UCLA community rallies behind McAllister Olivarius clients, protesting return of professor accused of harassment
The Los Angeles Times reports that UCLA students, alumni and faculty have mounted protests over the university’s handling of complaints regarding Gabriel Piterberg—a history professor who, according to a lawsuit we filed on behalf of two graduate students, sexually harassed them over several years. The graduate students, Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow, have brought Title IX claims against UCLA for failing to handle their case properly. On Wednesday, more than 75 people marched to protest the way UCLA has treated Takla and Glasgow’s complaints—which included repeated harassment by way of sexual comments and Piterberg “pressing himself against their bodies and forcing his tongue into their mouths,” the LA Times reports.
In 2014, the university quietly reached a settlement with Piterberg that was released on Wednesday, prompting outrage on campus. The settlement was made in order to “avoid the cost, uncertainty and inconvenience of an administrative proceeding.” Despite including a fine, a suspension for an academic quarter without pay, and sexual harassment training for Piterberg, the settlement did not include any admission of guilt or concede that the allegations were accurate. Further, Piterberg was allowed to defer his suspension until after his time as a fellow at the University Institute of Italy, and was permitted to return to campus after his suspension.
Students and faculty have criticized the secrecy of the settlement and hold that Piterberg’s return to the department would promote a dysfunctional work environment. Further, the LA Times explains, a protest letter from over 65 graduate students asserts that “the administration is perpetuating the unsafe and hostile climate of our department” through its handling of the Piterberg case, losing the trust and confidence of the UCLA community.