“After all of this effort and trying to go through the proper channels, Berkeley has ultimately come up with no response. I’ve seen sexual harassers get slaps on the wrist before. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist.” —Joan Schmelz, former chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy.
As students and alumni of this institution, we are deeply troubled by the recent and egregious example of UC Berkeley administrators sacrificing the safety of the students to protect the institution’s reputation. Astronomy professor Geoff Marcy was found to have violated the school’s sexual harassment policy for more than a decade. Despite complaints against him from 2001-10, the university took no significant action against him, and he resigned only after the investigation’s findings and dismal disciplinary process became public. Why? We suspect it has something to do with his fame and status in his field. But although another “Nobel laureate” parking spot may attract more students, a professor implicated in a breach of campus sexual harassment policies is hardly something to advertise.
According to the Faculty Code of Conduct, a professor found in violation of UC Berkeley policy can be sanctioned with a written censure, reduction in salary, demotion, suspension or dismissal from the campus. The only one of these measures taken was a simple written censure, and he was allowed to resign voluntarily as opposed to being dismissed. Vice Provost for Faculty Janet Broughton is ultimately responsible for assessing violation of the faculty code of conduct, and she and the members of the academic senate involved in this process failed to respond appropriately to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination’s finding of responsibility. Recent emails from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele highlighted the complicated aspects of disciplining faculty, suggesting that inappropriate behavior from professors will be tolerated because of their powerful positions on campus.
All faculty, even Nobel Prize contenders, must be held accountable for their actions. The law does not exempt scientists, famous people, nice guys or smart guys from facing disciplinary action if found responsible for sexual harassment or assault. That even famed professors can, and do, commit these atrocities should not be surprising; sexual harassment and violence are about power, control and entitlement — not sex.
We are extraordinarily disappointed in our institution for protecting an alleged serial predator who allegedly harassed both undergraduate and graduate students. But what is worse than UC Berkeley’s dismal response is that UC Berkeley’s deliberate indifference to sexual violence is so typical that we have come to expect it. And because this case involves a faculty member, as opposed to the common “student-on-student” case, high-level administrators are to blame for it. We are calling on Broughton, Dirks and the Academic Senate to improve their disciplinary practices and hold faculty accountable.
In addition to failing to punish a man accused of serially sexually harassing women, UC Berkeley’s soon-to-be-former Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and chair of the astronomy department, Gibor Basri, said in an email to astronomy faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers last week that the declaration of the revelations was “hardest for Geoff” and that we should offer him “support and understanding.” There was no mention whatsoever in his email of the women he had harassed.
To be blunt: We are outraged. We are disappointed. But the one thing we are not is surprised.
Sofie Karasek, UC Berkeley ’15, director of education, End Rape on Campus
Haley Broder, ASUC senator 2014-15
Meghan Warner, student representative, UC Task Force on Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault
Thanh Bercher, Cal Consent Campaign director, It’s On Us participant
Marandah Field-Elliot, QTips president*
Holly Wertman, Miriam the IV director
Annie Seymour, UC Berkeley ’16
Olivia McGovern, UC Berkeley ’17
Sheena Paul, ASUC senator
Zoe Brouns, ASUC senator
Melissa Hsu, ASUC academic affairs vice president
Marium Navid, ASUC external affairs vice president
Lavanya Jawaharlal, ASUC executive vice president
Yordanos Dejen, ASUC president
Kevin Gorman, former Wikipedian in Residence, UC Berkeley ’13
Shannon Thomas, UC Berkeley ’14
Caitlin Quinn, ASUC external affairs vice president 2014-15
Sahar Priano, UConsent campaign manager, Gender Equity intern
Shivani Narang, ASUC Sexual Assault Commission director
Amber Akemi Piatt, MPH, Graduate Assembly’s Women of Color Initiative director 2013-15, It’s On Us participant
Aron Egelko, UC Berkeley ’15
Linda Blum, UC Berkeley ’87
Cal Berkeley Democrats’ Executive Board