‘An institutional and pervasive problem’: Title IX documents reveal wave of sexual misconduct cases at UC Santa Cruz

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Content warning: Sexual violence

Seven violations of the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, or SVSH, have been reported at UC Santa Cruz, or UCSC, since 2016.

All of the cases investigated found that a UCSC faculty or staff member had violated the SVSH policy, which was updated in 2016.

The investigations were obtained by The Daily Californian through a California Public Records Act, or CPRA, request.

“UC Santa Cruz is committed to and continuously working toward maintaining an environment in which all UC students, faculty and staff are free from harassment and discrimination,” said UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason in an email. “Our campus has no tolerance for sexual violence or sexual harassment, which are prohibited by university policy and federal and state law.”

These Title IX investigations are part of a series of CPRA requests made by the Daily Cal to update its database of sexual misconduct cases across the UC campuses.

ASUC Senator Teddy Lake said in an email that the UC system has an obligation to streamline the SVSH reporting process so that survivors feel supported in coming forward with their stories rather than being ashamed of them.

“The bitter truth that we must all swallow is this: the UC has an institutional and pervasive problem with sexual violence and harassment on campus,” Lake said in an email.

Both Lake and ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said the UC system needs to continue to change the culture surrounding sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Victor Vazquez: Investigation concluded April 2016

UCSC dining hall cook Victor Vazquez was found to have made sexual remarks while working in the dining halls.

According to the report, Vazquez was also accused of staring at women in a “sexual manner” and giving women hugs that made them uncomfortable.

Before these allegations, which were made in 2015, Vazquez reportedly gave a student “uncomfortable hugs” in 2014, spanked her buttocks and asked, “No te gusto?”

In response to the allegations made in 2015, Vazquez said in an interview — included in the report — that he hugs all staff members. He also alleged that he never “affirmatively” asked a woman to hug him and denied having stared at women in an inappropriate manner. Vazquez also denied the allegations made against him in 2014.

Vazquez’s behavior was found to have violated SVSH policy, and his employment has since been terminated.

UCSC undergraduate adviser: Investigation concluded June 2016

A UCSC undergraduate student alleged in a separate report that an undergraduate adviser “engaged in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature” while the student was in his office. The student reported that when she went to the adviser’s office to ask an academic question, the adviser was watching a pornographic video, which he did not turn off for the duration of their meeting.

The adviser admitted that he was watching a pornographic video when the student walked in but denied that the video had continued to play for the rest of the meeting.

The adviser was found to have violated SVSH policy and was suspended for one quarter without pay.

College academic adviser: Investigation concluded July 2016

A UCSC college academic adviser was found to have engaged in inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature with a student, according to another Title IX report. The adviser also allegedly offered the student a ride on multiple occasions.

The employee denied discussing sexual topics with the student and alleged that he had only offered a ride on two occasions. He also alleged that the student had misinterpreted his actions, stating that none of his intentions were romantic or sexual in nature.

Ultimately, the employee was found to have violated SVSH policy.

The employee was not punished, but he was instead given a series of “remedies” including in-person sexual harassment training and a written personal reflection. He also lost the privilege to supervise students in the advising office for at least two years.

UCSC professor emeritus: Investigation concluded September 2016

A visiting professor alleged in another Title IX report that she was the victim of sexual harassment from a UCSC professor emeritus.

In the report, the visiting professor said she accepted an invitation from the professor emeritus to get coffee and discuss her research interests. During their conversation, the professor emeritus allegedly made comments that made the complainant uncomfortable, which culminated in solicitation for sex. The complainant said in the report that she rejected his offer and left.

It was determined that the professor emeritus’s actions were in violation of the SVSH policy, but he was not disciplined.

UCSC professor: Investigation concluded June 2017

Another report alleged that a UCSC professor, who has been teaching on the campus since 1982, had spoken to multiple students in an aggressive and inappropriate manner.

The professor allegedly yelled “fuck you” several times to a first-year graduate student while they stood in a building lobby. The report added that in a separate incident, the professor sent the student an email reprimanding her for “spreading malicious gossip” about him, ending the email with “Fuck you.”

In response to the allegations, the professor said he thought his email to the student was “polite.”

The student ultimately had to find another professor to work with for her doctorate.

An investigation deemed that the professor violated SVSH policy.

Admissions office employee: Investigation concluded June 2017

UCSC Assistant Director of Admissions Jay Shinseki filed a report in April 2017 alleging that a full-time employee in UCSC’s admissions office had been watching pornography during his work hours.

In the report, one of the employee’s female co-workers alleged that she was “exposed to unwelcome sexual content” because of the employee’s behavior, which she said created a “hostile work environment.”

In response to the allegations, the employee said the last time he watched “adult-oriented videos” was due to an error in which the video was accidentally open in another window, playing in the background.

The investigation concluded that the employee violated the SVSH policy.

Department manager: Investigation concluded August 2017

A UCSC department manager was found guilty of watching pornography on his computer during work hours.

According to a Title IX report, many students, staff and faculty had walked in on the department manager in the past and witnessed him looking at pornographic images when his door was open. The report added that students and staff purposely avoided the department manager’s office so as “not to have a repeat experience of exposure to pornography.”

The investigation ultimately found that the employee’s actions created a hostile work environment for those around him and that he had violated the SVSH policy.

Mallika Seshadri is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC Santa Cruz professor involved in the Title IX investigation that concluded in June 2017 was a department chair. In fact, he was not a department chair.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Title IX investigation that concluded in June 2017 found that the professor didn’t violate the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. In fact, the investigation found that the professor did violate the policy.