Since August, the #Justice4Ivonne campaign has been demanding the reinstatement of UC Berkeley colonial studies professor Ivonne del Valle, spurring student and faculty activity.
Del Valle is on paid administrative leave after being found responsible for sexual harassment and stalking in three separate investigations conducted by the Office for the Prevention of Harrassment & Discrimination, or OPHD. She is currently prohibited from being on campus.
However, the campaign to reinstate her contends that del Valle herself is a victim of sexual harassment and stalking.
Students have gone to great lengths to make their case known — protests on campus have grown in size, students were arrested for delaying the Cal vs. USC football game Oct. 28 and most recently, protestors interrupted the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s 100th anniversary concert. Now, students are threatening a hunger strike.
Yet, even as their cause draws attention, little is known across the greater student body about the nuances of del Valle’s case. Over the past two months, The Daily Californian reviewed hundreds of pages of leaked documents detailing a complicated history of the professor’s last five years, including behavior that led to her dismissal.
Coincidences turn to concern
Del Valle’s case began in August 2018, when she claimed that her electronic devices were hacked by UC Davis professor Joshua Clover.
Clover and del Valle met twice in person in spring 2018, after being introduced at an on-campus conference. The two got drinks together in their second encounter to speak about an academic event del Valle was planning.
Shortly after their meeting, del Valle noted that conversations, daily activities and concerns in her life were seemingly being alluded to on Twitter after they occurred, typically by anonymous accounts that she alleged could be traced back to Clover.
Although Clover declined to comment on the record, he has denied any allegations of hacking, stalking and harassment in subsequent OPHD investigations.
A forensic analysis on her private devices, conducted by del Valle in June and provided to The Daily Californian, found that her phone had been intercepted and recommended it should not be used again. However, no evidence was found that indicated hacking or a cyberattack on her laptop.
The Daily Californian was unable to independently verify this analysis, which was conducted by Condor Business Solutions in Mexico.
In an interview with The Daily Californian, del Valle expressed that the frequency and immediacy of the tweets soon tipped the scale from coincidence to concern; del Valle began documenting posts from Twitter accounts she believed were stalking her.
It wasn’t until one of these accounts posted sexual comments — one on female breasts that del Valle believed described her own — that she brought the hundreds of screenshots regarding the alleged stalking to the Albany Police Department in October 2018.
Del Valle said she went to the department about 10 times between October and November 2018, and subsequently began a long string of communications between herself, OPHD, UCPD, the UC Davis Police Department and UC Davis’s Title IX office.
At the end of 2018, campus OPHD told del Valle it had evaluated her concerns, but because Clover is employed by UC Davis, it determined the case to be outside of UC Berkeley’s jurisdiction.
This is in accordance with the university-wide Title IX policy, which describes that alleged conduct must occur on university grounds or “in connection with University employment” to be investigated.
Del Valle noted she also filed her case with UC Davis’s Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program, which was also unable to open an investigation due to a lack of evidence regarding her allegations.
In March 2019, a representative from campus’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity said he did not examine del Valle’s electronic devices, but he believed that it was “beyond unclear she’d been hacked by anyone.”
Two months later, she contacted UC Berkeley’s IT Client Services and said they replaced her computer, but they did not know if it had been hacked.
After being denied an investigation, del Valle said she had felt “unheard” and frustrated. It was at this point that she decided to confront Clover herself, and her subsequent actions — from contacting his family and friends to approaching him directly multiple times — would eventually result in her suspension from the university.
OPHD investigates misconduct
A 2019 OPHD report filed against del Valle noted that, among other allegations, del Valle emailed Clover’s partner and one of his female colleagues in 2018 accusing him of hacking and sexual harassment.
In response, Clover reached out to UC Berkeley’s OPHD, which initially rejected an investigation into these concerns on the basis that it was “not clear that the matter fell within OPHD’s jurisdiction.”
In December 2018, Clover reported further contact from del Valle, including leaving a note for him at his gym, sneaking into his apartment building and sliding notes under his door.
OPHD acknowledged the “escalation in conflict” but maintained that his concerns did not fall under the office’s scope.
As stated in the report, this was due to the lack of a “clear sexual/romantic component” to qualify Clover’s concerns as a Title IX issue. Furthermore, del Valle’s conduct occurred outside the context of the university and its employment, further disqualifying it from investigation.
In lieu of an investigation into Clover’s initial claims, the office issued a no-contact directive to del Valle on Dec. 31, 2018, which prohibited indirect and direct contact with Clover.
Del Valle ultimately violated the no-contact directive given to her: In April 2019, she contacted Clover multiple times through email and Twitter.
A few weeks later in June, she called his office 10 times within a 90 minute timespan, leaving 10 corresponding voicemails. This would eventually qualify Clover’s case against del Valle because she called him on a “University-provided” device, allegedly threatened to visit his classroom and posted comments “of a sexual/romantic nature” on Twitter, the OPHD report states.
OPHD then opened its first investigation into del Valle in 2019; two more investigations would take place in 2021 and 2022.
During the investigations, del Valle confirmed most alleged actions taken against Clover. These included leaving him notes at his address and frequently contacting him over email, phone and Twitter.
Del Valle declined to respond to other allegations of retaliatory actions listed in the investigations, including vandalizing Clover’s apartment hallway, door and car. She later confirmed these actions, however, in an interview with The Daily Californian.
Del Valle also acknowledged writing in chalk in front of Clover’s mother’s house — as noted in the 2021 OPHD report — leaving messages such as, “Is it nice to be the mother of an abusive jerk?” These messages were the seventh point of contact del Valle had with Clover’s mother, according to the 2021 report.
The 2021 report also examined a Twitter account created by del Valle pretending to be Clover. The account’s biography read “Twitter communist, hacker, entitled piece of shit. Didn’t choose the institutions, but I chose to hack and stalk. Twitting bombastic idiocies 24/7 7#7.”
While del Valle acknowledged creating this account, she disputed allegations that she had used the account to follow Clover’s students.
Although del Valle acknowledged the actions she took against Clover, she reiterated that they had stemmed from a place of frustration and now regrets them.
She further questioned the objectivity of the report, noting that certain pieces of evidence she provided or requested — particularly a forensic analysis on her Twitter and character witnesses — were not considered in the investigation.
According to UCOP-wide Title IX procedures, while both parties in an investigation “have the right to identify evidence and witnesses,” it is the investigating officer who ultimately determines what evidence may be considered in the investigation.
In the 2022 investigation report against del Valle, OPHD rejected the character witnesses submitted by her on the grounds that it “does not generally” use such witnesses. The 2021 OPHD report also noted that conducting a forensic analysis was outside of the scope of their investigation.
OPHD reports in 2019 and 2022 note the investigator did obtain and use information from police officers del Valle had spoken to between 2018 and 2022. The investigations contained various comments from officers on del Valle’s mental state.
The 2019 OPHD report included, for example, a statement from the Albany Police Department in which an officer stated del Valle presented “early stages of delusion.” The statement was not part of submitted evidence, but rather took the form of a phone call to the investigator.
Campus disciplines del Valle
Ultimately, all investigations — 2019, 2021 and 2022 — concluded that del Valle had either violated SVSH policy or the resulting no-contact directives.
The 2019 investigation concluded that del Valle engaged in “conduct that amounted to Stalking, Sexual Harassment–Hostile Environment, and Retaliation.” Afterwards, del Valle was placed on paid medical leave, barred from campus and prohibited from advising students for the spring 2020 semester.
The 2021 investigation concluded that del Valle violated the no-contact directive given to her in November 2020. She was then suspended without pay and prohibited from using non-public spaces on campus and teaching for the fall 2021 semester.
The 2022 investigation concluded that del Valle had again violated the same no-contact directive and SVSH policy by attempting to contact Clover indirectly.
It also held that any message she “claims to be sending to him,” even writing in a Word document or texting herself, counted as prohibited conduct, regardless of whether he received the communication; by virtue of del Valle believing Clover was her stalker, the reports argue, even unsent messages were counted as intended and thus prohibited communication.
The third and last investigation into del Valle ended in November 2022, after which she was placed on unpaid leave, set to expire Feb. 1, 2023. In January, the vice provost for faculty Victoria Plaut informed del Valle that she would be placed on paid involuntary leave immediately following the expiration, while the adjudication process was still ongoing. Del Valle said in an email that she rejected an 18-month suspension offer, which was withdrawn Nov. 2.
In discussing general disciplinary procedures, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore noted in an email that allegations of faculty misconduct are reviewed and advised upon by multiple campus committees. These include senate faculty committees and the privilege and tenure committee.
Students protest for reinstatement
The three investigations were leaked to the campus department of Spanish and Portuguese by Clover, according to email correspondence obtained by The Daily Californian.
In the email, Clover wrote that the acting Title IX officer and director informed him that he is “at liberty to share these documents as I see fit.” According to Gilmore, the university does not prohibit complainants or respondents from sharing case information.
Emily Chamale, a campus sophomore and one of the primary #Justice4Ivonne organizers, said she and many of the campaign members were aware of the investigation reports before they were leaked publicly.
Despite the information contained in the reports, Chamale said she believes that the investigations were conducted with a limited scope and biased nature, only reinforcing her support for del Valle.
“It’s important to acknowledge that before she took those actions, she had already asked for help,” Chamale said. “What I see is a desperate woman of color asking for help. It was not okay, what she did, but she had already asked (for) help to the police, OPHD, the administration, UC Davis … she was not being heard.”
Many students in the campaign echoed similar sentiments, noting that del Valle, as one of the only Mexican women in her department, served as a role model for them.
As of press time, the #Justice4Ivonne campaign website displays 28 testimonies from former colleagues, undergraduate and graduate students who note the “huge void” left by del Valle’s absence, as well as her “profound and positive” impact on campus.
“We’re doing this because we know Ivonne and we just want to take classes with her again,” Chamale said.
The campaign has confronted Chancellor Carol Christ several times in hopes of reinstating del Valle: Members interrupted the Berkeley Discovery Lecture hosted by Christ, asked her questions directly during the Oct. 11 ASUC Senate meeting and protested at the recent Founder’s Dinner outside of Doe Library.
Christ declined to comment on the case, noting she is unable to comment on personnel matters. Gilmore also noted the university cannot legally disclose private information or “correct the record if others choose to share.”
“We are dedicated to providing a safe and supportive community where faculty, students and staff can thrive,” Gilmore said in an email. “Our policies and procedures stem from those values. These policies and applicable law also require that we protect the private, confidential records of faculty, students and staff.”
Following its protest at the USC v. Cal football game, the campaign intends to conduct a hunger strike before the end of the semester.
David Lemus, a Stanford University graduate student and campus alumnus, said students have used hunger strikes as a protest tactic against campus in the past — specifically during the 1999 Ethnic Studies Hunger Strike, which resulted in additional funding for ethnic studies and the establishment of the Multicultural Community Center.
“We feel like we have to use those radical tactics again because the Chancellor is still refusing to reinstate Ivonne,” Lemus said.
Specific details regarding the hunger strike are currently unclear.
Del Valle is not a part of the organizing process for the campaign. Instead, she is typically invited to events after they are publicly announced. Although she noted that she has occasionally disagreed with the campaign’s actions, she is grateful for their support.
“I was isolated,” del Valle said. “I was angry, and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I did those things and I regret them … But now, (with student support), I feel much better. I feel stronger.”
Chanyoung Chung, Sandhya Ganesan, Isabelle Nunes, Chrissa Olson and Matt Brown contributed to this article.