Former campus professor Blake Wentworth dismissed after violating sexual harassment policy

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Blake Wentworth, a former assistant professor in the campus’s South and Southeast Asian Studies department, was dismissed by Chancellor Dirks after Wentworth was found to have violated the university’s Faculty Code of Conduct and Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy, according to a campus press release.

Wentworth was found to have sexually harassed four students after the completion of a Title IX investigation by the campus’ Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, a review by two faculty investigators, and an Academic Senate committee hearing, according to the press release.

“The Committee found by clear and convincing evidence that Wentworth had engaged in the misconduct and recommended his dismissal,” the press release read. “These actions are part of the University’s continuing effort to eradicate sexual misconduct from our campus.”

Wentworth’s case is one of 132 known cases of sexual misconduct by UC employees since October 2010, according to UC Title IX investigation reports.

In a statement, lawyers for Wentworth denied the university’s assertions and called them “false.” They further alleged that the university’s claims were a “pretext to discriminate and retaliate” against Wentworth in an alleged “campaign to ruin his career.”

“Today’s distortion, ostensibly timed to shift news away from U.C.’s financial scandals and civil rights violations, will be addressed in Dr. Wentworth’s pending lawsuit,” the statement reads.

Jillian Free, the campus’s Student Advocate, declined to comment on Wentworth’s dismissal.

Wentworth had previously been placed on paid leave with the campus. His dismissal comes after two UC Berkeley graduate students, Kathleen Gutierrez, Erin Bennett and campus alumna Nicole Hemenway, raised allegations of sexual harassment against Wentworth.

Gutierrez and Bennett filed sexual harassment complaints against Wentworth with the campus Title IX office in March 2015, but the office originally found Wentworth had violated UC sexual misconduct policy in only Gutierrez’s case.

In April 2016, Gutierrez and Bennett filed a state complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH, alleging that the campus mishandled their respective sexual misconduct cases.

One month later, Hemenway filed a lawsuit against Wentworth, her former thesis advisor, alleging incidents of inappropriate comments, physical contact and unprofessional behavior. Hemenway also filed a lawsuit against the campus and UC Board of Regents, alleging the campus had failed to provide her a safe work environment.

Last September, Wentworth filed separate lawsuits  — one against Hemenway, and a second against Gutierrez, Bennett and their lawyer Michael Flynn — for defamation, false light publicity and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  

The lawsuits allege that the victims and Flynn made “provably false” statements to the media after bringing forward their allegations. Wentworth also sued the UC Board of Regents for discrimination and retaliation.

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.