UPDATED: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

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jguillochon
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Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:32 pm

UPDATED: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

Postby jguillochon » Sun Oct 11, 2015 9:47 am

Geoff Marcy has resigned from his position at UCB, which was the stated goal of the original call to boycott. Much remains to be done for UCB to regain the trust of its students, and until UCB issues an official change of policy statement that indicates how they intend to move forward, I urge everyone to at least think twice before applying to their program.

Dear those considering a career in astronomy,

My name is James Guillochon and I'm a postdoc at Harvard. I have written a letter requesting a boycott of UCB's open faculty position in response to UCB's complete refusal to remove Geoff Marcy for at least a decade of repeated (and admitted) sexual harassment and assault. You can read the full text of the letter at this address:

https://medium.com/@jamesguillochon/an-open-letter-calling-for-a-boycott-in-regards-to-uc-berkeley-s-inaction-on-geoff-marcy-c486adbcda81

Until UCB acts, I think it is in the best interest of all undergraduates to refuse consideration of their graduate program. I believe that together we can convince them to make the right choice and to remove Geoff Marcy.

Thanks for reading,
- James
Last edited by jguillochon on Fri Oct 16, 2015 12:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Sportsfan77777
Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:30 am

Re: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

Postby Sportsfan77777 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:56 am

As a heads-up, there are a bunch of discussions of similar anti-Geoff letters in the Equity & Inclusion FB group.
Unlike the Astronomers FB group, there are undergrads in that group.

EDIT: I just noticed JohnJohn already shared it in that group.

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

Postby TakeruK » Tue Oct 13, 2015 4:39 pm

One result from yesterday is three statements by the Astronomy Department's Faculty, Postdocs, and Graduate Students. They are in the Equity & Inclusion FB group too, but if you cannot access that, you can find them in this Dropbox link (meant to be shared): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/onqhazd6nryy ... EeWha?dl=0

cwr
Posts: 35
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:41 am

Re: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

Postby cwr » Wed Oct 14, 2015 1:47 am

TakeruK wrote:One result from yesterday is three statements by the Astronomy Department's Faculty, Postdocs, and Graduate Students. They are in the Equity & Inclusion FB group too, but if you cannot access that, you can find them in this Dropbox link (meant to be shared): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/onqhazd6nryy ... EeWha?dl=0


Thanks for sharing these responses, and thanks to Dr. Guillochon for starting this thread. As someone applying to programs this cycle, the fact that two issues –- with two different UC Berkeley departments -- symptomatic of similar problems have surfaced this week alone is rather disconcerting. (The other one of which I'm speaking concerns the math department and their dealings with one of their lecturers, who explains the situation on his own website here: http://alexandercoward.com/BlowingTheWhistleOnUCBerkeleyMathematics.html.)

Admittedly, at first I was lukewarm to the idea of boycotting UCB's graduate program. "This fiasco concerns the Astro department, but I'm applying to HEP-th, so probably 1) I would be unaffected and 2) they wouldn't put it together that I was shying away because of this," I originally thought. But something in the graduate student response resonated with me, because it was something that these two issues made me question: are these isolated incidents, or demonstrable evidence that Berkeley doesn't care about their students?

From the grad student's statement:
"This incident, and its handling by the relevant authorities, are symptoms of problematic attitudes ingrained in UC Berkeley as a whole... The University’s failure to impose meaningful consequences... suggests that Berkeley’s administration values prestige and grant money over the well being of the young scientists it is charged with training."
Bingo.

I think that any applicant, whether or not they would boycott on principle alone, should seriously consider whether Berkeley is a good place for them, given these recent developments and the strong alternatives that exist within the UC system (UCSB, UCLA, etc.) and California (Stanford, Caltech, etc.).

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: An open letter in regards to UCB's inaction on Geoff Marcy

Postby TakeruK » Wed Oct 14, 2015 1:11 pm

Boycotts are always a tricky issue because, in my opinion, it's a fine balance between interests of multiple groups. I commend James Guillochon's decision to refuse consideration of faculty or postdoctoral positions at Berkeley.

Before I go further, I just want to emphasize again that I find the issue of boycotts very tricky and I'm just trying to state my current opinion based on current knowledge and that while I do have strong opinions, they are not rigid and I am happy to listen to counter arguments or additional thoughts and I hope to learn from others and evolve my opinion. But here goes:

Asking others to boycott a particular conference, meeting, graduate program is a lot tougher. If I recall the chain of events correctly, James originally targeted other prize postdocs to refuse consideration of Berkeley's astronomy department. I think (just my own opinion, not saying this is the absolute truth) that this is an appropriate level of boycott. Prize postdocs are in privileged positions and generally have many opportunities---Berkeley is a top program and if you are seriously being considered there, you will likely have other offers too. I think it is reasonable for those with this privilege to use it for the good of the community and boycott Berkeley if they choose to do so.

However, I can envision a lot of scenarios where more junior people (i.e. undergraduates looking for graduate programs, graduate students looking for non prize postdocs etc.) do not have this privilege and a position at Berkeley really is their best opportunity at a career in astronomy. I don't think it is fair to ask or expect these people to boycott Berkeley. Especially if they are not considering the Astronomy department in particular and especially if they are not considering work related to Marcy's work (there are many other fine faculty members there!)

There has also been some discussion of outside speakers refusing to give seminars or colloquia at UCB. Again, I personally think this is an unfair action on the current junior members (e.g. students!) at Berkeley, who are not at fault for the department's actions and who will suffer the most disadvantage of not being able to meet with seminar speakers.

I do think it is a good idea for letters like the one James wrote to appear so that people can choose to make informed decisions on where they want to do their graduate, postdoctoral, faculty, or other work. I also definitely agree that these letters should encourage prospective applicants to evaluate how they feel about the climate and environment at UCB when they make decisions on where to apply. However, I just want to point out that asking/pressuring for a general/wide boycott is a lot trickier and one should consider the differences in privileges for different groups when doing so.




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