Geoff Marcy soon to be retired Professor of Astronomy at UC Berkley. Pioneer of the search for exoplanets accused serial sexual harasser and perverse sexual assaulter was tried by media this year*. Now more documents have been released. The problem with trial by media is that accusations often equal guilt. That is the hallmark of a witch trial, that is the hallmark of a lynch mob, and no one should be lynched in the 21st century. Especially now that social media makes it so easy to jump on the pile. We can do better than that by giving both sides a chance to be heard.
My original article lays out the accusations against Dr Marcy (The Alleged Perversion of Geoff Marcy and Sexual Harassment). The short version is he has been accused by a number of young women of sexually harassing them. The most outrageous conduct he was accused of involved putting his hands up a young woman’s dress (I am told in the comments it wasn't a dress she was wearing pants.) under the table at a dinner around other people. That would not be harassment, that would be sexual assault, a felony.
In 2015 we are now in a place where a woman can allege sexual harassment, abuse, assault, etc and the default state of mind is to believe her until clear and convincing evidence prove otherwise. We are now in a place where many times a “trial”in the court of public opinion or at best some sort of administrative process substitutes for any form of actual court hearing. So let’s make a real trial of this and present the other side of the case of Geoff Marcy. I was very hard on Geoff Marcy when this came out while affording him the presumption of innocence.
I am a person of color in the United States of America. As such, I have been accused of things I did not or could not have done in the past. When that has happened all I asked for was fairness. So in the spirit of our constitution, and the golden rule do unto others as you would have them do unto you… I present Dr. Marcy’s “Summary of Facts”. Of course, these are more truth fully his arguments as facts are established by primary documentation and witnesses.
Summary of Facts
UC Berkeley has released to the public domain a number of documents related to the TitleIX 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, ElizabethGrossman 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.”
Preponderance of evidence.
Reaction to my original article on this matter often made mention of the finding he did it by thepreponderance of the evidence. Reading the actual text of the finding I am really troubled by the “logic” used to reach that conclusion.
This is on page 44 of the full documentation in relation to the “crotch grab” and is proceeded by the investigator saying the accuser had no witnesses but could remember specifics*.
I found that Respondent’s reaction to this allegation lacked credibility. He did not entertain the possibility that he touched the student in any manner, including how he admittedly touched other students in the past. He distinguished Complainant 3 as someone whom he did not know, so therefore, not potentially subject to knee pats or other touching. Likewise, he characterized the behavior as that which he “would never have an interest in,” despite its congruency (arguably an extreme example) with other reported unwanted advances. Based on the preponderance of the evidence, I find it more likely than not that Respondent acted as reported by Complainant 3.
Focus on this.
Likewise, he characterized the behavior as that which he “would never have an interest in,” despite its congruency (arguably an extreme example) with other reported unwanted advances.
SO in this Title IX investigators mind the simple fact he was accused of things like hugging, a kiss on the forehead (like one might do to a small child), supposedly staring at a female student’s backside as she walked into the classroom, and giving a drunk student a ride home …. Means he more likely than not touched someone’s crotch?
That’s total BS nonsense. That is like saying if you would get into a fist fight with one person that means if you are accused of shooting someone else you more likely than not did it. That logic is …..not even logical. Proof is not just a sum of accusations.
What could Geoff Marcy have done differently…. Assuming for the moment he is innocent?
I practice preventative legal defense. It is my policy to document every interaction personal, private, or education with anyone in some form.
As a person of color if I enter certain stores I will be followed around as if I must be there to steal something (MSNBC Anchor Tamron Hall, Neil DeGrasse Tyson). As a person of color if I drive my new car through certain areas I may be stopped by the police, just because, and asked to present papers (Chris Rock talking about it). As a person of color I cataloged a number of incidents regarding being #blackoncampus one of which had a campus officer at one of the schools I teach at instantly react to my entering a faculty lounge as if he was ready to shoot as soon as I opened the door. Because of things like this I either I save documents and photos, or I make sure there are neutral witnesses, or at the very least I document my interactions in a journal. When I have a meeting with anyone I tend to send an email or letter documenting my understanding of what was said. That may sound paranoid but...I’ll bet Dr. Marcy wishes he had some of those now.
I know we are supposed to presume innocence. I know that in practical terms one must prove innocence.
It is not enough to not break the rules; you have to PROVE that you did not break the rules. Alternatively,if you do break a rule you can only be punished for what can be proven
What should colleges and universities do differently?
Use the legal system to handle these things.
We have courts that are criminal, civil, and which address domestic issues such as stalking, harassment, etc. Those tribunals are competent to hear such cases, consider evidence, and establish the credibility of witnesses. The objection given to doing this is that then victims might not come forward. Only people who think real court is like an episode of Law and Order SVU would think that. In real court the accuser need not face the accused unless there is a criminal trial. A sworn written statement, an affidavit can suffice to bring charges and have a potentially dangerous predator removed from campus via a restraining order with the full force of law.
University and College officials should serve as advocates for the accuser to get justice via the courts. Then they have to respect the decisions and orders of the court. The accused will have all their legal rights protected through the whole process.
Let us not forget a university is much more like a town. Students are taxed in the form of tuition to belong to a community that engages in certain activities that can lead to a credential. If a student is deprived of the freedom to engage in those activities, they will lose a large investment of money in addition to any other legal sanctions.
A faculty member like Dr. Marcy would stand to lose tenure, promotion, and funding in addition to their freedom for a very serious allegation like sexual assault.
The legal system can take a person’s freedom. The legal system has done it on the weight of an accusation based on a dream and only after over 28 years reversed that. The legal system is not easy on the accused because even if they beat the charges it will cost thousands or tens of thousands in legal fees.
What of sensitivity towards victims in the legal based campus system I envision?
If the prospect of swearing out a statement is worse than sexual assault to someone … doubt them. I don’t buy that in this day and in this age, or even 8 – 10 years ago a young woman could not accuse a man of sexual harassment.
Allow me to remind you, dear reader, of what was going on in the late 1990’s and early-mid 2000’s when much of what Dr. Marcy is accused of was taking place.
The late 90’s and early to mid 2000’s were the heyday of sexual harassment law.
- This time period was hot on the heels of the Clarence Thomas hearings which were all about the allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill. It was on every TV Channel.
- There were President Clinton’s troubles with Paula Jones and then Monica Lewinsky and almost being impeached because of it. A woman accused a president of harassing her, and due to political motives and perjury Bill Clinton was almost removed from office.
- In the very late 90’s and early 2000’s “Ally McBeal” was super popular. That show was all about a single, short skirt wearing, dangerously thin, female lawyer being harassed by men she did not want and wanting a man she could not have. In an office with a unisex public toilet (and they even had THREE episodes that dealt more sensitively with transgender issues in 1999-2000 than most TV shows do now.)
- In 2007 almost a decade ago a five year old boy was accused of sexually harassing a teacher because he hugged her.
Anyone old enough to have watched and understood “Ally McBeal”, or remembered the Clarence Thomas hearings, or the Clinton sex scandal(s) would know the gist of it. Women were very empowered to accuse men, even powerful ones of sexual harassment.
A long time ago, in high school, I was raped. A boy I noticed, noticed me and decided no matter what I said he was going to do what he was going to do. I know how people who don’t report that to officials feel. Add on to that the layer of being a feminine male-bodied person and the stigma that attaches to that. This gives me little sympathy for complaints by privileged cisgender women about being looked at or having their neck touched and being afraid to report it.
No one should ever touch another without permission, but if they do and you don’t like it say so. For most of human history we gave someone a pat on the back, hug, kiss,etc based not on language but on instinct. Grown men will more than likely be 100% professional to you after that.
If the media is going to try people as if it is a court,then the media has to accept the responsibility of telling both sides of these stories with equal vigor.
My gut feeling is that between Geoff Marcy being a wanton Hannibal Lecter like predator, and a guy who just likes to hug the truth is in the middle. He did much of what he was accused of, most of which are innocuous things. He supposedly noticed a student’s backside, had lunch with research students, and spoke to some at a cocktail reception at a meeting of the AAS. (In which case every student who attends a conference is a victim.)
The pendulum has swung back in favor of female accusers in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. For a long time, the deck was stacked against them If we let accusations stand as if they are proof in and of themselves then we are as guilty of mob justice as those who lynched people of 1600’s Salem. (I guarantee that at least one comment on this article will say that I am “defending” Geoff Marcy simply by trying to be fair. )