Astronomer quits UC Berkeley amid sex harassment

University of California at Berkeley officials accepted this morning’s resignation of professor of astronomy Geoff Marcy, a letter to the community from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor Claude Steele said.

Marcy was subject to an official investigation by university officials that ended in July 2015 after complaints of sexual harassment of women started coming in last June, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said.

The incidents of harassment toward students who have since graduated are believed to have occurred between 2001 and 2010, Gilmore said.

Marcy said in a letter posted on his university web page that he does not agree with each complaint, but realizes his behavior was unwelcome by some women in the field of astronomy.

He also said in the letter that he takes full responsibility and holds himself accountable for his actions and their impact.

He said in the letter he sincerely apologizes to the women.

The statement from Dirks and Steele said the anger from university community members and criticism of the disciplinary action officials took against Marcy was understandable.

Gilmore said university officials told him he would face further discipline including termination if he violated sexual harassment policies again.

University leaders said they considered their options for disciplining Marcy and noted that the process for a faculty member is lengthy and uncertain.

The process is also subject to a statute of limitations of three years, according to the letter from Dirks and Steele.

Dirks and Steele said their first objective was to immediately protect students.

They said Marcy’s actions were “contemptible and inexcusable” and they expressed their deep regret for the pain the women suffered.

Dirks and Steele said they will be working with the president’s office and the academic senate so that officials have better ways to discipline faculty in the future.

Marcy said he wants to have conversations about gender inequality, power and privilege to promote a respectful environment in the future, his letter said.

He said he has since changed his behavior for the better.

Marcy has won a number of awards since he joined the university faculty in 1999, according to the bio on his website.

He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010 and he won the Carl Sagan Award from the American Astronautical and Planetary Society in 2002.