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Francisco Ayala Resigns Following Harassment Investigation

Evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala has resigned from the University of California, Irvine, where he was also a benefactor, following a sexual harassment investigation, the New York Times reports. It adds that the university is removing his name from its biological sciences school, endowed chairs, buildings, and more in what the Times calls a "sharp rebuke."

Micha Star Liberty, a lawyer for three of the four women — one holding the Ayala endowed chair, an assistant dean, an assistant professor, and a graduate student — said Ayala's behavior toward female colleagues included unwanted touching and that he also made sexual and inappropriate comments toward them, Science reports. Liberty also alleges that UC-Irvine didn't conduct an investigation when a complaint was made three years ago about Ayala because he was a "famous and profitable professor."

"This was a widely known problem," Liberty tells the Times. "There were conversations people had, like stay away from him, don't be alone with him, don't be in an elevator with him."

In a statement his assistant sent the Times, Ayala says he acted with what he thought were "the good manners of a European gentleman" and that he regretted it made anyone uncomfortable. 

UC-Irvine says in a statement that its months-long investigation included speaking with more than 60 witnesses.

"Given the number and breadth of the substantiated allegations, and the power differentials at play, I decided that keeping Professor Ayala's name in a position of honor would be wrong," Chancellor Howard Gillman says of removing Ayala's name from the biological sciences school and its library.

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