Media Coverage 4/10/17

According to a BuzzFeed report, UC Berkeley knew of at least three sexual misconduct complaints against John Searle, professor emeritus of philosophy, before he was sued last month by a 24-year-old woman. The suit alleges the woman was fired from a post as Searle’s research assistant after refusing his advances. BuzzFeed’s report claims that in 2014 Searle told an undergraduate he could not employ her in a research position because she was married and therefore would not be committed to the job. In 2013, Searle allegedly tried to kiss a foreign exchange student in his office. In 2004, a graduate student reported to the chair of the philosophy department that Searle had tried to play footsie with her under a table at an event for prospective students. After it appeared the university took little action in response, the graduate student transferred to another school. BuzzFeed reports that the three newly uncovered incidents were reviewed by UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. In a statement made through his attorney, Searle has denied the claims advanced in the March lawsuit, stating that he “questions the plaintiff’s motives for bringing her complaint.” The statement also notes that UC Berkeley treated any past allegations “appropriately” and that the footsie incident was “rejected by the university” after an investigation. UC Berkeley declined to comment to BuzzFeed due to confidentially concerns, but said a “rigorous investigation” into the claims related to the March lawsuit and past allegations are on-going. In other news, University of California President Janet Napolitano penned an op-ed championing the system’s research ties with Mexico, an initiative she says President Donald Trump has complicated. In another op-ed, UC Berkeley’s next chancellor, Carol Christ, and two coauthors criticized an attack by the Hungarian prime minister on the Central European University. Christ and her coauthors are trustees on the university’s board.

4/7 – UC Berkeley Was Warned About Its Star Professor Years Before Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (BuzzFeed): The article also notes that Searle is accused of inappropriate behavior in large undergraduate classes and of impersonating an offensive accent.

4/4 – Op-Ed: Hungary’s xenophobic attack on Central European University is a threat to freedom everywhere (WaPo): The authors have a harsh take on the PM’s move to limit the immigration of international students and faculty:

Let’s not sugarcoat this attempt at purging CEU. This is nothing less than an attack rooted in a xenophobic nationalism and an anti-intellectual mistrust of the conduct of free inquiry, research and teaching. The crackdown on CEU is part of Orban’s (the prime minister) larger crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and freedom of expression. In October, Hungary’s biggest opposition newspaper, which was critical of Orban, was shut down. The government has also pledged to tighten its grip on foreign-backed NGOs.

4/7 – Op-Ed: UC initiative with Mexico shows advantages of cooperation over confrontation (SacBee): Napolitano highlighted some outcomes from UC’s program in Mexico:

The initiative is now showing results, and these successes have come at a propitious time. Among the outcomes announced during this trip were a $10 million grant from Mexico’s Energy Ministry for energy efficiency projects with UC researchers, gains in combating diabetes on both sides of the border, and new student internships. A reception at UC’s Casa de California brought together more than 200 UC alumni living in Mexico who were eager to support the UC-Mexico partnership.

4/6 – UC president walks downtown Merced, future site of administrative center (MercedSunStar): A new $45 million UC Merced building in downtown Merced is intended to help revitalize the town. The university’s main campus is set off away from the Central Valley city.

4/6 – UC lead Napolitano brings can-do message to Johansen High (ModBee): Napolitano’s appearance was part of a program intended to increase the diversity and number of students applying to the UC system.

 

Media Coverage 3/25/17

Once again UC Berkeley is in the news after a high-profile professor has been accused of sexual misconduct. John Searle, professor emeritus of philosophy, has been accused in a lawsuit of sexual assault, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. A 24-year-old UC Berkeley alumna alleges that, while she was employed at the Searle Center for Social Ontology, Searle groped her and told her they would become “lovers,” promising to support her career. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff told university employees, including the Center’s director, Jennifer Hudin, who took no formal action. The plaintiff claims that her salary was cut and she was fired after refusing Searle’s advances. The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, also alleges Searle watched pornography on campus. Searle stopped teaching an undergraduate course in March.

In other news, the Sacramento Bee reported that the four-month UC investigation into former UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi cost nearly $1 million, which came out of UCOP’s endowment. The UC system’s other tarnished chancellor, soon-to-be-former Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, was found to have improperly received around $10,000 worth of free gym benefits. At UC San Diego, a conservative organization is supporting a poster campaign targeting UC President Janet Napolitano over her support of sanctuary campuses. In an interview, Napolitano insisted the UC system is committed to continuing partnerships with Mexican researchers.

News

3/23 – A Former Student Says UC Berkeley’s Star Philosophy Professor Groped Her And Watched Porn At Work (BuzzFeed): The article contains a PDF of the lawsuit and notes that BuzzFeed has received tips of other complaints against Searle.

Also see: Inside Higher Ed | SFGate

3/24 – UC spent nearly $1 million in probe of former UC Davis Chancellor Katehi (SacBee): UCOP insists the money does not include tuition or state funding.

3/23 – UC is moving forward with Mexican initiative, regardless of Trump actions (LATimes): Despite President Trump’s hostile stance toward Mexico, UC insists it will continue a close collaboration with researchers within the United States’ southern neighbor.

3/24 – UC probe finds Cal chancellor got improper freebies from gym (SFGate): The report notes:

“After a months-long investigation by the president’s office, UC concluded in September that Dirks had improperly allowed a ‘newish’ $3,500 elliptical exercise machine to be installed in the chancellor’s home; had been given a complementary, four-year membership to the Recreational Sports Facility worth $1,870; and had 48 free workout sessions with Wicks worth ‘a minimum of $3,120.'”

Also see: LA Times

3/23 – Posters to go up at UC San Diego targeting Janet Napolitano and ‘sanctuary campuses’ (LATimes): A conservative organization plans a poster campaign to target UC President Napolitano over her support of sanctuary campuses.

3/23 – Press Release: UC, Teamsters reach tentative agreement on labor contract for clerical staff (UCOP): The contract will last until 2022. According to the press release:

  • Wages: An annual 3 percent wage increase for every covered employee, totaling 18 percent over the life of the contract.
  • Ratification bonus:  A $1,200 bonus per clerical employee, paid upon contract ratification (except those at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory due to U.S. Department of Energy regulations).
  • Health care: A $25 limit on any rate increases to the Kaiser and Health Net Blue and Gold health insurance plans, to further protect lower-salaried employees in an ever-changing health care market. The typical UC clerical employee will continue to pay an average of just $32 a month, or $384 per year, for generous health benefits for themselves and their dependents. By contrast, the average American worker pays more than $5,200 per year for less generous health benefits for just themselves.
  • Retirement benefits: Employees hired before July 1, 2016 — the vast majority of all UC clerical staff — will continue to receive the same retirement benefits they currently do at the same contribution rates. Employees hired on or after July 1, 2016 will have the option to choose either a traditional pension plan or a 401(k)-style plan, whichever fits their preference and needs.