Astronomer, NASA advisor, and serial sexual harasser Geoff Marcy to resign from UC Berkeley

Geoffrey Marcy, possibly contemplating his next victim. [NASA photo]

Geoff Marcy, a famous and respected American astronomer, has announced his intention to step down as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Marcy also works with NASA on the search for extraterrestrial life, via the NASA Kepler Mission.

Buzzfeed first broke today's news of Marcy's plans to step aside. It is the first real fallout he's facing from sexual harassment claims that the reported victims say were ignored for years.

Why would those claims be ignored by UC Berkeley? Because Marcy is kind of a big deal in the field of astronomy, and his name meant money for the struggling California academic institution.

"While I do not agree with each complaint that was made, it is clear that my behavior was unwelcomed by some women,” Marcy wrote in an earlier public statement.

“I take full responsibility and hold myself completely accountable for my actions and the impact they had. For that and to the women affected, I sincerely apologize. It is difficult to express how painful it is for me to realize that I was a source of distress for any of my women colleagues, however unintentional."

Marcy denied that the most widely-reported incident took place, which would have constituted sexual assault, which is a felony.

The Berkeley Astronomy Department's faculty, its graduate students, and its post-docs have each issued statements over recent weeks asking Marcy to withdraw from the faculty and cease contact with students, in a way that would not destroy his research team and its current work.

Sky and Telescope has more on that.

From Azeen Ghorayashi's report at Buzzfeed today on Marcy's apparent plans to resign:

The announcement comes in the wake of a BuzzFeed News story that revealed a university investigation finding that Marcy had violated Berkeley’s sexual harassment policies in several cases between 2001 and 2010.

More than 2,500 academics have signed an online petition to “support the people who were targets of Geoff Marcy’s inappropriate behavior and those who have spoken publicly about it.” Late on Monday, dozens of Marcy’s colleagues published statements calling for him to leave.

“It’s a relief to know that Geoff Marcy will no longer have access to UC Berkeley students,” Jessica Kirkpatrick, one of the complainants in the sexual harassment investigation, told BuzzFeed News. “I hope the university is using this opportunity to re-evaluate it’s process and policies so that vulnerable students have better protections in place to guard against sexual harassment from faculty moving forward.”

Marcy has also resigned as principal investigator of the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, a large scientific research program aimed at finding life beyond Earth.

More at Buzzfeed: Famous Astronomer Intends To Resign After Sexual Harassment Investigation

Related reading: A female Astronomy blogger comes to a “sobering realization about sexism in the sciences: 'It had been there all along.'” That same writer weighs in today on “How to End Sexual Harassment in Astronomy.”