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Caltech Harasser Finds New Academic Home, in Finland

February 5, 2018

Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics who resigned from the California Institute of Technology last year after he was found to have harassed two female graduate students, has a new academic home at the University of Turku in Finland. And many who have been following his case and the academic #metoo movement in general aren’t happy about it.

Turku addressed the controversy in a statement last week, saying that it has “a policy of zero tolerance towards harassment and bullying.” Turku considered Caltech’s findings but nevertheless recruited Ott due to “strong evidence of his scientific merits, of which several statements were received,” it said.

Ott will work as a senior researcher without teaching or supervising responsibilities on a two-year contract with a four-month trial period. Ott was suspended from Caltech before he resigned, after an investigation found that he’d become infatuated with a graduate student and then fired her for it. He confided in a second student about the situation. Scientists responded to Turku’s news on Twitter, pointing to a disconnect between its stated no-tolerance policy and Ott’s past. Others said that while Ott had been given a second chance, those whose careers he'd affected were not so lucky. Ott could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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