Letter to the Editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education
In response to:

We are sending the following to the editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education. There are a few more hours before we mail the print version of this letter on 2/24/2016. Please email asteroid@alum.mit.edu with any questions.


Dear Editor,

As members of the astronomy, planetary science, and physics communities, we are troubled by your article, “Geoff Marcy’s Downfall,” published on February 21, which creates a false equivalence between Geoff Marcy’s personal feelings and a six month Title IX investigation by the University of California that found clear evidence of persistent and willful wrongdoing by Marcy. Marcy’s own home department issued a near-unanimous vote of no-confidence in him, signaling their acceptance not only of the university’s findings but also of their dissatisfaction in the level of punishment enacted by the university. Several of Marcy’s colleagues have publicly refuted his claims that inappropriate physical contact was always intended innocently, even if acknowledged now as “not always welcome.”

While Marcy was given the first and last word in the article, as well as extensive quotation in between, none of the students targeted were given a chance to explain how his actions affected their careers. Nor can we know the true cost to the astronomy community of people who were driven from the field, not only by Marcy’s harassment, but also by the harassment of others named and unnamed in the article, whether prominent or obscure.

The attention being paid to the problem of harassment in astronomy, across the physical sciences, and in society as a whole, is welcome because it demonstrates progress toward a more just enterprise, where talented scientists and students remain in the field or depart it based on their interests and capabilities alone. We endeavor that as we move toward a community where harassment is completely unacceptable, we will have the focus placed where it belongs: on the efforts of the targets of harassment and assault to find healing and justice.


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