A famous astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley who violated the school’s sexual harassment policy is reportedly resigning from his position at the university, according to BuzzFeed reporter Azeen Ghorayshi.
Ghorayshi cited an email sent by professor Gibor Basri, the interim chair of Berkeley’s astronomy department.
After an investigation earlier this year, UC Berkeley found astronomy professor Geoff Marcy violated the university’s sexual-harassment policy on multiple occasions between 2001 and 2010, BuzzFeed reported last Friday. The school reprimanded but did not fire Marcy.
“Four women alleged that Marcy repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behaviour with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping,” BuzzFeed reported Friday.
UC Berkeley has been criticised for its perceived leniency in reprimanding a star professor who violated the school’s sexual-harassment policy. The latest hit against the university came from a group of 22 UC Berkeley astronomy professors, who wrote an open letter Monday calling for Marcy’s dismissal.
“We urge the UC Berkeley administration to re-evaluate its response to Marcy, who has been found in violation of UC sexual harassment policy,” the astronomy faculty members write. “We believe that Geoff Marcy cannot perform the functions of a faculty member.”
University of Memphis physics professor Joan T. Schmelz told The Chronicle of Higher Education that these four women are “just the tip of the iceberg.” Schmelz chairs the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and worked with women who believed Marcy had harassed them.
“I heard this so many times,” she told The Chronicle, “that I realised it was standard practice for him.”
Schmelz eventually realised that Marcy had a “playbook” for picking up female students, according to The Chronicle:
Mr. Marcy, she says, would isolate a female student in his lab or find a way to talk to her privately on the campus, away from others. During the talk, he would make a slightly inappropriate comment, touch or kiss the student, and then apologise, according to what women told her. Depending on the reaction he got, she says, he would either back off or take another step forward. Students, she says, complained that he had given them rides home, taken them out to coffee, and told them he and his wife had an open relationship.
In a letter posted on his UC Berkeley faculty page last week, Marcy apologised for what he called “mistakes I’ve made.”
“While I do not agree with each complaint that was made, it is clear that my behaviour was unwelcomed by some women,” Marcy writes. “I take full responsibility and hold myself completely accountable for my actions and the impact they had. For that and to the women affected, I sincerely apologise.”
Marcy is well-known for his discoveries of exoplanets, which are outside our solar system. He has been considered a contender for a Nobel Prize in physics.
Business Insider has reached out to Marcy, Basri, and UC Berkeley for comment on a tip that Marcy was planning to resign.
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