Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, a leader in the search for life on other planets, resigned last week from the University of California, Berkeley, following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations. However, he was not asked to resign by the University. Far from it. The University had conducted a six-month investigation of Marcy’s conduct and determined that Marcy had routinely violated the University’s sexual harassment policies over a 10 year period. Marcy was found to have engaged in unwelcome kissing, groping, and massages of at least 4 students over the years. The University wanted to keep it quiet. After wrapping up the investigation in June, rather than discipline Marcy, the University told him to be on his best behavior or he might be disciplined in the future.
After learning of the findings months later, faculty at Berkeley were concerned that the University was sending a message that there were no consequences for such conduct and that the University’s handling of the situation would encourage rather than discourage similar behavior from others. 24 faculty members in the department of astronomy signed off on a letter saying they did not believe Marcy could continue to perform his job as a faculty member. A couple of days later, Marcy resigned. Marcy was the head of a $100 million dollar project searching for evidence of life on other planets and was considered a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize.