Campus astronomer Geoffrey Marcy to resign amid sexual harassment allegations

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Geoffrey Marcy, a famed astronomer and campus professor who was implicated in a breach of campus sexual harassment policies in June, will leave his position as a faculty member at UC Berkeley.

According to an email sent Wednesday to the campus astronomy department from Gibor Basri, interim chair of the department, Marcy declared his intention to resign. He will also step down from his position as the principal investigator with the Breakthrough Listen project, a $100 million effort to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

In a statement to the campus community sent Wednesday afternoon, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele said they “believe the outcome is entirely appropriate and have immediately accepted (Marcy’s) resignation … (and) want to state unequivocally that Professor Marcy’s conduct, as determined by the investigation, was contemptible and inexcusable.”

On June 22, UC Berkeley’s Title IX office formally implicated Marcy in a breach of campus sexual harassment policies — including groping students, kissing them and touching or massaging them. In response, the campus subsequently imposed a “zero tolerance policy regarding future behavior” for Marcy.

UC Berkeley astronomy professor Eugene Chiang said he and other astronomy department faculty initially put two women, who brought forth allegations of Marcy’s inappropriate conduct, into contact with the UC Berkeley Title IX office in June 2014.

Investigations of this nature are confidential, however — and as such, Marcy’s colleagues at UC Berkeley were not informed of the results of the investigation until late last week when BuzzFeed broke the story of the allegations against Marcy.

On Monday, members of the department convened to discuss the results of the investigation. According to Chiang, Marcy was not present at the meeting. The department released a statement that night in which more than 20 current and emeritus members of the faculty implored the “UC Berkeley administration to re-evaluate its response to Marcy.”

Marcy had been a member of the UC Berkeley astronomy department since 1999 and has been lauded as the primary exoplanet authority responsible for our transformed understanding of the extrasolar universe. Prior to his resignation, Marcy was teaching a freshman seminar about intelligent extraterrestrial life at UC Berkeley this semester.

Contact Zoe Kleinfeld and Katy Abbott at [email protected].