The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Katy Murphy, The Oakland Tribune (TNS)

BERKELEY, Calif. — As fury grows over reports that astronomer Geoff Marcy sexually harassed female students for years, the University of California, Berkeley, Monday defended how it has handled complaints against the professor.

The claims surfaced late last week when BuzzFeed published a story on a confidential university investigation that concluded in June and resulted in a warning. According to BuzzFeed, four students complained that they had been subject to unwanted advances, including kisses, groping and massages. It reported that the harassment was an open secret among astronomers.

“The university has imposed real consequences on Professor Geoff Marcy by establishing a zero-tolerance policy regarding future behavior and by stripping him of the procedural protections that all other faculty members enjoy before he can be subject to discipline up to and including termination,” the university said in a statement.

But students are livid that the professor received what they see as a mere warning for his past behavior as part of an agreement reached with the university’s vice provost for the faculty.

“I think it says that the faculty does not truly care about sexual assault and harassment against its students and care more about our academic reputation,” said Meghan Warner, a senior and a student representative to a University of California task force on sexual violence.

Marcy, a professor at Berkeley since 1999, was considered in the running for a Nobel Prize for his discovery and study of large planets outside of our solar system. He did not respond to a request for comment, but posted an open apology letter on his faculty page last week, shortly before BuzzFeed — which obtained the confidential report — broke the story.

“While I do not agree with each complaint that was made, it is clear that my behavior was unwelcomed by some women,” Marcy wrote. “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 apologize.”

The incidents are believed to have occurred between 2001 and 2010 with students who have since graduated; the university first received the complaints in July 2014, said campus spokeswoman Janet Gilmore.

Faculty have more protections than students who are accused of violating campus policies, and they undergo a sanctioning process that includes a hearing before their peers. The university administration cannot unilaterally fire a professor, for example, while it can expel a student.

The university concluded that setting “clear behavioral standards” for Marcy on his interactions with students, along with the waiving of those protections, “was the most certain and effective option for preventing any inappropriate future conduct,” it said.

But the problem is greater than this one high-profile professor, Warner said. Graduate students who are harassed by faculty, she said, often fear that reporting the problem will end their careers.

“It’s been a real problem for graduate students, and it’s something activists haven’t addressed nearly enough,” she said.

Photo: Dr. Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at UC Berkeley, was identified in a Buzzfeed report as sexually harassing students. Rafael Perrino/Flickr


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Herschel Walker

Former football star Herschel Walker has attracted a large following as a commentator over the last decade, carefully crafting an image as an upstanding Black American with a focus on conservative “family values.” So when news broke last week of Walker having a 10-year-old child whom he did not raise, the Georgia Republican Senate candidate's detractors began hammering on the contradictions between his moralizing speeches and his own life.

Walker has made his stance against fatherless households a key component of his personal political brand. In a 2020 interview, he said the Black community has a “major, major problem” with fatherless homes.

Keep reading... Show less

Rep. Lauren Boebert

YouTube Screenshot

For far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, owning a gun-themed restaurant called Shooters Grill has been a major promotional tool among fellow MAGA Republicans and members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). But according to Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger, Boebert’s promotional tool may be in trouble: Sollenberger reports that Boebert’s restaurant is “facing an uncertain” future now that the new landlord of the property she has been renting has announced that he won’t be renewing her lease.

In an article published by the Beast on June 23, Sollenberger describes the property’s new landlord as a “marijuana retailer.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}