Christian Ott not sexually harass students
PASADENA, CA – Christian Ott, an astrophysics professor from the California Institute of Technology, has recently resigned after allegations of sexual harassment. Two students accused Ott of falling in love with them and then terminating in retaliation when they did not have the same feelings. Ott turned in his letter of resignation while the Caltech was investigating the charges against him.
Io Kleiser and Sarah Gossan were two female Post Doctorate students that worked under Ott. During their investigation, the University reviewed thousands of pages of correspondence between Ott and the two complainants. The correspondence revealed that Ott had difficulty with romantic feelings for his students and forging appropriate professional relationships with the people he advised.
Io began at Caltech in 2012 to work with Ott studying the supernovae. At the time, Io was taking a full class load and worked with Ott, using his supercomputer to model the mysterious explosions. This took a toll on Io. During this period, Io stated she just wanted to keep her head above water. While working together, Ott began messaging her late at night, some messages seemed innocuous, recommending that she read Charles Bukowski or Leonard Cohen. Other messages, however, seemed a bit confusing as he would admonish her for her work ethic and question her motivations to begin physicists. Io was concerned that Ott was very demanding of her time and Io was also concerned about the emotional roller coaster Ott put her through. Eventually, while at a coffee shop just off campus, Ott told Io that he no longer went to work with her, terminating her position on his team.
Five days after Ott terminated Io from her position, Ott sent Io a message detailing how he failed her and he wished he wasn’t in a position of power. During this time, Ott chatted online with Sarah Gossan and confided in her about his situation with Io. In on exchange, Ott asked Gossan to switch to her skype because he didn’t want to type out his damning confession.
A few minutes later, while on Skype, Ott confessed to Gossan that he had fired Io because he was concerned that Io was using her sexual influence over him to not do any work.
Over the course of the next year, Ott continued to message Gossan online. Sometimes late at night, sometimes drunk. He would often talk about not being able to let go of her feelings for Io, whom he repeatedly reached out to by chat and email which can be defined as stalking. After Gossan’s third year working with Ott, his demands of her increased. When Gossan told Ott that she wouldn’t be able to work 80 hours a week, Ott told her that she would never make it in academia. Gossan stated “I came to Caltech to do science. [Ott] slowly but surely made me feel worthless.” Eventually, after a dispute in which Ott told Gossan that she had “not published anything substantial” enough to speak at a conference commemorating Einstein, Gossan quit Ott’s team. Gossan eventually filed a Title IX complaint for sexual harassment against Ott. Ott’s sexual harassment scandal is just one in a string of similar scandals plaguing American Universities, exposing the long history of sexual harassment that Academia so desperately wished to keep hidden.
Professors find themselves in a unique position, half mentor, half supervisor, half coworker. Academia seems to be a hotbed for sexual harassment. Ott’s ordeal comes on the heels of similar allegations filed against two University of Berkley. Philosopher John Searle was recently resigned after being accused of regularly sexually harassing his students. Additionally, Dr. Geoffry Marcy resigned after two students accused him of sexual harassment and making inappropriate comments to his students.
The experienced New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience bringing claims of sexual harassment on behalf of our clients. Together with our Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys, our firm has garnered six-figure settlements on behalf of our clients. If you feel you have been sexually harassed at work, please give us a call, toll-free at 800-807-2209, for your free consultation.