The following post is a comparison of the report that Jessica Kirkpatrick gave to the UC Berkelely Title IX investigator during the investigation, with the altered report that she gave on October 15, 2015. The second statement was brought about by the apparent insistence of the actual student involved in the situation, who intended to “clear up the misconceptions and unintentional lies that were included in that report.” Content that Jessica Kirkpatrick retracted appears in strikethrough, while content that she added appears in brackets.
An analysis of Jessica Kirkpatrick’s report to the investigator waits for another post. This post is just to allow the reader to understand how the statements are different.
Jessica Kirkpatrick’s Statement(s):
In January 2010 I was at the American Astronomy Society national meeting in Washington DC. I was a year graduate student at the time. The meeting traditionally has a “party” which is organized by astronomers at a nearby bar/club. A few of us from Berkeley were at a cocktail reception the evening of the party (before-hand).
Hand on Thigh
I was talking to several people including Berkeley Astronomy professor [Respondent] and a female undergraduate student who I knew from the Society of Women in the Physical Sciences (SWPS). This student had worked on a project with [Respondent] and we were talking about her presentation. I noticed that [Respondent] was very familiar with the student. He touched her when he talked to her and stood very close to her. He bought her a drink at the cocktail reception. As the reception was wrapping up he suggested we all share a cab to the party at the nearby club [bar]. The three of us were in the back seat of the cab. This student was in between me and [Respondent]. He put his arm around her in the cab ride and put his hand on her thigh. She was wearing a skirt, and his hand was quite high on her thigh. I felt incredibly uncomfortable seeing him touch her this way. I would have felt weird being next to a married couple who was being this physical in such close proximity to me, however seeing a professor touch his student in this way, and seeing the student squirm and adjust her position as he leaned into her[(appear) uncomfortable], was very awkward. I didn’t really understand [Respondent’s] relationship with the student at the time, so I didn’t know what to do or say.
When we got to the club I noticed that [Respondent] kept buying the student drinks. She was on the dance floor with a bunch of other students and he came up behind her and started gyrating and rubbing up against her. She tried [to] move away [from] him, but was also pretty drunk at this point. I noticed a few of her friends try and separate her from [Respondent], but he kept following her around. At one point I suggested that someone keep an eye on her and make sure she get home ok.
The rest of this story I know by talking to the student afterwards, but I did not witness myself: By the end of the evening a friend saw [Respondent] walking the student out of the club and getting into a cab with her. The student was so drunk she could barely walk. Her friend grabbed her and put her in a different cab to get her away from [Respondent]. Apparently [Respondent] then followed her back to her hotel room and asked to enter the room. He got into bed with her and started massaging her. The other student she was sharing a room with came home and walked in on him in bed with the student. He tried to convince the student to come back to his room with him, but she said she was too drunk to move, so he left. [I left the party before the student, but I heard from other graduate students that people saw Geoff leave with her and they ended up back at the conference hotel together.]
After the incident I emailed the student recounting what I witnessed in the cab and at the club and asking her if she was ok or needed help. She said that [Respondent] was writing her letters of reference for graduate school, and while she did feel very uncomfortable with what happened, she didn’t want to do anything about it because she really needed his letters. [She said that while Geoff’s behavior that night was weird, and made her feel uncomfortable, he had been nice to her otherwise and was very helpful with advice about graduate school.]
I reached out to her again recently and told her that several other people were filing complaints about [Respondent] to the Title IX office at Berkeley and she said that she did not feel comfortable filing a complaint.
After witnessing this incident I felt incredibly uncomfortable around [Respondent]. Every time I was in the same room with him my heart would race and my stomach would churn. Knowing that [a] professor in the astronomy department would treat a student like this was incredibly upsetting to me and affected the rest of my graduate experience at Berkeley. I talked to other students about this experience, and was told that everyone knew that [Respondent] was creepy and frequently touched, kissed, and tried to start inappropriate relationships with his female (undergraduate) students. [I was told that] All attempts to address this behavior with either [Respondent] directly or the department went nowhere. The perception among student[s] in the astronomy department is that the only way to address this issue was to warn female students to avoid him. This is easier to do with graduate students who are part of a community and interact with older students, however consider[ing] [Respondent] tends to target undergraduates that he is teaching (many of whom are not even majoring in astronomy) it is hard to protect those students from his behavior.