Update to High Profile Astro Cases of SH

time-sheds-lightBecause of my advocacy for the truth and the publication of two articles related to high profile, media-driven cases regarding sexual harassment and accusations of same leveled against professional astronomers of high renown, I have been accused by many of being in support of sexual harassment, most notably on the Twitter account associated with this website. That charge is patently absurd. The first article, published back in October of last year, chronicled and discussed the case of Dr. Geoffrey Marcy and his harried retirement from U Cal, Berkeley’s Department of Astronomy. In that article, I presented the viewpoint consistent with the highest standards of democracy in a free and open society: due process, the presumption of innocence and the right to confront the accuser.

Since the original Buzzfeed article broke, the ensuing parade of detractors against Dr. Marcy and anyone else who would dare suggest that a measured, reasoned, rational inquiry into what actually happened  has been nothing short of epic. Driven by a series of articles and the desire to “be on the right side”, damn the truth, the life, career and reputation of those who are the objects of their derision, those who have been prematurely labeled and accused of sexual harassment, the angry mobs have marched in lockstep, blinded by their prejudices, defending at all costs their position no matter how high the price or how much it differed from the truth.

The second article was a follow-up to the first where, in addition to discussing important developments in Dr. Marcy’s case, developments that largely exonerated him, I chronicled and discussed several other cases involving Harvard and Yale Universities, CalTech and the University of Arizona. In the original article, I presented the facts and history related to Dr. Marcy’s case into a coherent timeline, all based on reliable sources. Nowhere in any of these articles did I remotely support or advocate for the perpetuation of sexual harassment or assault of any kind, in any way, shape or form.

What is curious and something that bespeaks a larger agenda, is the paucity of responses to these articles in the comments section of each. To date, there have been no less than 2,000 hits on both articles directly related to sexual harassment with only 2 respondents and those were posted on January 16th, 2016 (yesterday). Where are all the detractors? Anyone and everyone is free to opine so where are the detractors; since everyone is so free to judge and share their opinion on Twitter, where are they here? In a series of exchanges on Twitter with astronomers and scientists from other disciplines, most of whom have “Ph.D” following their names, professionals who are presumably highly-educated and mature, the Twitter account associated with this blog has been blocked by them! Why? Because I disagreed with them or posted something that was in conflict with their preconceptions or prejudices. This is the behavior of individuals who, when confronted with a reality that is at variance OstrichWithHeadInSandwith these prejudices, behave like children. Is that how they conduct their personal and professional lives, by burying their heads in the sand or shutting out those who disagree with them? Science is all about finding the truth and this often involves discussions amongst individuals who disagree. That they did this speaks to their character, maturity and discipline as scientists and as representatives of their respective fields.

In closing, an additional rather troubling development has emerged from all this involving the CSWA, the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, a member organization of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). This organization’s stated purpose is the advocacy, promotion and advancement of women in astronomy, an eminently noble enterprise. In an effort to root out those individuals who are, in their terms, “serial sexual harassers”, certain members of the CSWA have floated the idea within the AAS of establishing a “Blacklist” of individuals so labeled. A variant of such a proposal was introduced on January 15th by Rep. Jackie Speier on the House floor (see this article for details), to build a database of those who have been the subject of a Title IX investigation with the contents of that database publicly available. I want to believe that the AAS rejected the idea out of hand. I am prepared to renounce my membership in protest if the proposal is ultimately adopted.

When the expansion of the universe is often discussed, it’s always within an Edwin Hubble context. What is rarely discussed is, that without the contribution of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Hubble may not have been as successful as he was within the same time frame. I always include her contribution in any lesson I teach about Hubble or the expanding universe. And we can’t forget Annie Jump Cannon. The AAS awards a prize in her honor; if anyone knows anything about “Blacklists”, their use and history, it is a grotesque insult to Annie Jump Cannon, her legacy, astronomy, women in general, women in astronomy, the AAS and its members that the CSWA would even consider such a project!

Twitter poll regarding the outcome of this case in the court of public opinion here.
Update: Clarification on Position regarding SH and Dr. Geoff Marcy
Update: When Will It End?

Update: In act of blatant censorship, an Independent Petition opposing the public shaming of Professional Scientists has been disabled by the petition site administrator.


9 thoughts on “Update to High Profile Astro Cases of SH

  1. Children, indeed! All together now: Put your fingers in your ears and shout as loud as you can “La-la-la-la-la-la-la!!”

    Stunning and brave, stunning and brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s painfully true. I was also accused of defending harassment when criticizing jumping to conclusions: I argued that
    if somebody has done an action e.g. kissed somebody on the cheek, it does not necessarily imply the intent itself is sexually motivated and that “somebody” must be a sexual predator. I pointed out that cultural aspects matter for interpretation, including performing the action itself. In the public discussion I was named defender of harassment, racist and politely implied to be a prostitute. Screen shots exist from my discussion with the CSWA people exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Vanessa and for your bravery in confronting the problem and its proponents in their own back yard, so to speak. Sadly, gossip, lies and distortions sell and the truth dies a slow death. Thank you for defending the truth and, by extension, the authentic pursuit of astronomy and all that it represents.


  3. I thank you for your courage of speaking up about this. I appreciate
    your posts a lot.

    Moreover, some practical aspects for victims are also ignored in their discussion.

    They assume that every “victim” (I don’t like this word) is afraid to say no,
    or doesn’t speak up out of fear for their careers. First, this is an insult
    to many women’s inner strength and pride. It forces women to be victims,
    and bashes women until they feel like victims. Can a woman only say her
    opinion if her opinion is supported by a mob, like the victims now
    “coming out”, and “being brave”?

    Women are perfectly capable of saying “no” in any situation and its our responsibility
    to make sure limits are clear early. If somebody doesn’t respect the limits, that is
    a very different story.

    Besides, the CSWA miss a large fraction of victims who don’t speak up because they simply do not
    want to. Not every “victim” hates the person who hit on them or feel the need of vengeance.
    Why so? Old love? Loyality? Empathy? Maybe they are just kind people who believe into
    a second chance? By making public scape-goats out of the accused men
    (as with Marcy, Ott, Slater, etc) the CSWA people guarantee many exposed women
    in moral dilemmas will never search for help when needed. Only those driven by hate
    can witness in such conditions, knowing what it can lead to.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s