Berkeley professor suspended after sexual harassment allegations

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2019 | Firm News |

On behalf of Jay S. Rothman & Associates on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

The University of California, Berkeley has suspended a well-known professor over credible allegations of sexual harassment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a former doctoral student accused the professor of describing his sexual preferences and fantasies to her.


Multiple witnesses said they were harassed

After reporting the professor, a campus investigator interviewed her and 38 other witnesses. Five of the witnesses stated the East Asian languages and cultures department professor had harassed or flirted with them. The investigator, Suzanne Taylor, stated the professor referred to the former student as sexy and propositioned her for sex. He also described sexual fantasies about colleagues and students.

Investigator found the former student believable

Her investigation concluded that he did make these sexual overtures. She also found it problematic because the professor held a position of power over the students, which made it hard for them to object.

The former student’s allegations were upheld by the university in February 2018. The disciplinary committee ruled the professor had created a hostile work environment. The professor agreed to the disciplinary measures on Nov. 20, 2018.

The university’s deal with the professor included a stipulation that his name remain anonymous. However, the woman who accused him received a letter from UC Berkeley describing how the professor, Alan Tansman, will be disciplined.

Tansman was suspended for two years

Tansman is suspended from his normal duties as a faculty member on the UC Berkeley campus for two years. The first year he receives no pay. However, in the second year, he will receive partial pay.

He will be on sabbatical the second year

In fact, for the second year, he will be on a paid sabbatical. A sabbatical is paid leave for tenured professors so they can focus on research. It is typically sought after by professors.

The woman believes he should have been fired

His former student is appalled by the so-called disciplinary action. She called it an affront to anyone who reports sexual harassment. The former student stated Tansman should have been fired.

Tansman maintains he is innocent and harassed no one.

She tried to report the incidents in 2009

The woman was a doctoral student from 2003 to 2007 and then a postdoctoral fellow from 2008 to 2009. She tried to report Tansman’s behavior back in 2009, but was informed she would have to find and persuade other witnesses to come forward. She decided not to proceed.

But in 2017, the woman was encouraged by the #MeToo movement and campus activism, so she filed a second report. This lead to the investigation and eventually the disciplinary hearing.

The University of California has been accused of not responding appropriately to sexual harassment complaints, particularly regarding how long it takes to discipline faculty.

Workplace sexual harassment is illegal in the U.S. If you have faced harassment at work, you can report this behavior to your human resources department. If this does not resolve the issue, you may want to consider your legal options. You have the right to a workplace free of sexual overtures or lewd language.