Famous evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala has resigned from UC Irvine following a university investigation which found him guilty of serial sexual harassment.
The university has also removed his name from its School of Biological Sciences, which was named for him after he donated $10 million to it. They’re also removing his name from everything else bearing his name, including the central science library, graduate fellowships, and endowed chairs, and it sounds like he’s no longer welcome to participate in university life in any way.
The university investigation began last November, in response to complaints from four women, who asked to be identified: professor and EEB chair Kathleen Treseder, teaching professor Jessica Pratt, assistant dean Benedicte Shipley, and graduate student Michelle Herrera. A statement from the attorney representing three of the women says that before this investigation, the university systematically ignored complaints from one of these women and others, going back years. The statement also characterizes the outcome of the investigation as “an anemic response to a systemic failure”.
I don’t know anything further beyond what’s in the linked article, of which everything I wrote above is a summary.
I don’t have anything to say about this that many others haven’t already said better, and my voice isn’t the one anyone should be paying attention to regarding this story. But for what it’s worth, I’ll echo what many others have already said: it was incredibly brave of Kathleen Treseder, Jessica Pratt, Benedicte Shipley, and Michelle Herrera to come forward, and not only come forward to UCI but to ask to be named publicly. We all owe them tremendous thanks for having the guts to do this and go through what they’ve gone through (while not implying any criticism of anyone who has been sexually harassed and hasn’t made the same choice). The outcome of this case is much better than that of many other recent cases in which high-profile academics were accused of serial sexual harassment. I’m thinking for instance of Texas Tech’s recent whitewashing of a culture of blatant open sexual harassment in its biological sciences department. From that perspective, this outcome represents progress, although one wonders if the investigation would’ve had the same outcome if the complainants hadn’t included a department chair and an assistant dean, and if the complainants hadn’t had a lawyer. On the other hand, this outcome should’ve happened a long time ago and there’s really no way to retroactively make up for the fact that it didn’t.
Francisco Ayala is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. This case will presumably be the first test of the National Academy’s new policy indicating that in “appropriate circumstances” it will kick members out of the Academy for sexual harassment. If this case doesn’t merit removal from the National Academy under that policy, it’s hard to see what would.