Reaffirming our position on harassment

Reaffirming our position on harassment

Content Warning: The following post addresses issues related to bullying and sexual harassment.

Astrobites’ Code of Conduct states the following regarding harassment, bullying, or other unacceptable behavior committed by any member of the larger astronomical community:

If Scholar D is found guilty of a Title IX violation (or a similar violation, such as violating an institution’s anti-harassment policy), the investigative committee may use that decision as sufficient evidence that Scholar D acted so has not aligned with the core values ​​of our collaboration and may choose to remove Scientist D’s name and likeness from the publicly available Astrobites website.

In accordance with this policy, we are writing again to discuss another case of harassment within the astronomical community. We will no longer publish articles credited to Christian Ott and will remove existing content featuring Ott’s work.

This action was prompted by a recent publication in Science, which brought the 2016 harassment allegations against Ott back to the attention of our community. In 2016, Ott was suspended from Caltech for gender harassment, lost his salary, and was banned from campus for a year. Although there was significant and recently settled litigation surrounding this finding, Caltech’s investigation “conclusively found that Ott was guilty of gender-based molestation of two graduate students,” according to the recent Science article.

It is worrying that we are dealing with another harassment case so quickly, as astronomy has only recently faced another major case, that of Tim de Zeeuw. While we are grateful that these situations are being brought to light and addressed, we are deeply disappointed and concerned that there are several harassers in our community who have retained positions of power long before facing consequences. The emotional and mental toll we all face in dealing with these events is taking a significant toll on our community, particularly those who have experienced harassment or abuse in their careers.

As we explained in our previous statement on harassment and our statement on de Zeeuw’s actions, it is once again incredibly disappointing that creating an environment where we are all free from harassment, bullying and abuse falls on some of the youngest voices in our community. As Astrobites is a graduate student collaboration, we again call on the older members of our community, namely tenured faculty, to join us and stop giving a voice to known harassers.

This can be accomplished by refusing to work or associate with anyone known to have engaged in assault, bullying, harassment, or other problematic behavior. This can be achieved by ensuring that sex offenders and molesters are reported. This can be achieved by not asking when offenders get their second chance at a career in astronomy, but instead asking how to ensure survivors of violence, bullying and harassment get their first chance. This can be achieved by prioritizing the health and well-being of your students, postdocs and faculty.

We sincerely hope that things will change soon and the practice of “passing on harassment” will stop. We believe that our actions have consequences – especially when those actions endanger the livelihoods and well-being of many of our community members.

Disclaimer: This post was written following a collaboration-wide decision and is based on the personal views and opinions of Astrobites contributors who are student volunteers. They are not necessarily representative of the views of the American Astronomical Society or other institutions with which our authors are affiliated.

Selected image credit: Astrobites

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