Grad Students Suing UCLA for Sexual Harassment Cover-up

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of profession or industry, but also in educational institutions. In fact, many victims that incur sexual harassment at universities are often asked to keep their allegations quiet so as not to tarnish the institution’s reputation—such is the case in this recent sexual harassment claim.

Two University of California Los Angeles grad students recently filed a suit against the university alleging that they were told to keep quiet about allegations of being sexually harassed by their history professor, Gabriel Pieterberg. The women claim that Pieterberg made inappropriate comments and unwanted advances such as pressing his body close to theirs and forcibly kissing them. 

One of the women, Kristen Hillaire Glasgow, alleges that Pieterberg began sexually harassing her early as 2008 and continued to do so until 2013. She didn’t speak up about the harassment because she was afraid the department would cut her funding. When she found out another woman, Nefertiti Takla, filed a formal complaint, she decided to speak up. Unfortunately, UCLA failed to investigate Glasgow’s claims. As far as Takla’s claims—she says she eventually dropped them after the campus adviser (who oversees the reports) told her that the other faculty members— Piterberg’s peers— would likely side with the professor. 

How often do you think claims of sexual harassment are mishandled (encouraging victims to keep quiet, failing to properly investigate claims in a timely manner, refusing to hold the harasser accountable, failing to report the harassment to the proper authorities)? 

A recent report from the Huffington Post found that 143 colleges across the US had mishandled sexual harassment and assault incidents. Sexual harassment and assault claims aren’t investigated because institutions fear the stigma that will result if word gets out. Unfortunately, ignoring the claims only causes emotional distress for the victims, perpetuates the likelihood that the harasser will harass again, and opens the institution up to more civil liability. 

images by Chris Radcliff and Derrick Story 

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