Berkeley Allegations Highlight Sexual Harassment by Faculty

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |
Campus of Vanderbilt Unversity in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three recent allegations by students against an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley are only the latest in a series of scandals involving sexual harassment at the university over the past several years. All told, at least 141 allegations of sexual harassment against UC Berkeley faculty alone in the years between 2012 and 2015, prompted one major news organization to create the headline: “America’s Top Public University Has a Major Sexual Harassment Problem.” While sexual harassment of employees has become a major focus in the corporate environments, the issues at Berkeley highlight that sexual harassment of students is a major issue in the school setting as well.

The Allegations Against Blake Wentworth

On April 11, two graduate students at UC Berkeley both filed sexual harassment claims with California state authorities against Assistant Professor Blake Wentworth, the university itself, and the UC Board of Regents, which oversees Berkeley. In June, a third student also filed a harassment claim against Wentworth. The allegations complained that Wentworth frequently touched students inappropriately, made unwelcome sexual advances and sexual comments about the students, and bragged about his experiences with strippers.

At least two of the students had gone to the university in 2015 and made similar complaints, and the university had concluded that Wentworth had committed misconduct, but found that it did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The university failed to remove Wentworth. As a result, the students felt uncomfortable on campus and filed their claims with the state.

UC Berkeley’s History of Faculty Sexual Harassment

The issues with Wentworth are just one small part of what appears to be a much larger issue at UC Berkeley and its response to widespread reports of sexual harassment. As one of the complaining students told The Guardian, “I don’t have any faith in Berkeley’s independent judicial system.” In just the past month, the school has also faced sexual harassment allegations brought against a men’s basketball coach and the former dean of the university’s law school.

While the numbers of sexual harassment claims are staggering, the internal response to the claims is alarming as well. Soujit Choudhry, the law school dean, was found to have violated the school’s sexual harassment policy but was not released from the school until eight months later, and the head of the state university system was not even aware of the details of the resignation until hearing about it in the media.

Taking a Stand Against Harassment on University Campuses

The initial two students who complained about Wentworth were reluctant to do so because they felt ashamed and feared retaliation, according to The Guardian, but only did so when they learned that other women had endured the same kind of harassment. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you should never have to feel ashamed or afraid of reporting illegal conduct, especially when you and others continue to suffer the negative consequences of a perpetrator’s acts and an employer’s insufficient response.

At Sessions & Kimball, we represent sexual harassment victims in securing justice.  We are here to listen to your story and advocate on your behalf against those who have wronged you. Many sexual harassers victimize numerous individuals and don’t stop until they are brought to justice. We have secured private, confidential settlements for dozens of victims.  For a free consultation with a top sexual harassment attorney, contact Sessions & Kimball today.