The Committee Behind The Nobel Prize Is Facing A Huge Sexual Assault Scandal & The King Of Sweden Is Getting Involved

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Nobel Prize-granting body known as the Swedish Academy experienced serious upset on Thursday, when Sara Danius, the academy's first female permanent secretary, was removed from her post in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against a man affiliated with the committee. Danius' departure leaves vacant seven of the Swedish Academy's 18 seats, which, according to The New York Times, is "one short of the 12-member quorum needed to elect new members in the event of a vacancy." The Swedish Academy has been left so dysfunctional that King Carl XVI Gustav has agreed to step in and make changes that will allow the Nobel Prize-granting body to continue operation.

You might be asking yourself how things got to this point. It all started in November 2017, when 18 women accused Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Danius, who has led the Swedish Academy since 2015, "cut the academy’s ties with Mr. Arnault, and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into its ties with" his businesses, The New York Times reports. The law firm found "financial irregularities," but the Swedish Academy did not follow the firm's recommendation that it file a report with the police, who were conducting their own investigation into the allegations against Arnault.

Nobel Prize on YouTube

The allegations against Arnault and the Swedish Academy's response prompted the departure of three academy members — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark, and Danius' predecessor Peter Englund — on April 6. Based on The New York Times' reporting of their separation from the academy, it is difficult to say whether or not the three men left the Nobel Prize-granting body for the same reason.

Now, with Danius gone, the Swedish Academy has too few members to approve new ones. Members join the academy for lifetime positions, and death is the only way to empty a seat; quitting merely leaves a person's post inactive. Some seats were already vacant in advance of this recent exodus, and the Swedish Academy is now left one active member shy of the 12 it needs to replace its lost bodies. The New York Times reports that "King Carl XVI Gustaf signaled this week that he would . . . amend the academy’s rules to allow members to resign and be replaced."

The Swedish Academy says that this upset will not impact the granting of the Nobel Prize, which requires only an eight-member quorum to approve.