UC Regent George Kieffer publicly accused of sexual harassment at UC regents meeting

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Rebecca Ora, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student, accused UC Regent George Kieffer of sexual harassment at the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, more than a year after she filed a formal report. 

During the morning board meeting’s public comment, Ora said in November 2014, she attended a dinner with Kieffer and some other students to discuss tuition hikes. She alleged that Kieffer “firmly” grasped her leg beneath the table during this dinner, and said this behavior allegedly “persisted throughout the evening.”

“I was unsettled, uncomfortable and felt powerless,” Ora said at the meeting. “I told myself when we’re discussing the tuition of hundreds of thousands I should not make a scene.”

Ora later said in an interview with The Daily Californian that she filed a report in July 2018, expressing her frustration with the investigation’s timeline. She alleged that the process of navigating the UC Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy and Regents Policy 1112, which deals with cases of sexual harassment reported specifically against regents, has been “awful.”

The case is now entering an investigation stage after the informal resolution process, though Ora expressed skepticism of the policy’s effectuality, including concerns about how Regents Policy 1112 is carried out by fellow regents. 

“Considering the history of people trying to get justice through the system, even with an investigation process, the pace and the degree of consequences don’t really give one much hope,” Ora said.

The university responded to the report as soon as it was made aware of it, UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan said in an email. She added that the UC system has an outside investigator tasked with determining “the facts in this matter.” 

“The University of California takes these allegations – as we do any allegations – seriously and is committed to maintaining an environment in which all students, faculty and staff are free from harassment and discrimination,” Doan said in the email.  

The regents faced similar criticism in 2017 when former regent Norman Pattiz retired amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

After these allegations, the university’s policy surrounding regents was updated to close a loophole allowing regents to evade punishment after violating the sexual harassment policy when not on duty, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ora said she decided to bring her allegations to the board meeting’s open session because it offers the university community a unique opportunity to engage with the regents, where they are “given a voice” in university matters.    

“We need resignation, we need policy change, we need punitive measures against the university, and we need support for students who report,” Ora said at the meeting, grabbing the microphone as she spoke. “George Kieffer, get the f— off this board.”

Amanda Bradford is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.