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Sexual Harassment Scandals by Astronomy Science University Professors

Posted by Kathy Harrington-Sullivan | Apr 03, 2016 | 0 Comments

The potential for sexual harassment is not only limited to the workplace, but even occurs in education environments. Recently, sexual harassment in academics has been gaining exposure in the news and media. Often the college-years are a rather impressionable period of time for young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Students tend to look up to university advisors and professors for guidance and inspiration.

However, some university professors and advisors go beyond the lines of providing help to their students. Some sexually harass their students, either intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless of whether the educator was well aware they were sexually harassing their students or not, their acts could still potentially violate sexual harassment laws.

One such academic area where sexual harassment is being discussed in the news and media involves the scandals of astronomy science university professors. Last October, the University of California in Berkeley conducted a six month investigation into professor and astronomer Geoff Marcy for violating the school's sexual harassment policy. The university did find several instances where there were violations, yet the professor only received a warning for his actions, and the school failed to inform students not involved in the investigation.

In another case, at Caltech, astrophysicist professor Christian Ott was found to have violated the school's sexual harassment policy with two of his students who were working in Ott's lab. The professor had involved student Sara Gossan in conversations where he professed his love for another one of his students, Io Kleiser.

Both woman eventually filed complaints of harassment with the school. Even though Ms. Kleiser had no idea of the feelings her professor had for her, she was fired from his lab. Caltech responded to the allegations by suspending Ott for a period of one year, yet, in the announcement, chose to withhold his name and the reason for the suspension.

Still elsewhere in the nation, at the University of Wyoming, it was brought to light Professor Timothy Frederick Slater had been investigated and found to have committed sexual harassment during his time at the University of Arizona. During his time at the University of Arizona, allegations were brought forward stating the professor held class meetings in strip clubs, made comments about the appearance of females working in his lab, and even went so far as to give a female student a sex toy as a gift.

After the investigation, the University of Arizona did not fire the professor, but rather required he undergo training to address his inappropriate behaviors, and he remained with the university for another four years before accepting a position at the University of Wyoming. Additionally, the University of Wyoming did not receive information about the investigation, nor did they review any potential claims against the professor before he was hired.

Unfortunately, many in the astronomy field feel these harassment claims are just evidence of a more prevalent problem that extends into other academic fields. If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed in an educational environment, it is worth your time to find out your legal rights by contacting the qualified sexual harassment lawyers at Barrett & Farahany, LLP by phoning (404) 238-7299 today.

About the Author

Kathy Harrington-Sullivan

Kathy Harrington Sullivan is a Partner at Barrett & Farahany and manages the firm's case evaluation team. Because knowledge truly is power, Kathy and the Atlanta employment attorneys on her team regularly consult with and empower potentia...

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