An open letter written to Geoff Marcy and UC Berkeley’s administration, in absolute disgust.
My name is Kevin Gorman.
I graduated from Berkeley. I’ve since worked for Berkeley, becoming the first Wikipedian-in-Residence at any American university. I’ve been in recent conversations with Berkeley to work for them again. I’ve invested a significant portion of my life to Berkeley, either as a student, as Wikipedian-in-Residence in instructional roles, and in other capacities. Much of my work has been focused on addressing issues of inequality, issues that Berkeley is traditionally known to tackle head on. Today I stand disgusted.
Geoff Marcy is a full, tenured professor at Berkeley. He’s also one of the most famous astrophysicists in the world, and in the past has been a frequently bandied about as a possible future Nobel Laureate. Geoff’s department chair is Gibor Basri, who wears two hats — he is also the Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, the only administrator on Berkeley’s campus who has those aims. Today, Buzzfeed (with secondary confirmation) obtained the results of an investigation in to inappropriate behavior by Geoff from a period of time ranging from 2001 to 2010, that included Geoff repeatedly engaging with inappropriate and unwanted physical behavior with students — including unwanted massages, kissing, and groping. The behavior described in the investigation is criminal. Geoff Marcy’s sanctions for repeatedly violating the rights and bodies of his women students, in a field where a gigantic gender-gap exists? A set of “clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students.” Nothing more.
While I was an undergraduate, I was active (though not as active as some) on campus sexual assault and harassment issues. I’ve interacted significantly with some of the highest levels of Berkeley’s administration, and am familiar with the interactions of other people whom I trust with Berkeley’s administration. In my six years as an undergraduate at Berkeley, every interaction about these issues with Berkeley’s administration was at best frustrating and ineffectual, and at worst so severely offensive that it beat out the worst rhetoric that has been thrown at me by any other group — including significant threats from men’s rights activists. I am unaware of a single situation in my time at Berkeley where UC Berkeley’s administration dealt with a situation involving sexual assault or harassment in an appropriate fashion.
Geoff, if you have a single decent bone in your body, remove yourself from any role in which you have any degree of contact with students — and do so immediately. This includes URAP, any research program where you may come in to contact with students, and as a graduate advisor to any grad students you are currently supervising. I am aware this may cripple your lab. I don’t care. I’m unconvinced that you belong on our campus at all, but you sure as hell don’t belong in any role that involves student contact. Redemption is possible, but redemption takes time, not a blame-shifting apology letter and instant forgiveness
To Berkeley’s administrators: you’re already being sued by a courageous group of students and ex-students involving your utter mishandling of issues involving sexual assault. This is your chance — you can still change the outcome — to prove to the world that you have the capacity to handle these issues, and don’t need to be placed under federal supervision. I’d love it if we had another Nobel Laureate on campus, but to let a likely contender off on such faux sanctions in hopes of raising our ranking betrays our core values as a campus — values UC Berkeley has stood for longer than I’ve been alive.
Signed, with utter disgust,
B.A., Geography, UC Berkeley
Former Wikipedian-in-Residence, UC Berkeley
Potential upcoming roles at Berkeley, TBD.