Two newly publicized cases of sexual harassment have drawn renewed attention to gender discrimination in astronomy.
On Tuesday the news outlet Mashable published an article chronicling the case of Timothy F. Slater, an astronomy professor who was found responsible in 2004 for creating a hostile work environment for students and employees at the University of Arizona by commenting on women’s bodies, among other things. Four years after the finding, Mr. Slater left the institution for a post at the University of Wyoming, where he’s now a professor.
Mr. Slater told Mashable in an interview that he had violated Arizona’s sexual-harassment policy, but that he had since changed his behavior. The University of Wyoming told Mashable that, in hiring Mr. Slater, it had asked about “an allegation of sexual harassment” but had found no reason not to hire him.
A Democratic congresswoman from California, Jackie Speier, publicly invoked Mr. Slater’s case recently as evidence of professors who have been found responsible for harassment but who have been able to transfer from one college to another without consequences.
And this month the California Institute of Technology suspended a professor for one year after two graduate students filed complaints under the federal gender-equity law Title IX. In a letter to the campus, the institute’s president, Thomas F. Rosenbaum, and its provost, Edward M. Stolper, said a committee had found the faculty member responsible for harassing both graduate students. The letter said the professor had been ordered to undergo training, among other things.
The magazine Science identified the faculty member as Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics.
The field of astronomy has been roiled by allegations of sexual harassment since Geoffrey W. Marcy, an astronomy professor, resigned from the University of California at Berkeley after allegations of serial sexual harassment came to light.