December 22, 2015

UCB Documents Released

UC Berkeley has released to the public domain a number of documents related to the Title IX investigation of Professor Geoff Marcy, providing for the first time an opportunity for interested parties to gain direct information about what happened.

Geoff’s response and links to download the complete set of documents and a summary of the allegations and the facts can be found here.

Title IX
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  1. F: I experienced the exact same thing at that same page. What’s more, I’ve been blocked on Twitter by other well-known personalities in professional astronomy because of my advocacy for Geoff and for the truth. It is strange, in a world where everyone is seeking the truth, they reject it, or more precisely, foreclose any real opportunity to learn the truth.

    What is also strange, where are all the detractors posts on this comments page? You would think that there would be hundreds, given the roasting Geoff suffered in the press, in astronomy and across academia, in general. Also, in another troubling development, attempts at hijacking the AAS into adopting a “Blacklist” are in the works. Hopefully, cool heads will prevail in that instance and that measure will be soundly rejected.

  2. What I’m worried about is how the rush to judgement and the public’s particular sensitivity to this issue will will compromise the moral authority of instructors & professors and the integrity of the academic system in general (at least in this country). What we don’t want to have happen is a full-scale witch hunt with all professionals in academia having to look over their shoulders and worrying about everything they do. And this action by Rep. Speier is quite troubling – she’s up in the news now producing sound bytes –and a following (umm, the election/re-election is less than a year away). I’m also worried that this will compromise the moral authority of instructors & professors and the integrity of the academic system in general (at least in this country).

    An aspect of this that is quite troubling involves the new sense of empowerment all this may instill in an already emboldened and independently-minded student population. It may lead to in an increase in false accusations or “crusades”. In a hypothetical scenario, a student whose grades are marginal or who is in danger of failing a certain course or being placed on academic probation may contrive a scenario or situation where their instructor has behaved in ways unbecoming or in contravention of the standing policies of a given university in matters relating to sexual harassment and student contact. Scenarios where professors are bullied or blackmailed into untenable positions are not that far fetched.

    What is not needed now are additional regulations imposed on already over-burdened faculty and administrations. It’s hard enough now for students to learn and faculty to teach without additional impositions by the federal government. What is needed, in addition to training and the already-existing, university-level standing policies on sexual harassment and contact with students, with the existing, in-place federal guidelines regarding Title IX funding, is a policy of pro-active, self-policing adopted and deployed across academia. Any such policy must be wholly consistent with the bedrock principles of our democracy: due process, the presumption of innocence and the right to confront your accuser.

  3. I’ll say this: I tried to post a link to this website to the main Astronomers group on FB. It was denied because “Your post linked to Geoff Marcy’s website which isn’t an unbiased source of new information.” According to one of the moderators of that group after I asked why. All I said in my post is that people might find it educational and useful to see exactly how the university handled the complaints. I made no statement of opinion. FYI I am a woman who is deeply concerned about violence against women, but fairness and due process cannot be dismissed.

  4. To F: Agreed that there are real problems to be dealt with in the community. As a woman scientist myself, I see two main points:

    1) For the pursuer: No means no. Really! And if you are further along in your career than the pursued, remain acutely aware of the power differential.

    2) For the pursued: Be sure to definitively say NO. The recent discussions in the news media about sexual harassment in science have flagged the difficulty and possible repercussions for doing so. But it is absolutely essential that the message be clear. You are not a “victim”. You are a strong, capable scientist. Let your voice be heard.

  5. It’s all about censorship. Don’t let opposing voices be heard, and certainly don’t write articles that contradict the massive infrastructure of partial-truths that has been constructed or the house of cards will fall. This fits with the AAS/CSWA refusing to publish Marcy’s initial apology letter, effectively censoring him. And earlier today, when I clicked on a link to geoffreymarcy.com from one site, it took me to another address that displayed the page through DoNotLink.com. The DoNotLink website notes, “Using donotlink.com instead of linking to questionable websites directly will prevent your links from improving these websites’ position in search engines.” Really? They don’t want anyone even reading the UCB report? These are SCIENTISTS trying to block access to data? Wow.

  6. The problem I see with all of this is rooted in fear. Unfortunately there are many cases of harassment and quite a few in the physics community. However, the destruction of an enormously productive career over hugs and a kiss on the forehead, intended to show solidarity and support, these pale in comparison to rapes that have been committed by senior level astronomers and various other people in the field and other areas of science. It is good to have this report in the open, particularly to educate all of us how this happens, although I suspect some may be not too pleased with that. Confidentiality has multiple purposes and despite the failings of Title IX, most of those purposes are to protect those who are victims. At the same time we need a system of due process and reliance on standards of law, that generally will find those who harass guilty. I guess I have mixed feelings after reading the 120 pages, about 30 of which are essentially completely blacked out with redactions.

  7. The women science writers that jumped on the “Kill Marcy” bandwagon (Azeen Gorashi, Alex Witke, Katy Murphy, and others) have been surprisingly silent when it comes to writing about the REAL news with this public release of the investigation documents: One of the women admitted to lying about her story, retracting it only after Marcy was forced out. Perhaps she changed her tune because she was forced to by the student who was the supposed “victim” of being helped by Marcy and another student back to her hotel room. This student called the false report “unintentional lies.” The person who lied had another motive, stated pretty clearly: “It is important to both me and the student that this get corrected, especially if the report will be shared further (I have been told that it is a public record and can be requested by outside sources?)” Yep. Better get that story straight. Now, let’s have an article that discusses what happens when someone lies, including not only the catastrophic destruction of a talented scientist’s career, but also the discrediting of future reports of real harassment, and the discrediting of women scientists in general (and this one in particular).

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