UCI Staff Members Accused of Sexual Misconduct
By Yanit Mehta
A series of recent Title IX investigations conducted over the past four years revealed that the University of California system investigated at least 124 faculty, staff and contractors who have been accused of sexual misconduct of some sort between the period of Jan. 1, 2013 to April 16, 2016.
The number of cases are distributed amongst the 10 campuses as follows: 10 cases at UC Irvine, 25 cases at UCLA, 26 cases at UC San Francisco, five cases at UC Santa Cruz, 13 cases at UC Berkeley, eight cases at UC San Diego, eight cases at UC Riverside, six cases at UC Santa Barbara, 10 cases at UC Merced, and 13 cases at UC Davis.
The respondents include several National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coaches, decorated scholars and department chairs and about one-third of respondents are still employed. The reports encompass instances of unwanted sexual advancements, inappropriate comments and physical assaults.
UC Berkeley’s student newspaper The Daily Californian released these records to the public on Feb. 28 through the California Public Records Act. The reports revealed that amongst the 11 respondents at UCI, the few whose names are not redacted include Sanford Kingsley, Registrar and Director of Student Services on grounds of sexual harassment and retaliation; Eric Vides, a staffing recruiter, on grounds of sexual discrimination and harassment; Andrew Simmons, academic advisor, on grounds of asking students about and discussed masturbation with them, sending his students inappropriate pictures of his genitals and asking them to reciprocate, asking the students to compare penis sizes, sending his students videos of him masturbating and engaging in sexual acts and asking them to reciprocate, initiating intimate contact with students, spending the night with students in the same room or bed while naked, exposing himself to a student who is a minor and paddling students’ buttocks.
Joseph Lewis, former Dean of Claire Trevor School of the Arts and current professor, has a total of 26 allegations of sexual harassment against him, most of which include comments and “touching that is inappropriate in nature.” As a result of the investigations, Lewis stepped down as Dean in 2014 and is currently employed as professor of studio arts at UC Irvine after a fully-paid year-long sabbatical. According to Transparent California, Lewis made $167,542 during his sabbatical year in 2015.
The documents, although heavily redacted, still include some details that show instances of stalking, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, verbal harassment and several other forms of harassment. Physical assault accounts for seven percent of the reports. 25 percent of those who violated policy were faculty. Thirty-five percent of the complaints were made by students.
Information was redacted to reflect “competing public interests,” according to the UC Office of General Counsel. The university did not disclose any reports from ongoing investigations, or from investigations prior to Jan. 1, 2013, stating that such reports would not shed “significant additional light” on the university’s current practices. “The University recognizes that there is a significant public interest in records that reflect the adequacy of the University’s investigation of and response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” the UC Office of General Counsel said in a statement announcing the release of the documents. “However, there are several competing public interests that must also be balanced under the Public Records Act or other relevant statutes.”
“It’s important to note that these cases run from January 2013 to April 2016, so most, if not all, of these cases were investigated and adjudicated under policies and procedures that are no longer in effect,” said UC spokesperson Claire Doan in statement to The Daily Californian. “We’ve made so many drastic and significant improvements over the past two and a half years … that we are able to provide more clarity (and) more fairness … when it comes to these investigations.”
The New University reached out to Vice Chancellor Parham but he had no comments to offer at the time of this article. Tom Vasich, Interim Director of Media Relations & Publications at UCI attempted to reassure members of the UCI community after the release of the documents.
“UC Irvine takes all reports of sexual misconduct seriously; we have dedicated on-campus resources to assist both the complainant and the respondent,” he said. “We have an exemplary team of counselors, investigators and guidance professionals encouraging timely reporting so we can attend to those impacted as quickly as possible. Faculty, staff and students are regularly educated about how to report and remedy sexual harassment.”