Top Oxford professor accused of harassment
Researcher claims career ruined after he rejected senior scientist’s advances
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