Penn psychology professor Robert Kurzban has stepped down from his role as the president of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, according to a recent email from the former HBES president Elizabeth Cashdan to members of the society.
Cashdan added that she will be assuming the role of acting-president until the HBES council meets for their annual conference in Amsterdam this July.
Kurzban's resignation happened on April 25, Cashdan said. This was the same day that an article from The Daily Pennsylvanian was published detailing allegations that Kurzban had a romantic relationship with an undergraduate student he was overseeing. Earlier in April, the DP reported that Kurzban allegedly had a sexual relationship with another undergraduate student in his class.
According to their website, HBES is a society for scholars who study the evolution of human behavior, including evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology, and cultural evolution. In her emailed statement to HBES members, Cashdan said Kurzban, who was slated to act as HBES president from 2017-2019, chose to step down because "he did not want [the allegations] to be a distraction to the society." She added in a separate statement to the DP that Kurzban had stepped down voluntarily.
"We expect our members to abide by our Code of Conduct at HBES events, but we do not have a statement about Prof. Kurzban's situation at Penn, nor would we, since it is a Penn matter and is still under investigation," Cashdan wrote in her statement to the DP. "Prof. Kurzban suggested that he step down so that those events would not be a distraction for HBES, and we appreciate that and agree with it."
Chair of the Psychology Department Sharon Thompson-Schill confirmed on April 26 that Kurzban has been removed from a psychology honors seminar that he had been assigned to teach in the fall. Kurzban has also been removed from his role as the director of the honors program in the psychology department.
University spokesperson Steve MacCarthy did not address questions asking what exactly Kurzban would be doing in his capacity as a professor next semester or whether he would continue to be paid by the University.
Executive Editor Rebecca Tan contributed reporting.