Summary of Facts
UC Berkeley has released to the public domain a number of documents related to the Title IX investigation of Professor Geoff Marcy. This release provides the first opportunity for interested parties to gain direct information about the allegations and UC Berkeley’s response.
Geoff’s response and links to download the complete set of documents can be found here. Below is a summary of the allegations and the facts.
Overview and context of incidents in question
- In 2001, 14 years ago: An undergraduate woman Geoff knew well encountered him on campus. They talked briefly and she told him she was sick, whereupon he gave her a hug and kissed her on the forehead. In a separate instance in the astronomy building, after the woman told Geoff her parents were separating, he kissed her on the cheek. When the student told Geoff she was uncomfortable with the physical closeness and asked him to stop, he did so.
- In 2005, 10 years ago: A woman, then an undergrad at Berkeley, asked Geoff for career advice. They went out for coffee several times. The conversations turned to private issues, with Geoff trying to help her with her concerns and share his experiences. One time after coffee, he drove her home, and while saying goodbye, he touched her neck. In the woman’s report of the incident to OPHD, she noted that this gesture was “apropos of our discussion about my new relationship, which was bumpy at the time” (see pp. 100-102 in the PRA documents).
- In 2006, 9 years ago: A University of Hawaii graduate student who Geoff did not know alleged (8 years later) that at a dinner, Geoff slid his hand up her leg and grabbed her crotch. This allegation is false.
- In January 2010, 6 years ago: This complaint (#4) came from a woman who felt uncomfortable when she saw Geoff leaving an astronomy party with an inebriated student. He and another female student assisted the intoxicated student back to her hotel where they delivered her to her roommate. The student he helped did not file a complaint, nor did the roommate. The complaint was filed by the third party. On October 14, 2015 after Geoff announced his intention to step down, this Complainant #4 changed her story, via submission of an email to the UCB Office of Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). Her email (see pp. 48-49 in the Public Records Act (PRA) document release) provided what she referred to as “corrections” to the incident report she had originally filed on August 5, 2014 (see pp. 71-72 in the PRA documents). On October 15, 2015 the student who was helped back to her room submitted a statement “to clear up the misconceptions and unintentional lies that were included in that report” and pointed out that “The statements . . . which Complainant 4 admits to have heard third-hand, are false.” (see p. 51 in the PRA documents). The roommate also made a statement verifying what actually happened.
- There was no sex, no intention for sex, and no abuse of power that resulted in damaging any of the complainants’ careers.
- Geoff has publicly apologized for any actions that made people feel uncomfortable, distressed, or confused about his intentions. He has always been an advocate for women in science and a strong supporter of women students and colleagues.
- Of the incidents that actually happened, Geoff knew the students well and considered them to be friends.
- In 2011, the chair of the astronomy department, Imke de Pater, and the UCB Title IX Officer Denise Oldham met with Geoff to help him understand how his actions could be misinterpreted. De Pater wrote “Geoff was extremely grateful that I brought this up. Indeed, he had no sexual intentions whatsoever, but he does see that others could interpret his behavior that way. . . This incident made him aware that he should behave differently.” (p. 5 of the PRA documents)
- The UC investigation was conducted by a single person, Will Mallari, of UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD).
- Janet Broughton, the Vice Chancellor for Faculty, was the person responsible for determining the proper sanctions for the alleged conduct. After two in-person meetings with Geoff and a thorough examination of the investigation, she determined sanctions commensurate with the conduct. She established specific behavioral standards Geoff would abide by, going forward as a Professor. If he were to violate the terms of the agreement over the next five years, Broughton noted that the maximum sanction “shall not exceed a suspension of one semester in the form of a leave without pay.” The agreement was UC Berkeley’s official response to the investigation and is part of the PRA documents (pp. 116-118).
- Geoff did not resign from his position as Professor at UC Berkeley. He will retire, effective December 31, 2015.
- Geoff’s decision to step down from his position at the university by retiring was not triggered by the allegations, which were already known by the relevant parties at UC Berkeley. Rather, Geoff’s principal motivation was to relieve the pressure on his astronomy colleagues at UC Berkeley and allow the department to move past the challenging situation created by the social media firestorm.
Geoff, his wife Susan, and Geoff’s attorney, Elizabeth Grossman applaud the release of public documents relating to the case. Ms. Grossman noted, “We believe that shedding light on the allegations, the facts, and the outcomes will lead a fair-minded person to conclude that Geoff Marcy is being punished in the court of public opinion in ways that are far out of proportion to his actions.”