Serial sexual harasser and astronomer Geoff Marcy says he will resign from UC Berkeley

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Always disappointing when a guy one admires turns out to be a right bastard.


An ignominious end to an ugly story, and 100% necessary.

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You can still admire him for the work he has done for astronomy, while simultaneously condemning his behavior in other things.


“Astronomer, NASA advisor, and serial sexual harasser” Yeah, that last part about sexual harasser, well you don’t want that on your resume.


Did he trade grades for sex?

no he was touching/groping female undergrads / grads. not sure there was a direct quid pro quo here but clearly he’s in a position of power so female students might have felt that they had to put up with it. about 3 trillion astronomers signed a petition supporting his victims after UC initially said “don’t do this again, you’re on double-secret probation” instead of punishing him in some way. i have to assume that all of these colleagues must have known he had a problem.


reshuffling helps: harassment advisor, sexy astronomer, NASA serialiser


Did he trade grades for sex?

That’s not how it works.

Budding Astronomers require access to have any hope of moving their careers forward: access to grants, to other researchers, to computer time on the big clusters, to observation time on the big instruments.

Geoff was a gatekeeper for many of these crucial career resources.

So a student or early career astronomer (think grad student) needs to be on the good side of these gatekeepers. If one of these gatekeepers is a schmuck, the situation can get really … awkward.

This is not academic for me: I used to adjudicate cases like this, long ago. Also, my wife is an erstwhile astronomer who has worked with Geoff. Happily, my wife’s Ph.D. advisor was an anti-shmuck, so my wife never had to deal with this crap. at least not from Geoff.


I know/am aware of a sex-for-grades trader, and I’m wondering how common that m.o. is, but your explanation certainly makes sense.

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“…to computer time on the big clusters.”

That there is a clusterf#ck.

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It never worked for me…

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Pretty much no matter what the crime, any organization seems to have enough enablers to ensure that nobody gets punished for years.


That’s kind of the response I get when I talk to people about it. It’s not seen as harassment nor even particularly unethical.

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I tend to assume that academics who do that are often pathological narcissists who are generally bad news on many levels, so there are many reasons to ban behavior like that regardless of consent or other circumstances. The sort of professor that dumps their family to marry a grad student is usually a pretty awful person to have around period.


This is such an extremely true, and sad statement.

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Like Gary Glitter?

This off topic, and I don’t want to conflate these issues, but for the last couple years I’ve had to wonder who would go to graduate school with the job market for scientists still plunging for the last 20 years and grad student blogs full of talk of suicide. At this point, the whole thing seems like little more than ritualized masochism. I guess we should make sure nobody gets splinters when they are tied to whipping post, but still.

I think it was Jung in “Aspects Of The Masculine” who talked about ancient tradition of academics sleeping with students. Jung himself was no slouch in that department. He made the point that it was both heterosexual and homosexual, For instance in “The Cloud Atlas,” the young male composer offers to sleep with the master, and the context of that was that in those days getting sodomized was literally part of paying your dues academically. Jung wasn’t so much complaining about the practice (he was after all having sex with his female students) but he was pointing out there was much more homosexuality among respectable people than anyone would admit.

Marcy’s crap had apparently been going on for a good thirty years: