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Berkeley Grad Students Vote No Confidence In Disciplinary Process After Geoff Marcy Scandal

The Graduate Assembly — the governing body for graduate students — passed a resolution of no confidence in the school's disciplinary process stemming from the famous astronomer's sexual harassment scandal.

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The University of California, Berkeley graduate student government passed a resolution of no confidence Thursday night in the university’s current adjudication process and disciplinary procedures — stemming from the sexual harassment scandal of famed astronomer Geoff Marcy.

Marcy resigned from his tenured position after BuzzFeed News first revealed that a university investigation found he violated the school’s sexual harassment policies several times between 2001 and 2010. Four women alleged that Marcy repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping.

The resolution, passed by the Graduate Assembly — the
governing body for graduate students on campus — said that after Marcy was found in violation of sexual harassment policy that, according to campus procedures, should have garnered serious penalties.

The violations discovered by the university investigation could have led to a reduction in salary, demotion, suspension, and dismissal. Instead, it was given a written censure.

“Graduate and professional students are especially vulnerable to sexual violence by faculty, because they work together in intimate settings, over extended periods of time, and in a range of roles,” the resolution reads.

The graduate students' resolution follows an initiative taken by undergraduate students at Berkeley expressing condemnation of the school’s sexual assault adjudication process in response to Marcy, General Assembly president Jenna Kingkade told BuzzFeed News.

Kingkade said she felt it was important to have graduate student opinions heard, since they have a different relationship with professors.

“Graduate students work with professors in smaller settings,” she said. “The issues are unique.”

Lizz Niemeyer, director of marketing and communications for the Graduate Assembly, said faculty sexual harassment is very prominent for graduate students.

“It’s the power dynamic people are concerned about,” Niemeyer said. “They are your faculty that should be protecting you and mentoring you. We don’t feel the university handled the investigation into Geoff Marcy correctly.”

When asked to comment on the Graduate Assembly's resolution, Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore referred to a statement issued last month by Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele defending the 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,” the statement reads. “We want to state unequivocally that Professor Marcy’s conduct, as determined by the investigation, was contemptible and inexcusable.”

The Graduate Assembly is demanding the school investigate why Vice Provost of Faculty Jane Broughton did not impose stronger disciplinary sanctions on Marcy as well as a transparent review of the current investigatory processes.

The graduate students are also demanding assurance that Marcy is prohibited from any future position within the University of California system.

Additionally, the resolution calls for recurring sexual assault prevention trainings for all Berkeley faculty, lecturers and staff.

"Until these changes have been made, the Graduate Assembly holds no confidence in UC Berkeley’s current adjudication process and disciplinary procedures,” the Graduate Assembly said in a statement.

Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at maryann.georgantopoulos@buzzfeed.com.

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