The investigative report that triggered the ouster of prominent evolutionary geneticist Francisco Ayala from the University of California (UC), Irvine, found that his behavior included telling a pregnant colleague “you’re so huge” and regularly putting his hands under a female administrator’s jacket and rubbing them up and down her sides. According to the report, he told a female professor that she had been so animated while giving a talk that he thought she would “have an orgasm.” In another instance, he invited a junior professor in a crowded meeting to sit on his lap, saying he would enjoy the presentation more that way.
The 97-page report, completed in May and obtained by Science, describes a long-standing pattern of behavior by Ayala that continued even after he was warned to stop in 2015. The report detailed off-color remarks and repeated unsolicited compliments on women’s physical appearances—behaviors witnessed by one or more of the 61 people interviewed for the investigation. The investigators said women felt professionally undermined by his conduct and they concluded that Ayala, 84, violated UC Irvine’s sexual harassment and sex discrimination policies in the cases of three of the four women who lodged complaints against him. In response, the university terminated Ayala on 1 July and plans to strip his name from its science library and biology building.
In responses included in the report, Ayala strenuously denies most of the allegations. He told investigators that the entire complaint of Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) professor and chair Kathleen Treseder, who reported the “you’re so huge” and orgasm comments, “was a lie.” “I saw my compliments as courtesies. And they turned those courtesies into sexual harassment,” Ayala told Science in an interview today.