Many UC misconduct policy violators deny sexual intent, documents show

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Editor’s note: The Daily Californian apologizes for a photo attached to a previous version of this article, which inaccurately depicted UCLA professor of medicine Tomas Ganz. He played no role in any of the investigation reports released Tuesday. Read the full apology here.

UCLA professor emeritus Eric Gans does not feel ashamed.

He is not ashamed for writing, “I can’t help thinking that in another universe you would have been the woman I was meant to share my life with” to a female graduate student whose thesis he was supervising. He is not ashamed about publishing more than 300 poems for her. He is not ashamed for having a “tender relationship” with a woman about 50 years his junior.

Looking back, the former French and Francophone studies professor said he probably should have known better. But now, the only thing he really regrets is writing the words “I love you” in an email to the graduate student — words he feels were the nail in the coffin when she later filed a complaint against him with the UCLA Title IX office.

“I’m an old-fashioned guy. I treat women with a kind of reverence,” said Gans, 75, in an interview with The Daily Californian. “Some women appreciate this, but some don’t.”

It’s a common story among the 124 cases of university sexual harassment policy violations that occurred in a three-year span. Many respondents told investigators they were unaware that their behavior was wholly inappropriate or prohibited, and most denied the sexual intent of their actions.

The graduate student — whose name was redacted in the Title IX investigation report — started emailing Gans and meeting with him in his office frequently under the assumption that he would be her thesis adviser. The relationship began as professional, but over time, Gans began sending her more and more intimate emails, according to a Title IX investigation that concluded Dec. 11, 2013.

Gans said that once, the student began an email with the greeting “dearest,” which he said he took as a sign that she returned his affections.

“My intuition said this was a kind of love,” Gans said.

Gans began writing and sending the student love poems. In one email, he referred to her as his “sexy granddaughter.” Though Gans said the two repeatedly said “I love you” to each other in person, the student told a Title IX investigator, “I felt that I had to respond I love you back.” All the while, Gans was married — to a woman who used to be his student.

The emails, poems and his behavior toward her in general caused the student emotional distress, according to the Title IX investigation. In May 2011 and again in July 2012, she told him so via email, but his actions did not cease, according to the investigation. Adding to her distress was the feeling that no one else was as qualified to advise her thesis as Gans.

“I believed that there was no other person I could work with, and that he would have a great deal of control over my academic future as I had invested so much time with him,” the student said during the Title IX investigation. “(So) I continued to work with him. I became depressed and anxious.”

Gans was found in violation of UC sexual harassment policy.

Though Gans soon retired from his position after the investigation concluded rather than fighting against the accusations through the Privilege and Tenure Committee, he still benefits from his emeritus status. He still has an office on campus, he has emeritus parking privileges, and he can take out books at the UCLA libraries.

Although he admits to sending the emails and poems to his students, he maintains that there were no sexual intentions behind his actions and insists that he and his student had a “tender” relationship.

“She doesn’t bother to mention all her positive responses to the so-called sexual harassment, like serving her hot chocolate,” Gans said. “If you can call that sexual harassment, what are you going to do about people (who) actually assault?”

Gans alleges that the whole situation was a setup by the student’s adviser and the department chair — “who are both women, by the way,” he said — believing that some of his colleagues were jealous of the “extremely attractive, sexy girl” he had as a student and of his academic prowess.

“She was a weak person, she was intimidated by them, (and) she wasn’t the best student,” Gans said.

UCLA French professor Malina Stefanovska, who was the chair of the department at the time of the complaint, said in an email that when the graduate student complained to her about “her difficulties with her thesis advisor,” she followed the campus’s process regarding sexual harassment complaints and contacted the campus’s Title IX office.

“(W)hile I was chairing the Department, when the student complained to me about her difficulties with her then thesis director, Gans, I took the steps requested by UCLA rules: I contacted the (T)itle IX officer of (UCLA) in charge of sexual harassment, and from then on the matter was in her hands,” Stefanovska said in an email. “As Chair, I was simply requested to replace Gans by another adviser, which I did.”

For many in the UC community, the systemic and widespread nature of sexual misconduct comes as no surprise. Shir Alon, a UCLA graduate student and member of Bruins Against Sexual Harassment, said the release of the documents is an important step toward transparency and protecting students, faculty and other members of the UC community.

“(Students) tend to be silenced,” Alon said in an email. “Professors can use their power to conduct harassment against their students.”

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Pressly Pratt at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A photo accompanying a previous version of this article incorrectly depicted UCLA professor Tomas Ganz.