UC Board of Regents settles sex harassment complaint against professor Nezar AlSayyad for $80K

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Campus doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary studies Eva Hagberg Fisher has agreed not to sue the University of California for alleged indifference after her sexual harassment complaint against UC Berkeley professor Nezar AlSayyad in exchange for an $80,000 settlement, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The UC Board of Regents will pay $55,000 to Hagberg Fisher and $25,000 to her attorney. Hagberg Fisher said she was advised by her attorney to settle.

Hagberg Fisher first filed a report against AlSayyad on March 31, 2016. Hagberg Fisher accused AlSayyad of sexual harassment that occurred from 2012 to 2014, according to an independent Title IX investigation.

“I did not speak up earlier because I was frightened of (AlSayyad’s) ability to potentially ruin my career, which he intimated by the way in which he talked about my work and his being there to support it,” Hagberg Fisher said in the investigation report. “I also continually questioned the validity of my discomfort because he escalated in such a slow way over such a long time.”

AlSayyad is a tenured architecture professor and remains employed by the university.

In November 2016, students staged a walkout of AlSayyad’s city planning course after the allegations from Hagberg Fisher were first revealed. AlSayyad could not be reached for comment at this time.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore declined to comment at this time.

The university issued a statement Wednesday addressing the settlement.

“The University acknowledges and appreciates the efforts of Ms. Fisher, and other brave complainants in the UC community, who have come forward with complaints of sexual harassment, and brought this issue to light,” the statement said.

This settlement comes within the same year that the UC settled a sexual harassment lawsuit regarding accusations against former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry. In April, Tyann Sorrell received $1.7 million from the UC Board of Regents in the settlement, a landmark payment in Title IX settlements in UC history.

Hagberg Fisher alleged that the university was slow to follow up with her and that she was not given any information until she reached out. She added that she did not feel valued and felt more like she and her experience were a nuisance and were annoying.

“I feel terrible. I feel disappointed. I feel demoralized,” Hagberg Fisher said. “I feel frustrated that I have to seek to legal recourse to get the university’s attention.”

After the settlement, Hagberg Fisher received emails Wednesday morning from an anonymous user accusing her of lying about the harassment and of looking for someone to blame for the amount of time she has taken to complete her degree.

Hagberg Fisher said these emails are an example of why women are reluctant to come forward about sexual harassment, but she said she does not regret her decision.

“I 100 percent do not regret coming forward and am very firm in my convictions,” Hagberg Fisher said.

Jessíca Jiménez is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Eve Fichtner was Eva Hagberg Fisher’s attorney. In fact, Fichtner was hired by the university to conduct an independent Title IX investigation.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that Hagberg Fisher filed a lawsuit against campus professor Nezar AlSayyad. In fact, Hagberg Fisher agreed not to file suit against the university for alleged delays she endured after filing a sexual harassment complaint against AlSayyad.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that Hagberg Fisher’s settlement with the university was for $55,000. In fact, it was for $80,000.