Caltech pro­fes­sor is out af­ter find­ings of ha­rass­ment

Ris­ing star at school had been barred from cam­pus, put on leave.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts

A Caltech as­tro­physics pro­fes­sor found by an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to have ha­rassed two fe­male grad­u­ate stu­dents has re­signed, the univer­sity an­nounced.

Chris­tian Ott, who cam­pus of­fi­cials de­ter­mined com­mit­ted “un­am­bigu­ous gen­der-based ha­rass­ment” of the stu­dents, will re­sign ef­fec­tive Dec. 31, Caltech Pres­i­dent Thomas F. Rosen­baum and Provost Ed­ward M. Stolper wrote in a let­ter to stu­dents and fac­ulty on Tues­day.

A univer­sity com­mit­tee was try­ing to de­ter­mine whether to re­in­state Ott as a pro­fes­sor. Ott was placed on un­paid leave, barred from cam­pus and re­quired to un­dergo train­ing af­ter an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the fall of 2015, of­fi­cials said.

On Tues­day, Stolper and Rosen­baum wrote that the

eval­u­a­tion from the com­mit­tee and oth­ers showed that Ott “made sig­nif­i­cant progress with re­gard to the is­sues that led to the dis­ci­plinary action against him,” but be­cause of his his­tory “re­mained a di­vi­sive el­e­ment on cam­pus.”

“This has been a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion for our com­mu­nity,” Rosen­baum and Stolper wrote.

The ac­cu­sa­tions against Ott were first re­ported by Buz­zFeed.

Ott, who was con­sid­ered a ris­ing star at the school and had re­cently been granted ten­ure, fell in love with one of his grad­u­ate as­sis­tants, then fired her from her job work­ing with him re­search­ing su­per­novae, Buz­zFeed re­ported. He wrote about his ac­tions and his feel­ings for the woman in months of mes­sages to an­other fe­male grad­u­ate stu­dent, the web­site said.

Both women filed ha­rass- ment com­plaints about him, ac­cord­ing to Buz­zFeed. They told the news out­let that they were dis­ap­pointed that the school took a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive ap­proach rather than fir­ing Ott.

The woman Ott was in love with, ac­cord­ing to Buz­zFeed, did not re­al­ize he had ro­man­tic feel­ings for her and thought she had been fired be­cause she had not done her job well.

Sev­eral days af­ter telling the woman he didn’t want to work with her, Ott sent her a mes­sage: “Of all my stu­dents I cared most about you and I failed in the worst way,” Buz­zFeed re­ported. “My prob­lem is that I don’t want to be in a power po­si­tion, but I fac­tu­ally am.”

Ott also posted 86 po­ems about the woman on his Tum­blr page, Buz­zFeed re­ported. The po­ems have been taken down.

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