Arizona State University has finally ended its investigation into cosmologist, atheist, and professor Lawrence Krauss. It comes five months after BuzzFeed first published an article detailing sexual misconduct allegations against him stretching back a decade. ASU had put Krauss on paid leave and banned him from campus during the investigation.
BuzzFeed is now reporting that ASU responded to a woman who filed a complaint against him with the results of their investigation, and they’re confirming that Krauss groped a woman’s breast while at a conference in Australia — a clear violation of the school’s sexual harassment policy and an action Krauss vehemently denied. (Update: The school’s response can be read here.)
ASU did not, however, say Krauss had been fired. For all we know, a man the school admits sexually harassed someone at an academic conference is still on their payroll.
Just two days ago, ASU announced they wouldn’t be renewing Krauss’ contract to run the Origins Project, a program he began to “explore humankind’s most fundamental questions about our origins.” We didn’t know Krauss’ fate after that either.
Here’s what BuzzFeed’s Peter Aldhous is now reporting:
… Arizona State University has concluded that physics professor Lawrence Krauss breached the school’s sexual harassment policy by groping a woman at a conference in Australia.
The incident in Melbourne happened when one of Krauss’s fans took a selfie photograph with him. A witness, microbiologist Melanie Thomson, filed a formal complaint with Arizona State in July of 2017, stating that the professor had grabbed the woman’s breast. (The woman in the selfie did not complain to the university.)
In a letter sent Jul. 31, Arizona State provost Mark Searle told Thomson that “the preponderance of the evidence” now suggested that Krauss had breached the university’s policy on sexual harassment, and that he “did grab the right breast of the woman in the photograph.”
Searle added that the university had paid Krauss’s expenses to attend the meeting. The professor’s behavior “created an offensive environment for academic pursuits,” Searle wrote, and violated the school’s ethics code requiring faculty to “conduct one’s public and private lives so as to avoid bringing dishonor to oneself and the university.”
The same letter said the woman who was groped didn’t want to see Krauss fired. She said “the incident did not merit the man losing his career.” But even if that’s what she wants, it doesn’t mean the university should avoid any potential punishment. She may have been the direct victim in that particular incident, but his actions affect other women who may be working (or will one day work) alongside him. The law — or the school’s policies — must guide the punishment, not the desires of a single victim.
Krauss has not yet responded to this new report.
Keep in mind that there were several other allegations of misconduct, including a physical encounter that a woman said was not consensual. But this particular incident occurred on ASU’s dime so it’s on them to investigate (which they did) and take action (which they have not).
Krauss’ own defense for all of these allegations has been limited primarily to a nine-page letter he published on March 7 in which he strongly denied just about everything. He called the original BuzzFeed piece “libelous” and claimed the reporters had a “cavalier disregard for evidence.”
Now that ASU has independently confirmed at least one of the reported incidents, Krauss’ blanket dismissal is even less credible. He owes the reporters an apology — at least after he gets around to giving one to each of the victims.
Krauss’ best move at this point would just be to resign before ASU forces him out. And that may very well happen soon. If ASU allowed him to stay, it’s safe to assume most women on that campus — certainly those who work in the science department — would be aware of the allegations as well as ASU’s own investigation. Would they want to work with Krauss after that? Could they encourage their students or colleagues to work with him? I doubt it.
ASU has no reason to keep him on staff when their own people have basically said he can’t be trusted to behave around women. And they have a lot to lose by keeping him around.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)