UCI Geneticist Resigns over Sexual Harassment Allegations

IRVINE (CNS) - UC Irvine says geneticist Francisco J. Ayala has resigned after a university investigation found he sexually harassed four faculty members and graduate students. 

Ayala, a former Dominican priest who has won the prestigious Templeton Prize for championing both science and faith, resigned effective July 1 and will abstain from future university activities, UCI officials said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. 

In 2011, Ayala donated $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences, which then bore his name. It was the largest gift from a faculty member at the time. The university said Ayala's name has been removed from that school and is also being removed from its central science library, graduate fellowships, scholar programs and endowed chairs. The biology school will now be known as the UCI School of Biological Sciences.


``I thank and commend our colleagues who reported this misconduct,'' Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a statement. ``Coming forward with this information was extremely courageous. Professor Ayala's behavior defied our core beliefs and was inconsistent with our policies, guidelines and required training.''Micha Liberty, an attorney who represents three of the women, said UCI ignored years of complaints from professors and graduate students that Ayala touched them and made sexual and sexist comments. She said one of the professors she's representing reported Ayala's conduct three years ago, but university officials failed to investigate or sanction him.

``They just told him, `stay away from her,''' Liberty said. 


``Dr. Ayala has had a long and successful career and was clearly an asset to the UCI campus, and that in turn motivated UCI to look the other way when it came to complaints of sexual harassment.''

The university started the investigation last November. The women, who asked to be identified, are Kathleen Treseder, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology; Jessica Pratt, an assistant teaching professor; Benedicte Shipley, an assistant dean; and Michelle Herrera, a graduate student, The Times reported. 

After interviews with the women and more than 60 witnesses, the university substantiated the complaints last month.

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