NASA is opening a new anti-harassment campaign for employees weeks after a congressional committee asked U.S. science agencies to investigate their harassment policies.
Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced the new measures in a video message on YouTube yesterday (Feb. 1). Lightfoot's message comes after the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate anti-harassment practices at science-based federal agencies.
On Jan. 18, the GAO issued a letter, signed by Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Johnson, asking several agencies (including NASA) to report how many cases of harassment there were at each agency, what anti-harassment policies exist and how grant recipients learn about anti-harassment policies, among other requests.
While Lightfoot did not specifically respond to the letter, he said in the video that in past years, some individuals said they could not speak up about harassment. He pledged that at NASA, harassment will not be tolerated.
"It's not consistent with our values, our employee engagement and our high-performance culture. It's wrong, and it's simply not acceptable," Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot urged anyone who is experiencing harassment in connection with NASA to report it to a manager or a representative from the anti-harassment office. He added that complaints would be kept anonymous, investigations would be thorough and those found to have committed harassment would be subject to "immediate" and "prompt" action.
Lightfoot reminded all employees to review NASA's anti-harassment policies and procedures at https://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/policy.html, and added that the agency will do a comprehensive anti-harassment campaign in 2018. The campaign includes the following:
- A requirement for all new civil servants to do anti-harassment training as a part of the process of joining NASA. Current employees will need to complete the training by the end of this year.
- A partnership with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will include the opportunity for NASA senior managers to learn about current developments in anti-harassment.
- An anti-harassment forum.
- Urging the heads of each NASA center and mission directorate to support the campaign. Lightfoot himself will also receive reports about what agency members are seeing.
In October, The New York Times published an article containing allegations that prominent Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein had committed sexual harassment and sexual assault. Following the report, victims of harassment worldwide united and shared their stories under the social media hashtag #MeToo.
Since then, many dozens of high-profile figures in Hollywood, the media and other industries have been accused of harassment. One example was Academy Award winning-actor Kevin Spacey, who was first publicly accused of harassment by "Star Trek: Discovery" star Anthony Rapp.
The GAO letter also cited at least one scientist who has received NASA funding: former University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, who resigned from his position following accusations of harassment in 2015. BuzzFeed reported that Marcy had almost $900,000 in active federal grants from NASA at the time.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace