University of California Berkeley astronomy professor Geoff Marcy resigned today, after a six-month internal university investigation found that he had repeatedly sexually harassed numerous students over the course of years. The investigation, which was first reported by Buzzfeed, detailed incidents spanning from 2001 to 2010 that included "unwanted massages, kisses, and groping."
The situation is all the more awful as UC Berkeley, which concluded its investigation into the allegations against Marcy in June of this year, originally decided that the best way to censure the professor was basically to sternly ask him to never do it again. From Buzzfeed:
As a result of the findings, the women were informed, Marcy has been given “clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students,” which he must follow or risk “sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal.”
When news of the non-punishment got out, the response from the planetary research community was swift — and universally negative. A seemingly confused apology issued by Marcy, that shifts the focus away from his actions to the intention behind them, has done little to calm the anger felt by those affected by his abuse. From The New York Times:
But [Marcy's] apology and the university’s response were widely seen as not enough and lacking in sensitivity to the victims of his actions, some of whom have since left astronomy. The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy declined his request that the apology be published in its newsletter, according to the Women in Astronomy blog.
Marcy is considered to be a "superstar" astronomer, according to The Atlantic, and was even thought to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize.
[Marcy] is a major figure in the exoplanet revolution, which has transformed our view of the universe so profoundly, that some have compared it to the revolution kicked off by Copernicus. Many of the first thousand planets observed circling other stars were detected by teams Marcy led. When history books about early-21st-century science are written, Marcy's name will be in them.
It appears that Marcy's proclivity toward harassment was an open secret in the world of astronomy. John Asher Johnson, a professor of astronomy at Harvard, told Buzzfeed that he had directly witnessed inappropriate behavior by Marcy when Johnson was still a graduate student.
“What’s really infuriating about this is that anybody of my generation in the field of exoplanets knows that Geoff does this,” Johnson said. “Everybody is so afraid of doing anything about it that they are afraid of speaking out, but everybody knows it.”