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It’s About Time, UC Berkeley: The Aftermath of the Geoff Marcy Sexual Harassment Debacle

It is enormously disappointing to find out that recently released documents show astronomer Geoff Marcy did not respect the boundaries between students and professors.

If that were not bad enough, UC Berkeley turned a nearly blind eye to the issue and used a heavy-handed, slow as molasses approach to deal with the reported harassment. Nothing says lack of motivation to deal with an issue quite like taking years to deal with numerous reports of sexual harassment by the same individual.

For a number of years now many university campuses have been mired in ugly sexual harassment cases, with accusations that the administration would not take student complaints seriously. When the lid finally blew off the debacle and the truth of the matter was outed, it became apparent that sexual harassment was rampant across the nation. It also was glaringly evident that no one in a position of authority did much about it, other than pay lip service to the notion of punishment. Instead, the issue was swept under the rug and the victim was deemed to be the problem.

It is not rocket science to understand that sexual harassment by a person in a position of authority is against the law. The Marcy case is a good example of a harasser (at first) getting off lightly, until the media published the university’s investigative report of the allegations, four in total, which confirmed he had harassed students. The sky did fall and Marcy was forced to resign.

The complaints were fairly explicit and there seemed to be no clear reason why the university would not take them seriously and take action, other than the possibility that losing Marcy may have affected their funding. Apparently Marcy’s behavior was a well-known hidden secret and yet nothing was done until his actions went public. And so now, an advisory committee is to make recommendations on how to handle sexual violence, harassment and assault cases involving faculty members.

The time to do that was when the first sexual harassment complaint was filed. But better late than never.

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