A famous UC Berkeley astronomer, Geoff Marcy, has decided to resign his post as professor
at the university in the wake of a sex scandal in which he allegedly harassed female students for years on campus, BuzzFeed News reports. BuzzFeed News science reporter Azeen Ghorayshi, a former Express
staffer, broke the news last week
of the sexual harassment allegations against Marcy and UC Berkeley’s decision to allow him to keep teaching.
Ghorayshi, who reported the story from New York City, also noted that “Marcy has also resigned as principal investigator of the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, a large scientific research program aimed at finding life beyond Earth.” Marcy had previously been mentioned as a potential Nobel Prize laureate.
In last week’s investigative story, Ghorayshi reported that she had spoken to three of four women who had filed complaints against Marcy over his behavior. One of the women told UC Berkeley investigators that “Marcy placed his hand on her leg, slid his hand up her thigh, and grabbed her crotch,” according to BuzzFeed.
In a phone interview, Ghorayshi told me that she learned of the allegations of Marcy being a serial harasser from a tip. The women who had lodged harassment complaints against Marcy were upset that UC Berkeley effectively had given him a slap on the wrist, despite the fact that a campus investigation revealed that he had violated Cal’s official sexual harassment policies from 2001–2010. So the women decided to go to the press.
The women chose BuzzFeed likely because of its national reach and because the news organization has developed a reputation for seriously examining sexism in science. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed also reported on the chauvinistic comments
made by British scientist Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize winner, who said at a conference: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!”
Ghorayshi, a UC Berkeley grad in biology, said she did not know Marcy when she attended Cal. Ghorayshi won several journalism awards
while she worked at the Express
. She left the paper in 2013 to attend graduate school in London. She started working at BuzzFeed last year.