Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation

This week Geoffrey Marcy, Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, resigned after an investigation found he had violated the sexual harassment policies of the university by engaging in inappropriate behaviour with female students, including groping, kissing, touching and massaging them.

Reports from former colleagues and students imply that he sexually harassed multiple students over many years, and that his behaviour was an “open secret” in the astronomy community. An investigation had been under way for some time but it was only after details of the investigation were revealed, and complaints were made about the outcome, that the university acted swiftly to issue a statement describing a “zero tolerance policy” to sexual harassment. As public interest in the case increased, university colleagues and professional astronomers from across the world spoke out publicly against Marcy and the tolerance of sexual harassment.

Under mounting pressure Marcy resigned from his professorship this week as questions were raised about the tolerance of sexual harassment in universities, and particularly in male-dominated disciplines. We cannot tolerate a culture that allows sexist attitudes and sexual harassment to go unchecked until action is forced by the weight of public outcry.

Devastation has decisively been wrought on Geoffrey Marcy’s career as a result of his dubious sexual ethics. Others have described the devastation wrought on the wellbeing and careers of the students who suffer sexual harrassment, or find themselves in a vulnerable position experiencing harm at the hands of powerful perpetrators with influence over their opportunities for career advancement.

Prominent cases of sexual harassment in universities demonstrate that academics are no different from anyone else when it comes to matters of sexual ethics. Across the world, cases of sexual harassment – indicating disrespectful attitudes and unequal relationships – are disturbingly common. A review of 113 studies of young people across 27 member states of the EU found that up to 83% of females and 66% of males had been touched, grabbed or assaulted in a sexual way. Crucially, the review highlighted the importance of the role of culture in determining tolerance of, and rates of, sexual harassment:

Culture-level variables, such as differences in sexual behavior patterns, gender roles, extent of sex education, and drinking culture, may be systematically related to variations in sexual aggression rates, and establishing the role of these variables may provide essential information not only for theory building about risk factors of sexual aggression but also for designing effective prevention strategies.

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual victimization with deep roots in sexism. Thus, wherever there is evidence of sexism, sexual harassment will be present in one form or another, whether overt or covert. This means that leaders of organisations with sexist cultures need to be prepared to deal with the inevitable cases of sexual harassment that will follow.

A recent review of organisational strategies to reduce sexual harassment recommended that leaders of organisations should give a clear and consistent anti-harassment message. This message may be communicated through policies about sexual harassment supported by staff training, investigation and remediation procedures. However, it is the day-to-day reinforcement of these policies in organisational culture which most effectively addresses sexual harassment and prevents it becoming an “open secret” with potentially career-ending consequences for both victims and perpetrators.


Jayne Lucke is the Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society receives funding from diverse sources listed in the annual report available from the website: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/zero-tolerance-for-unethical-sexual-conduct-49289


The Conversation



Today I announce the creation of a new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) that will coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.   JONES: Prime Minister, there are lots of ups and downs in your job, but you couldn't be anything but disappointed...

Scott Morrison and Alan Jones - avatar Scott Morrison and Alan Jones

Minister Littleproud Chris Kenny interview

Chris Kenny Sky Interview   CHRIS KENNY: Now as we speak Federal Cabinet is meeting yet again considering more measures on the economy and to prevent the spread of this pandemic. So just before th...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

Taxes for Sports Betting in Australia

The gambling tax regulation varies from one country to the other. Australia ranks highest in terms of gambling. Over 80% of Australians are engaging in gambling of some type or the other. It is incl...

News Company - avatar News Company

Choosing a Media Agency in Sydney

Famously known as the Emerald City, Sydney is a vibrant coastal metropolis offering great business opportunities. Sydney is home to an influential startup culture. Having 35% of the startups in Aust...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

How to lead remote teams during COVID-19

The spread of COVID-2019 has led to travel restrictions, school closures, and cities around the world moving towards lockdowns. Amid these new conditions, most of us still need to continue our day...

Seven Communications - avatar Seven Communications


News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion