California

‘You are a predator’: Cal Poly professor used phone to look up coworker’s skirt

A tenured Cal Poly professor used a cell phone to peep up the skirt of a female colleague on campus last year, but he’s still on the university payroll.

Jason Alan Williams entered a no contest plea in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Monday to a misdemeanor charge of using an electronic device to view a person’s undergarments for sexual arousal.

Following his plea, Williams, 53, will be on probation for five years, during which time he is subject to searches of his electronic devices. He is also ordered to stay away from the victim in the case.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said in an email following the hearing that the university “is aware” of Williams’ plea agreement, and confirmed that it issued a notice of discipline to him on May 8.

“He is currently suspended pending outcome of the disciplinary process, and we have no additional details to provide at this time,” Lazier wrote in an email.

Lazier said that Williams is a tenured associate professor in the psychology and child development department. According to his curriculum vitae, Williams has taught at Cal Poly since 2008.

Incident in the mail room

On the morning of May 2, Kendra Williams, who is also a Cal Poly professor in the psychology department, made a report to university police. Jason Williams was detained at the University Police Department and later booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail, according to a motion filed in the case by the District Attorney’s Office.

Surrounded by about 15 supporters in court Monday, Kendra Williams read an impassioned victim’s impact statement, which was followed by applause.

“I was made into an object, for the sexual pleasure and fetish of my colleague and tenured professor, Jason Williams,” Kendra Williams said in court. “I was forced into a new role that has since cast a shadow on all others.”

SLO_Williamsconvictioncourt
Jason Alan Williams, a Cal Poly psychology and child development associate professor, stands next to his attorney Shauna Cunningham after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of using an electronic device to view a person’s undergarments. He was arrested in June 2018 for taking an illicit photo of a colleague. 9-16-2019 David Middlecamp David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Kendra Williams explained how she stopped into the department mailroom on May 2, 2018, after a lecture. She said that Jason Williams also entered the room and started making “small talk” as she checked her mail.

“You stood so quietly behind me, preparing your phone. Then you bent down and placed your phone between my legs,” Kendra Williams said. “I was looking at a pay stub when I felt something touch the inside of my right leg. When I looked down, I saw your phone, being held by you, with the flash engaged, pointed up my skirt, taking images of my body.”

Kendra Williams recounted how she confronted him and he denied wrongdoing. After reporting the incident to university police, Kendra Williams said she began to question every interaction she had with Jason Williams.

“As I made my statement to the police, every previous interaction with you became clear. You prey on women for your pleasure and power,” Kendra Williams said in court. “You are a predator, and you had groomed me.”

Victim criticizes Cal Poly

Kendra Williams said that when she returned to teaching in fall 2018, she was not allowed to discuss the incident because Cal Poly’s Title IX investigation “imposed a gag order on me,” and she was only able to tell her students she was absent due to a “personal matter.”

“It turns out, Cal Poly was not being honest with me,” she said. “They were using Title IX to limit my speech and save their face.”

Kendra Williams also made a statement to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, saying that the university’s investigation into the incident was “mishandled” and that its system for supporting sexual assault victims “is not enough.”

“As current procedures stand, you do more to protect him, and the reputation of the university, than you do for victims,” Kendra Williams said. “I trusted Cal Poly to protect me, and it failed to do so.”

She added that she plans to advocate for victims of sexual assault and promote changes in the university’s Title IX procedure.

Late Monday afternoon, Cal Poly spokesman Lazier responded via email that the university’s Title IX office is “dedicated to fairly, thoroughly, and appropriately handling all reports of sexual misconduct made to the university, either through the Title IX Office or through (the University Police Department).”

“While we cannot control their communications with others, the Title IX office in all cases asks the involved parties (both complainant and respondent) to respect each other’s privacy and to keep the matter confidential (except for with their respective confidential advisors) during an investigation,” Lazier wrote.

Shauna Cunningham, Jason Williams’ defense attorney, was not immediately available for comment.

This article has been updated to include comments by Matt Lazier.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.
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