Title IX documents reveal wave of sexual misconduct cases at UC Davis

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Content warning: Sexual misconduct

Five investigations — four of which resulted in terminations or resignations — showed cases of UC Davis faculty and staff members violating the UC sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, policy since 2017.

These Title IX investigations, which were obtained by The Daily Californian through a California Public Records Act, or CPRA, request, make up the second wave of UC Davis cases that have been revealed to the public. Earlier this year, UC Davis disclosed documentation of 14 other investigations of university SVSH policy violations.

“We are constantly looking to change the campus climate to make sure it feels safe for everyone,” said UC Davis spokesperson Melissa Blouin. “These investigations are very thorough and then take corrective action to stop the behavior and prevent its recurrence.”

The Daily Cal has made a series of CPRA requests to update its growing database of sexual misconduct cases from all UC campuses.

UC Davis Chief Compliance Officer Wendi Delmendo said in an email that discipline is determined case-by-case, taking into account previous corrective actions. The investigations redact the names of the complainants and witnesses, along with any personal information, but provide the names of respondents. This article includes details of those newly released cases.

Investigation into Nilesh Gaikwad

Nilesh Gaikwad, a former UC Davis nutrition and environmental toxicology associate professor, was found to have sexually harassed a graduate student in his lab from 2015 to 2016, according to the investigation, which “requires a preponderance of the evidence standard.”

The complainant alleged that Gaikwad touched her, gave her a gift, stood too close to her and called her “cute.” According to the report, these behaviors escalated — at first, the complainant alleged, Gaikwad asked to use her computer mouse, but later put his hand over hers and blocked her into the desk space.

The complainant alleged that she returned the gift and told Gaikwad she considered the advances “inappropriate.”

Gaikwad allegedly retaliated by reassigning collaborative projects to other members of the lab and made statements at a meeting that the complainant and a witness deemed “threatening.”

The complainant ultimately moved to another lab, and Gaikwad resigned in lieu of termination in October 2017.

Investigation into Michael O’Mahony

Michael O’Mahony, a former UC Davis food science and technology professor, was found by investigators to have, more likely than not, made an inappropriate sexual comment to a graduate student in 2016 in violation of the SVSH policy.

According to the report, O’Mahony allegedly made an inappropriate comment in front of his graduate student’s former academic adviser, insinuating that the reason the graduate student left his lab was because of her sexual activity while in the lab. Witnesses said the complainant was “extremely distressed” and cried after this comment.

The report notes that there have been many similar allegations of such behavior by O’Mahony dating back to the 1980s, including sexually harassing a staff member in 2013.

Because of an “established history” of inappropriate conduct and O’Mahony’s apparent unwillingness to adjust his behavior, he was found to have violated the SVSH policy, according to the report.

O’Mahony resigned in lieu of termination in February 2017.

Investigation into George Chenaux

George Chenaux, a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, was found by the preponderance of evidence to have committed sexual assault and sexual harassment in violation of the SVSH policy in 2016, according to the investigation.

One complainant alleged that Chenaux pushed her against a wall and rubbed his body against hers. This allegation, which, if true, amounts to sexual assault, was substantiated by the investigators. Another complainant alleged that Chenaux repeatedly put his hands on her hips to move her and touched the small of her back. She allegedly repeatedly asked Chenaux not to touch her over an 18-month period. This sexual harassment allegation was also substantiated.

Numerous other allegations were made against Chenaux but were either unsubstantiated or deemed not to violate the SVSH policy, and they were therefore redacted.

Chenaux’s postdoctoral appointment ended before discipline was enacted. He was terminated in June 2017.

Investigation into Christian Baldini

UC Davis symphony conductor Christian Baldini allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward an undergraduate student in 2017, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee.

The report was not provided for this investigation, with Blouin citing that the information was “already in the public realm” after the publication of the Sacramento Bee’s article. According to the Sacramento Bee, Baldini allegedly called the undergraduate student a “bad girl” in a meeting in his office, kissed her on the cheek, “pressed her buttocks” against his body while teaching her how to tango and texted her with a request to meet.

Baldini’s behavior caused the undergraduate complainant to leave UC Davis, according to a California Aggie article. The administration threatened to consider dismissing Baldini if similar allegations ever surfaced, according to the article.

Baldini was suspended for four months without pay, but he returned to the UC Davis campus in late March, according to an article in the California Aggie.

Investigation into Antonio Martinez

Antonio Martinez, a former clinical nurse at the UC Davis hospital, allegedly touched and made inappropriate comments toward his colleagues, beginning in 2008. He was found, more likely than not, to have committed multiple counts of sexual harassment and one count of sexual assault, according to the investigation.

Three complainants alleged sexual harassment including touching, hugging, unwelcome compliments and unwelcome sexual advances.

One complainant alleged that she told Martinez, “Do not touch me,” on multiple occasions, but Martinez did not take her seriously, according to the report.

A fourth complainant alleged that Martinez “cornered” her in a patient room and “slapped her on the buttocks,” an act defined as sexual assault under university SVSH policy, according to the report.

Martinez resigned in lieu of termination in March 2018.

Contact Madeleine Gregory at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.