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ASU professor Lawrence Krauss accused of sexual misconduct

The Origins Project founder has been accused by colleagues and students from multiple institutions

Lawrence Krauss 2

Professor Lawrence Krauss speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Photo courtesy of Janice Sinclaire, communication director for the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists. 

Lawrence Krauss, a prominent professor within ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple colleagues and students, according to a BuzzFeed article. 

The BuzzFeed report described a pattern of sexual harassment spanning more than 10 years at multiple institutions and organizations. The incidents were alleged by students, faculty and other witnesses.

The University hasn't received complaints from any ASU students or faculty regarding Krauss, according to an official statement from ASU, but ASU is opening a review based on the story.

Krauss called the BuzzFeed article "slanderous" and "factually incorrect" in an email to The State Press.

"I can assure students that I have always worked hard throughout my career, inside and outside the University, to build and maintain an atmosphere of trust and respect in all of my interactions, and to create an environment where open communication is encouraged," Krauss said in an email.

But during his time at ASU, rumors have circulated, with at least one student hearing about Krauss' inappropriate behavior, concurrent with the "whisper network" described in BuzzFeed's article. Across social media, women have come forward with their experiences working in the same fields as Krauss.

Theresa Fisher, a doctoral student at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, said she was told in 2016 by one person who graduated from the program to avoid Krauss. The person who spoke to Fisher about Krauss did not comment to The State Press before publication.

"I was told ... specifically, 'Be careful around Krauss.' ... He's best to be avoided," Fisher said.

Mika McKinnon, a geophysicist who studied at the University of California Santa Barbara, said in a tweet that she’d turned  down jobs to keep away from Krauss because of what she’d heard about him from others.

“When I was an undergraduate it was very quickly apparent that my interests were in the boundaries of science and science fiction and in cosmology, and both these things are part of Krauss’ professional interests,” McKinnon said.  

With her research interests lining up with Krauss’, some of McKinnon’s colleagues at Santa Barbara and visitors from other universities told McKinnon to be careful if she ever worked with him.

The allegations in the report range from offensive comments to groping and non-consensual sexual advances.

BuzzFeed reported that ASU reviewed a complaint in July 2017 by microbiologist Melanie Thomson. Thomson and two other people witnessed Krauss grope a woman who asked for a selfie at a skeptic convention in Australia, according to BuzzFeed. 

The University was unable to contact or confirm the identity of the individual who Thompson said Krauss groped, an ASU official said.

Krauss denied all allegations in an email to BuzzFeed.

ASU said in an official statement that BuzzFeed contacted the University about anonymous complaints about Krauss from current and former ASU employees. The University said BuzzFeed declined to give more information when ASU asked for more details. 

"Nevertheless, ASU initiated a review in an attempt to discern the facts surrounding these claims," ASU said in a statement. "That review is ongoing."

In his statement, Krauss said he respects ASU's decision. 

"I realize though that some ASU students may be shocked and dismayed and interested in some comment from me at this time," Krauss' statement said. "I appreciate the supportive statement from ASU and also the professional procedures that ASU applies to these issues."

Krauss was absent Friday from a speaking event he was expected to participate in. He was slated to talk about science and current events at "A Celebration of Science and Reason in Phoenix" alongside famous atheists Sam Harris and Matt Dillahunty.

While Harris and Dillahunty said they weren't taking a position regarding the truth of the claims highlighted in the article, the two continued the event without Krauss. Harris said at the event, "After a lot of conversation, we all decided mutually that it would be better if he didn't share the stage with us tonight."

Krauss is a founder and director of ASU's Origins Project, which has brought famous scientists and experts, including Stephen Hawking, to speak at ASU. He joined the University in 2008, and previously worked at universities including Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Krauss isn't allowed on the Case Western campus or at Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in response to complaints of inappropriate behavior, BuzzFeed reported. 

An ASU official said no one in the hiring process could have known of the restrictions as they'd come after Krauss came to ASU.

"No one in the administration who was making hiring decisions about Krauss knew about either of those two actions because, according to the Buzzfeed article itself, those restrictions were imposed well after Krauss was hired here,” the official said. 

The Origins Project announced its 10-year anniversary to be held in early April 2018. It will also be 10 years since Krauss was hired at ASU. 

Krauss earns a $265,000 salary, according to The State Press salary database. 

Krauss has a high profile in the scientific community. He has written popular books about physics and astronomy and regularly appears in the media to discuss scientific issues.

In the University's statement, ASU encouraged anyone with potential concerns to come forward.

"The university encourages anyone in our community who has concerns about interactions with faculty, staff or students to report those concerns," ASU said. "The university provides multiple reporting options, including through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Office of Equity and Inclusion or by calling the ASU Hotline."

This story is developing and will be updated as more information is made available. It was last updated at 9:36 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2018 to include an interview from Mika McKinnon and statements from a University official.  

Editor's note: Parts of this story have been edited for precision.

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