The next big name to fall is Francisco Ayala, a huge name in genetics and evolution. It turns out he took advantage of his wealth and reputation.
Micha Liberty, an attorney who represents three of the women, said UCI ignored years of complaints from professors and graduate students that Ayala touched them and made sexual and sexist comments. She said one of the professors she’s representing reported Ayala’s conduct three years ago, but university officials failed to investigate or sanction him.
“They just told him, ‘Stay away from her,’ ” Liberty said. “Dr. Ayala has had a long and successful career and was clearly an asset to the UCI campus … and that in turn motivated UCI to look the other way when it came to complaints of sexual harassment.”
The university started the investigation last November. The women, who asked to be identified, are Kathleen Treseder, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology; Jessica Pratt, an assistant teaching professor; Benedicte Shipley, an assistant dean; and Michelle Herrera, a graduate student.
After interviews with the women and more than 60 witnesses, the university substantiated the complaints last month.
I’m just sayin’…holy crap. His name is on textbooks, he’s in the textbooks. This is big and very shocking. And there goes his reputation. Gone.
In 2011, Ayala donated $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences, which then bore his name. It was the largest gift from a faculty member at the time.
The university said Ayala’s name has been removed from that school, and also is being removed from its central science library, graduate fellowships, scholar programs and endowed chairs. The biology school will now be known as the UCI School of Biological Sciences.
Also ironic: he was a major associate of the Templeton Foundation, and was fond of arguing for the compatibility of science and religion. That Catholic upbringing didn’t help him here.
He does have a novel defense. He had “too much respect” for women, and they just confused his manners for sexual assault.
“I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman — to greet women colleagues warmly, with a kiss to both cheeks, to compliment them on their beauty — made colleagues I respect uncomfortable,” Ayala said Friday in a statement. “It was never my intent to do so.”
He said he had “too much respect” for the women, his family and UC Irvine to continue defending himself with hearings, appeals or lawsuits and would continue his research “with renewed vigor” elsewhere.
Yeah, right. Sure. These were intelligent, well-educated women — I don’t think they’d be at all confused, and wouldn’t mistake a European-style kiss on the cheek for sexual harassment. It’s an insulting argument.