The CEO of DataCamp is leaving his role 'indefinitely' after a sexual misconduct allegation from a former employee came to light

DataCampJonathan Cornelissen, cofounder & CEO of DataCamp.

The CEO of $US184 million data science startup DataCamp is stepping down “indefinitely,” after an allegation that he made “uninvited physical contact” with an employee in 2017 came to light earlier this week.

Jonathan Cornelissen, the company’s cofounder and CEO, is taking an unpaid “indefinite leave of absence” from the company, the DataCamp board of directors wrote in a blog post Wednesday night. His leave will begin on May 1st, and the board writes that it’s “working through plans for interim leadership.”

“We have learned a lot from the community over the last several weeks and recognise that the company hasn’t listened nearly enough to you over the last 18 months,” the board wrote in the blog post. It also said that it is “fully committed to regaining your trust as a community.”

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Earlier in April, DataCamp published a blog post revealing that an unnamed executive had “danced inappropriately” with an employee while at an “informal employee gathering” at a bar in October 2017. The company said that it had taken “corrective actions,” including sensitivity training and personal coaching for this person, as well as “a strong warning that the company will not tolerate any such behaviour in the future.”

On Monday, Business Insider reported thatCornelissen, who has served as CEO since the company was founded in 2013, was the executive in question. At the time, DataCamp declined to disclose the executive’s identity.

But on Wednesday, the company’s board of directors confirmed that Cornelissen was indeed the executive involved in an incident with a former DataCamp employee. In a separate blog post published on Wednesday night, Cornelissen appeared to acknowledge that he was the unnamed executive in the original blog post, and made an apology, saying that “I have made mistakes along the way.”

“I am ashamed that I failed to recognise the imbalance of power that exists within a company,” Cornelissen wrote, in an apology to the former DataCamp employee. “I never intended to make you uncomfortable or cause you harm, and I accept responsibility for the repercussions of my actions and the impact they have had on your personal and professional life.”

In the blog post announcing Cornelissen’s leave, the DataCamp board of directors says that it’s conducting an independent third-party investigation into the company’s culture and working environment, spearheaded by civil rights attorney Anurima Bhargava. It also says that it’s assembling an advisory board of DataCamp instructors.

“[Cornelissen’s] return to the company in any capacity will be based on the findings of the independent third party review…and the recommendations of the Instructor Advisory Board…in conjunction with the Board of Directors,” says the blog post.

Instructor backlash

Even before DataCamp published its original blog post, the company faced backlash from the instructors who teach data science education classes on the platform, and who had originally pressured the company to comment on the incident.

Indeed, two days before DataCamp shared its original blog post about the incident earlier in April, more than 100 instructors signed an open letter urging a formal comment from the company, and asking for corrective action to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Now, however, we spoke to four DataCamp instructors who say that they’re still unsatisfied, even in the wake of the board’s actions to address the situation.

“Any true reckoning will involve not just the CEO’s actions, but every decision made afterwards to minimise them and sweep sexual misconduct under the rug,” Noam Ross, a DataCamp instructor who had previously criticised the company’s response to the incident, told Business Insider. “They are far from restoring trust. They have lost some of us permanently, and the rest are watching closely.”

Os Keyes, a DataCamp instructor – and one of the people who first named Cornelissen as the executive in the original blog post – is also unsatisfied. Keyes had pulled their courses from DataCamp in the wake of the original allegation and instituted a boycott of the platform; they do not plan to reverse course now, they said.

Several of the instructors Business Insider spoke to said that they’re sceptical that the board of directors will conduct a fair review, or that the instructor advisory board – which will be appointed by the board -will include any critics willing to hold management to account. According to Pitchbook, the board includes Cornelissen, DataCamp’s other two cofounders, and a DataCamp investor named Stephen LeSieur.

“If such a board or its review will have any credibility, the instructors on it would need to have the trust of the broader data science community,” DataCamp instructor Julia Silge told Business Insider. “Many instructors who fit that description have just experienced months of being undermined and gaslit by the DataCamp leadership team.”

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