, which the DOJ ended in late February.

The University could not immediately provide a comment.

Lin, a professor of cell biology and director of the University’s prestigious Stem Cell Center, was not available to provide comment on Thursday, according to his law firm. Rein had been providing counsel to Lin regarding the government’s investigation, he said. The University had previously stated that it had acquired lawyers for Lin. 

It is unclear whether Lin’s suspension remains in place. Colleagues reported that he had been barred from his lab and from contacting his research group since January. The Comparative Medicine Department and the Cell Biology Department, as well as the Stem Cell Center, released open letters in support of Lin, alleging that the University had violated due process by suspending Lin before the conclusion of an investigation by either the government or University itself. The University previously released a statement saying that its officials have followed all guidelines outlined in the Faculty Handbook.

“I hope that Haifan is reinstated as soon as possible,” School of Medicine professor and Chair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate Valerie Horsley wrote to the News. “I also hope that the University gives more clarity about why he was placed on leave and when faculty are subject to being placed on leave if an investigation is underway.”

Other faculty were more critical.

“The Yale Provost’s Office could have come out of this looking good if they had backed up Haifan right from the beginning,” wrote professor of cell biology Joel Rosenbaum. “But as soon as there was just a smell of them not getting overhead from NIH grants, they took a cowardly stance. One is presumed guilty, right from the start, before there is any thorough investigation; this is not the first time this has happened.”

Yale Vice President of Communications Nate Nickerson previously wrote to the News that the University has followed all policies and due process outlined in the Faculty Handbook. 

The announcement came a day after a second medical school department issued a statement in support of Lin. The newest letter, issued by the Department of Comparative Medicine, expresses “strong opposition” to events leading to Lin’s suspension and also mentions the possibility that faculty other than Lin have also been suspended. This is now the second departmental letter addressed to the University regarding Lin, after an initial school-wide inquiry and one issued by the Cell Biology Department, of which Lin is a member.

“The many recent public accounts of this situation have exposed a potential failure of due process on the part of Yale University, which appears to be, for all practical purposes, suspended him prior to the completion of the investigation,” the Comparative Medicine Department’s statement reads. “Our public discussion of this situation revealed other Chinese-American faculty may also have been similarly treated.”

The letter also attributes the investigation to the China Initiative. The News has not been able to verify with the University or DOJ that Lin’s case specifically falls under the China Initiative.

The letter was released by the department’s Twitter account on Tuesday and shared by many medical school faculty members.

ISAAC YU
Isaac Yu writes about Yale's faculty and academics. He lays out the front page of the print edition, edits the News' Instagram and previously covered transportation and urban planning in New Haven. Hailing from Garland, Texas, he is a Berkeley College sophomore majoring in American Studies.