‘It’s everywhere’: UC Berkeley community reacts to documents revealing sexual misconduct by UCLA employees

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Documents obtained by The Daily Californian, which revealed 31 cases of UCLA employees violating the UC sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, policy, have elicited reactions from the UC Berkeley community.

Nearly all the cases in the California Public Records Act release were investigated under the SVSH policy implemented in 2016. The case involving former UCLA professor Gabriel Piterberg, however, was investigated under an earlier version of the policy.

UC Berkeley ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said she was not surprised by the reports.

“I think students are becoming more aware and active around the issue, but I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Khalfay said in an email. “I hope that we can use advocacy and education to improve in having a more informed and compassionate student body overall.”

According to Sharon Inkelas, UC Berkeley’s special faculty adviser to the chancellor on SVSH, a Title IX investigation is a necessary first step in any disciplinary outcome. The number of sexual harassment reports that the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination received in the 2017-18 academic year was nearly double that of the number of sexual assault reports, according to Inkelas. This follows the trend seen in the documents released by UCLA, which contain more incidents of sexual harassment than assault.

The following story details five of the 31 Title IX investigations that the Daily Cal received Friday.

Investigation concluded February 2017

In one of the reports, a female complainant under the respondent’s supervision alleged that he asked her to follow him into a closet and take a picture of the respondent naked.

On the morning of Dec. 6, 2016, the respondent made the alleged request, and the complainant said she refused. The respondent reportedly said “it’s OK” and “if you change your mind, let me know.”

A witness said the complainant was shaking and tearing up while recounting her story, adding that she was not aware that the respondent made jokes of a sexual nature, and said the respondent was not any more friendly to the complainant than to anyone else.

In the respondent’s statement, however, he denied having asked the complainant to take a naked picture of him and to let him know if she changed her mind about the matter.

The respondent was suspended without pay for five days beginning March 13, 2017 and returned to work March 20, 2017.

Investigation concluded May 2017

In February 2008, former UCLA history professor Gabriel Piterberg allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward the complainant, a female graduate student.

In her statement, the complainant said that after meeting for coffee, she and Piterberg walked back to the parking lot together and he allegedly told her, “I can’t imagine lying next to you and keeping my hands off of you.”

As the two approached the car, the complainant said Piterberg “shoved his tongue” down her throat.

History graduate students Kristen Glasgow and Nefertiti Takla sued UCLA and the UC regents for allegedly mishandling their complaints against Piterberg in June 2015. The suit was settled in September 2016.

Piterberg was forced to resign, effective June 30, 2018. He is no longer able to teach within the UC system and has been denied emeritus status and parking privileges.

Investigation concluded September 2017

In one of the reports, a respondent allegedly made several comments of a sexual nature about the complainant that made her uncomfortable.

The alleged comments included asking her whether or not she participated in the “Undie Run,” a campus tradition in which students run through the streets of Los Angeles in their underwear. When she said that she had participated, the respondent allegedly asked for photographs from the Undie Run.

In another incident, the complainant and her roommate were out for a run when they encountered the respondent, who allegedly stopped them and suggested to the complainant that they go for a run together. Her roommate said she thought this was “creepy.”

The respondent was told to no longer go to the complainant’s workplace while she was there. The Title IX report makes no mention of a forced resignation.

Investigation concluded September 2017

In April 2017, a staff member reported to the Title IX office that she and a student saw the respondent taking pictures beneath the skirts of female students.

The investigation found about 70 Facebook images in the respondent’s internet history of what appeared to be female UCLA students and alumni in form-fitting clothing and bathing suits.

A former employee also alleged that the respondent viewed pornography in the office in 2016.

The investigation concluded there was “sufficient evidence” that the respondent violated the SVSH policy. As a result, he received a written reprimand on his personnel file.

Investigation concluded May 2018

According to one of the reports, the respondent allegedly discussed personal sexual liaisons and sexually explicit preferences, and showed an employee a sexually explicit video of a former intern or employee masturbating.

The respondent reportedly showed the video to the employee during a happy hour event but was not intoxicated, according to the investigation. The employee, in an interview with the investigator, said they were stunned upon watching the video.

In the Title IX investigation, one of the witnesses said the respondent’s comments about men generally focused on intellect and appearance, while his comments about women were almost exclusively about appearance.

“He would constantly make comments someone was cute, ugly or fat,” the witness said.

The investigation concluded it was more likely than not that the respondent created a hostile environment and violated UC SVSH policy. The respondent was terminated effective July 9, 2018.

Inkelas said these documents represent one part of the response to SVSH allegations, and added that the current discussion surrounding these issues focuses on prevention and holding perpetrators accountable.

ASUC Senator Zach Carter, a campus junior who ran on a platform of sexual-violence prevention, said he feels that the UC Berkeley discussion on sexual misconduct has changed since his first year on campus because of the emergence of the #MeToo movement.

“I think we’re seeing that it occurs in all spaces — in social spaces, spaces on campus,” Carter said of sexual violence. “It occurs among employees and I think that this issue transcends hierarchy and community; it’s everywhere.”

Contact Andreana Chou and Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected].