Famous Astronomer Has Resigned After Sexual Harassment Investigation

Geoff Marcy has resigned from his tenured position at the University of California, Berkeley, the school confirms. Facing criticism, the university defended its decision not to fire him.

Geoff Marcy Stuart C. Wilson / Via gettyimages.com

Geoff Marcy has resigned from his tenured position as astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the school has confirmed.

The announcement comes in the wake of a BuzzFeed News story that revealed a university investigation finding that Marcy had violated Berkeley’s sexual harassment policies in several cases between 2001 and 2010.

More than 2,500 academics have signed an online petition to “support the people who were targets of Geoff Marcy’s inappropriate behavior and those who have spoken publicly about it.” Late on Monday, dozens of Marcy’s colleagues published statements calling for him to leave.

“It’s a relief to know that Geoff Marcy will no longer have access to UC Berkeley students,” Jessica Kirkpatrick, one of the complainants in the sexual harassment investigation, told BuzzFeed News. “I hope the university is using this opportunity to re-evaluate it’s process and policies so that vulnerable students have better protections in place to guard against sexual harassment from faculty moving forward.”

Many academics are upset that Berkeley didn’t take stronger disciplinary actions against Marcy after the investigation concluded that he had violated sexual harassment policies. He was given a “strict set of behavioral standards” to follow, and was told that if another complaint was filed, he could be sanctioned or fired.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the university defended its decision not to fire Marcy, citing University of California policy.

“UC Berkeley’s reaction to the finding that Professor Geoff Marcy violated the University’s sexual harassment policies has been the subject of understandable criticism and anger,” Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele, said in the statement.

“We want to state unequivocally that Professor Marcy’s conduct, as determined by the investigation, was contemptible and inexcusable.”

Marcy has also resigned as principal investigator of the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, a large scientific research program aimed at finding life beyond Earth.

Marcy has not responded to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.

Full statement from Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele:

This morning Professor Geoff Marcy resigned from the Berkeley faculty. We believe this outcome is entirely appropriate and have immediately accepted his resignation.

UC Berkeley’s reaction to the finding that Professor Geoff Marcy violated the University’s sexual harassment policies has been the subject of understandable criticism and anger.

Before describing the disciplinary options that were available to us, we want to state unequivocally that Professor Marcy’s conduct, as determined by the investigation, was contemptible and inexcusable. We also want to express our sympathy to the women who were victimized, and we deeply regret the pain they have suffered.

It is important to understand that as Berkeley’s leadership considered disciplinary options, we did not have the authority, as per University of California policy, to unilaterally impose any disciplinary sanctions, including termination. Discipline of a faculty member is a lengthy and uncertain process. It would include a full hearing where the standards of evidence that would be used are higher than those that are applied by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) in the course of its investigations. The process would also be subject to a three-year statute of limitations.

Our objective was to protect our students by immediately preventing any re-occurrence of the behavior described in the investigative report. We thus chose to establish, in writing, a strict set of behavioral standards that went beyond what is specifically proscribed by the University’s rules and regulations. In addition, the agreement authorized the administration to by-pass the lengthy, uncertain disciplinary process by stripping the professor of a faculty member’s usual due process rights.

We recognize and share the frustration that many have expressed, and we are committed to work with the Office of the President and the Academic Senate to reform the University’s disciplinary processes, criteria and standards so that in the future we have different and better options for discipline of faculty.

We also want our campus community to know that we fully support new efforts now underway in a number of departments and colleges to address cultural issues and standards related to sexual harassment. We must do everything in our power to create the conditions necessary for quick and confidential reporting of suspected violations of our rules and standards of conduct.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

 
 

More News

More News

Now Buzzing