Planet-Hunting Professor Quits in Disgrace

UC Berkeley didn't punish him for groping students
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2015 1:36 AM CDT
Planet-Hunting Professor Quits in Disgrace
In this April 15, 1999, photo, Geoff Marcy, right, then a professor at San Francisco State University, sits with other experts at a news conference in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Randi Lynn Beach, file)

One of the world's leading experts on planets outside our solar system has had to resign in disgrace because he couldn't keep his hands off female students. Astronomer Geoff Marcy stepped down from his professorship at the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday after it emerged that a university investigation determined that he had sexually harassed students over a 10-year period, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Fellow professors and other astronomers had urged the 61-year-old to resign following a BuzzFeed report that the university only punished him with a warning after its investigation concluded that he had groped, kissed, and massaged several female students.

Berkeley issued a statement saying it had accepted the "entirely appropriate" resignation for "contemptible and inexcusable" behavior, the Los Angeles Times reports. American Astronomical Society President Meg Urry tells the AP that the organization may strip Marcy of his membership, and it's not clear whether he'll be able to find another academic position despite his stature as an internationally renowned exoplanet expert who has discovered hundreds of other worlds. A professor at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy tells the Chronicle that Marcy's behavior had long been an open secret in the astronomy department and somebody should have warned him much sooner that "it is not a perk of this job to paw your students." (Read more sexual harassment stories.)

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