Middle East studies in the News
University of California Denies Allegations in Students' Sexual Assault Lawsuit [on Gabriel Piterberg]
by Roberto Luna Jr. and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
The University of California Board of Regents issued a response Monday denying allegations that officials inadequately responded to two UCLA graduate students' sexual assault complaints.
Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow, both graduate students in history, alleged in a federal lawsuit in June that UCLA officials discouraged them from filing a formal report after they reported history professor Gabriel Piterberg sexually assaulted them.
UC officials asked for two 30-day extensions to respond to the complaints before Takla and Glasgow amended the lawsuit in August. The deadline to respond to the amended lawsuit was Monday.
In the amended lawsuit, the students further alleged UCLA officials did not properly protect Glasgow because they let Piterberg continue to teach at the university though he may have presented a danger to the community.
In their response to the lawsuit Monday, UC officials said they think the students did not make arguments based on verifiable facts. Officials denied about 90 allegations by default because they did not have sufficient information to admit or deny them.
According to the lawsuit, Takla's professional relationship with Piterberg began in 2010. She began to feel uncomfortable around Piterberg in 2011, and he began to make unwanted sexual advances in March 2013, Takla alleged in the lawsuit.
Takla also alleged Pamela Thomason, then-Title IX coordinator, discouraged her from filing a formal investigation and taking her case to the Academic Senate.
In their response, UC officials clarified that Thomason did not dissuade her from going before the Senate, but advised her the Senate would not side in her favor and the complaint would result in a lengthy process. The UC said Thomason never told Takla it was pointless to go before the Senate.
In a 2014 email to Thomason, Takla asked why the University did not punish Piterberg for his actions. Thomason said she was unable to provide information about the campus' resolution with Piterberg.
Glasgow said Piterberg began harassing her in 2008 after he walked her to her car and allegedly sexually assaulted her. She said she avoided Piterberg for about a year, until she began working in UCLA's history department in 2009. Glasgow alleged Piterberg would comment on her appearance in front of other faculty and attempted to discuss sexual matters.
Glasgow also alleged in the lawsuit Thomason did not file an investigation after Glasgow reported the incidents, and later denied recalling their first conversation.
In response, UC officials said Thomason remembered their conversation and tried to prevent future harassment by discussion the matter with Piterberg. The UC said Thomason confronted Piterberg about Takla's allegations, instructed him to have no contact with Takla and further investigated Takla's allegations.
Thomason also teamed up with other faculty to conduct sexual harassment trainings and negotiate a disciplinary action with Piterberg, according to the UC's response.
The next court date is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. in a United States District Court in Los Angeles.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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