Due to my outrage concerning the disgusting attack of the (mostly) US1 astronomical community against Geoff Marcy, and the apparent lack of any counter movement against this madness, I would like to draw your attention to the danger of remaining silent in this situation.
What we can gather from the newspapers and web sites discussing the issue, it is clear that the reaction of the community was unproportional, vicious, hypocritical and hysterical2. The unleashed hate3, clearly blowing out of proportion the weight of his behavior and leaving wide open space to any further accusation against anybody showing some level of casual interaction4 and furthermore, endanger normal and friendly contacts in the community and in the society, as a whole. I hope you recognize the great danger of accepting the total destruction of someone’s undeniable contribution to science5 because of the hypocritical attitude the community seems to accept these days.
Considering the pace of events, I think that the clock is ticking very quickly. If the mature and free-thinking part of the community does not act right now, I am sure that the game ends very quickly, and those who initiated this dirty, unethical and disgraceful attack6, will win. Today Geoff, tomorrow you or me.7
Geza Kovacs, DSc
p.s.: You are free to circulate this letter to anybody you think might be willing to act. This letter has been sent also to other researchers.
1I’ve seen this same weird displacement activity among atheists, too. It’s just Americans who are too sensitive. I have never heard Americans accused of “sensitivity” in any other context. Either there is no sexism in Europe, or European men are especially oblivious.
unproportional, vicious, hypocritical and hysterical, isn’t the accusation that people who are unhappy with the lack of consequences to Marcy kind of
unproportional, vicious, hypocritical and hysterical?
3Ditto. I haven’t seen any expressions of hate at all — mostly regret, dismay, and anger at both the behavior and the timidity of UCB.
Casual interaction? An official investigation at Berkeley found:
After a six-month investigation, Geoff Marcy — a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been mentioned as a potential Nobel laureate — was found to have violated campus sexual harassment policies between 2001 and 2010. Four women alleged that Marcy repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping.
I just got out of lab with my cell biology students. I managed to help them do measurements of enzyme reaction rates with no massages, kisses, or groping. I would not call such activities
5Marcy’s contributions to science have not been destroyed. Neither has Marcy’s career.
If we’re going to talk about destruction, how about the careers of the women who fled astronomy because of the disrespect, or how about their potential contributions to science?
6Again, official, formal investigation by the university in response to a decade of bad behavior by Marcy, with at least four clear victims. If I had to name who was dirty, unethical, and disgraceful, it would be someone whose name begins with “G” and ends with “eoff Marcy”.
7It might be you tomorrow if you are massaging, kissing, or groping your students. It might also be you tomorrow if you’re in the habit of robbing banks; that you might be thrown in prison for that crime if you were to rob a bank is not an argument that bank robbers need to be treated leniently.
At any rate, Kovacs was too late. Marcy has resigned.
I guess all Kovacs can do now is help him land a new position somewhere less concerned about Dr Handsy fondling the undergrads, and more enthused about getting grants and fame. I’m sure there will be no shortage of positions available, and may Cthulhu have mercy on the students8 at his next institution.
8Cthulhu will show no mercy.
Others are coming forward. Would you believe his bad behavior goes back 30 years? Of course you would.
His inappropriate behaviour goes back a good thirty years, when he was teaching at San Francisco State University.
This is where I met him in 1985 when we both worked in the Physics and Astronomy Department while I was a Master’s student and a lecturer. It was well known that he had intimate relationships with several of his female students. But it is not the only aspect where I felt Marcy’s ethics were questionable.
In 1987, Marcy’s colleague in the search for exoplanets realized that he had handed her a revised copy of their joint grant proposal. On the copy Marcy had given her, both their names appeared, his as main investigator and hers, as co-investigator. But Marcy’s official copy, the one he had submitted to the funding agency, bore only his name.
She reported this to the department head, who fired her on the spot. Marcy was the rising star of his department. She then filed a formal complaint for professional misconduct against Marcy. But she was unable to recover her position and she left the field of astronomy. Following these events, a few people tried to draw the University’s attention to Geoff Marcy’s inappropriate behaviour with his female students.
Guess what the university did?