Top Ox­ford pro­fes­sor ac­cused of ha­rass­ment

Re­searcher claims ca­reer ru­ined af­ter he re­jected se­nior sci­en­tist’s ad­vances

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Robert Men­dick CHIEF RE­PORTER

A HIGHLY re­spected pro­fes­sor at Ox­ford Univer­sity has been ac­cused of the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of a re­searcher al­most half his age.

Dr Matthew Levy, the more ju­nior sci­en­tist, claims that when he re­jected the ad­vances of Prof Peter Nor­reys, he was sub­jected to a cam­paign of bul­ly­ing that he claims ef­fec­tively ru­ined his aca­demic ca­reer.

The Sun­day Tele­graph has seen the full ex­tent of the al­le­ga­tions – ex­pected to be aired at an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal next year – in­clud­ing claims that Prof Nor­reys, 57, asked Dr Levy, 25 years his ju­nior, what kind of un­der­wear he was wear­ing and that on one oc­ca­sion he touched his thigh and “grazed his crotch”.

Prof Nor­reys, Ox­ford’s lead­ing ex­pert on in­er­tial fu­sion sci­ence, stren­u­ously de­nies all the al­le­ga­tions, while the univer­sity, which has car­ried out an in­ter­nal re­view, is fully stand­ing by him. It says its re­view showed no ev­i­dence of any wrong­do­ing.

It is un­der­stood that Prof Nor­reys will ar­gue that the al­le­ga­tions were only made against him af­ter he raised ques­tions about Dr Levy’s work and about claims made on his email sig­na­ture and web­site.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Levy, 32, who is un­der­stood to be seek­ing more than £500,000 in com­pen­sa­tion, his aca­demic ca­reer has been left in tat­ters. The Amer­i­can physi­cist, who came to Ox­ford on a schol­ar­ship in Jan­uary 2015, is now back in Cal­i­for­nia, hav­ing set up his own ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence com­pany.

How­ever, last week he won the first stage in his bat­tle – the right to bring the case in the first place.

A tri­bunal has al­ready ruled that Dr Levy should be treated as an em­ployee of the univer­sity, al­low­ing him to sue “the chan­cel­lor, masters and schol­ars of the univer­sity” as well as Prof Nor­reys him­self.

Dr Levy claims that he first be­came un­com­fort­able around Prof Nor­reys in Fe­bru­ary 2015, a month af­ter he started re­search work in the physics depart­ment.

He al­leges that Prof Nor­reys re­marked that he “wouldn’t mind touch­ing” the bot­tom of an­other male stu­dent. He al­leges that Prof Nor­reys “asked what un­der­wear” Dr Levy was wear­ing. In Oct 2015, Prof Nor­reys is al­leged to have put his hand on Dr Levy’s thigh and “grazed” his crotch.

Prof Nor­reys de­nies all the claims and the univer­sity will back up his in­sis­tence that no pre­vi­ous com­plaint has ever been made against him.

In a state­ment on be­half of Prof Nor­reys, the univer­sity said: “Last week’s hear­ing was a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing to es­tab­lish whether the tri­bunal had ju­ris­dic­tion over the case. Dr Levy’s al­le­ga­tions were not ex­am­ined and there was no rul­ing on them.

“Pro­fes­sor Nor­reys stren­u­ously de­nies all of these al­le­ga­tions and they have yet to be heard by a full tri­bunal. The Univer­sity has it­self thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated Dr Levy’s al­le­ga­tions and does not ac­cept them.

“We can­not pro­vide any fur­ther com­ment as the mat­ter is sub­ject to le­gal pro­ceed­ings.”

Dr Levy is un­der­stood to be seek­ing more than £500,000 in com­pen­sa­tion

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