University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the immediate formation of a special joint committee that will examine the breakdown of UC policies and procedures in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against former UC Berkeley professor Geoff Marcy.
Marcy, who resigned Wednesday, is known for discovering hundreds of worlds outside this solar system and was considered in line for a Nobel Prize.
Last week, published reports indicated that at least four graduate and undergraduate students had complained that Marcy had groped them or behaved inappropriately with other women. This is after a campus investigation determined in June that Marcy had sexually harassed female students during a nearly 10-year period.
In letter issued to UC chancellors and regents today, her first public comment on the case, Napolitano states:
“The purpose of this letter is to direct action, I want to take this opportunity to stress again how seriously the University takes the matter of sexual violence, assault, and harassment. University leadership must work together to educate all members of our community that such egregious behavior will not be tolerated at the University of California and to deal firmly, fairly, and expeditiously with any claim involving sexual violence, assault or harassment.”
Napolitano added that she wants the newly formed committee, which will be under the aegis of the President's Task Force on Prevention and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault, to examine the entire process of investigation, adjudication and sanctions involving faculty.
Among other things, Napolitano says the committee will review whether the current statute of limitations needs to be revised, given that “complaints often involve misconduct that occurred several years ago.”
Dianne Klein, UC spokeswoman, says the committee’s recommendations will result in a culture change so that students feel comfortable speaking out against faculty.
“It’s a tough lift. We’re talking about a culture change,” Klein says. “Certainly when you have someone who is very prominent, who does excellent work, perhaps people feel even more intimidated.”
The committee is charged with bringing back a set of recommendations no later than Feb. 29, 2016, as well as interim recommendations that can be put in place immediately.
The entire letter can be read below: