UC Merced

UC employee sexual misconduct cases include seven from UC Merced

UC Merced entry sign.
UC Merced entry sign. Modesto Bee

The University of California said this week it investigated 113 cases of sexual misconduct involving staff and faculty members at its 10 campuses – including seven reports from UC Merced – over a recent three-year period, according to hundreds of pages of internal documents released Tuesday.

The information was released to The Associated Press and other news organizations Tuesday following a public records request made amid a string of high-profile cases at UC Berkeley last year.

Many details and personal information in the documents are redacted, but the records give an overview of how many sexual harassment cases were investigated systemwide at the University of California in recent years.

The 113 cases occurred from January 2013 through April 6, 2016, and include allegations that range from inappropriate conduct to sexual assault, according to a summary from the office of UC President Janet Napolitano. All 113 cases involve employees found to have violated the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy.

7The number of sexual misconduct reports from UC Merced

About 58 percent of the cases came from complaints by staff members, while 35 percent were from students. The rest were unknown or anonymous.

It said 7 percent of the cases involved sexual assault, “including the touching of intimate body parts.”

The summary also said that approximately two-thirds of the people accused of misconduct no longer work for the University of California.

UC Merced administrators did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

One report from 2015 focused on a UC Merced professor who drew multiple complaints from students alleging sexual harassment and bullying by the professor and his partner, a graduate of UC Merced.

The report claims the male professor and his female partner would be overly affectionate in front of students, including “making out.” The couple also would have “wild” parties involving students at their home, and the professor would “grind” on students while dancing, the report says.

He also was found to have made “inappropriate and unwelcome advances, comments and flirtations toward female students under his supervision and guidance,” according to the report’s findings.

Many details and personal information in the documents are redacted, but the records give an overview of how many sexual harassment cases were investigated systemwide at the University of California in recent years.

The pair also were found to have had a negative impact on the learning environment for students. The professor’s partner, who was not an employee and no longer a student, would interrupt his office-hour sessions with students and was “menacing” and “bullying” toward female students taught by the professor.

“It’s tough to get to talk to him because (she) is always around,” according to an unnamed student who communicated with officials.

The professor was demoted from an unidentified leadership position, according to the report. Citing privacy issues, the university would not comment on whether the professor is still on campus.

Three reports are related to a UC Merced dining center worker who supervises student employees. In the 2015 report, he allegedly told a dirty joke in which he said “orgasm” repeatedly to more than one student employee.

On a separate occasion in 2016, he was accused of telling a student employee she can “back it up for me anytime.” He denied the allegation, saying he could have been singing lyrics from a rap song. He was suspended for 10 days and was required to take a sexual harassment course.

In a 2014 report, an employee was suspended for 10 days after he sent a series of aggressively flirtatious text messages to another worker that made her uncomfortable.

113The number of sexual misconduct reports for the UC system

Other cases led employees to be sent to mandatory sexual-harassment training: a lecturer who tried to initiate a relationship with a recent graduate and sent a message that could be “reasonably interpreted as offensive”; a female employee who sent flirtatious emails to another employee; an employee in Campus Dining who made inappropriate comments and asked other workers on dates; and an employee who acknowledged she was a “hugger” and whose unwanted physical contact made her colleagues uncomfortable.

Berkeley has faced intense criticism and scrutiny for what student groups and victims-rights groups called lax discipline for senior faculty members involved in sexual misconduct cases.

In one case, Sujit Choudhry, the former dean of the law school, received only a temporary pay cut and orders to undergo counseling as punishment following a 2015 investigation substantiated claims that he had repeatedly kissed and touched a subordinate.

The university also faced criticism for several other sexual-harassment cases, including one involving the campus’ vice chancellor for research and a prominent astronomer who were initially were allowed to keep their jobs but ended up resigning under pressure, as did Choudhry.

In response to the cases, Napolitano has moved to strengthen campus procedures for investigating and disciplining faculty members in sexual harassment cases, said UC spokeswoman Claire Doan. Napolitano has put in place mandatory sexual-assault training for students and employees, and created a systemwide peer-review committee to evaluate proposed sanctions for senior university leaders and faculty members found guilty of misconduct. Previously, it was up to individual campuses to impose sanctions on their own officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller