University of California system to review harassment policy

AP News
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Posted: Oct 16, 2015 5:57 PM

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The president of the University of California system is convening a committee of administrators, faculty and students to look at how sexual harassment and misconduct complaints against professors are handled across the 10-campus system.

The move came one day after famed UC Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy resigned his professorship following the revelation that the school had substantiated sexual harassment complaints against Marcy from former female students without demoting or suspending him from his job.

In a letter to campus chancellors and the 10-campus system's governing board, UC President Janet Napolitano said the case "highlighted the urgent need to review university policies that may have inadvertently made the investigation and resolution of this case more difficult."

Napolitano cited as an example an existing policy that bars faculty members from being disciplined for actions that occurred more than three years ago. Berkeley administrators cited that rule, among others, as a factor in their decision to strike an agreement that allowed Marcy to continue teaching but imposed strict boundaries on his interactions with students.

A 6-month campus investigation completed in June that Marcy, one of the world's leading scientists on planets outside Earth's solar system, talked about sex and made unwanted physical contact with undergraduate and graduate students between 2001 and 2010, BuzzFeed News reported last week.

Marcy apologized last week in an open letter that said he was pained to learn he "was a source of distress for any of my women colleagues, however unintentional." He resigned on Wednesday as the university faced growing pressure to fire him.

The committee Napolitano wants assembled will report its recommendations by Feb. 29 and build on the work of a task force she set up last year to improve the system's handling of sexual assault cases involving only students.

Two other issues the committee has been asked to look at are whether administrators can impose employment restrictions or conditions on faculty while allegations against them under investigation and ensuring that not only targets of sexual harassment are empowered to report inappropriate behavior.