Graduate students Kristen Glasgow and Nefertiti Takla are suing the University of California, Los Angeles Board of Regents for not taking action against a professor that allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted them repeatedly.
"UCLA insists it has a harassment/discrimination-free environment, but two students have stepped up not only disagreeing with that statement but are filing a lawsuit for their lack of action against history professor Gabriel Piterberg who allegedly sexually assaulted and harassed them," said noted sexual harassment attorney, Deborah Barron of the Barron Law Corporation, in Sacramento, California.
Both plaintiffs allege that Piterberg, a faculty member since 2000, continually turned conversations to sexual matters, would grab Takla's buttocks and waist and force himself on Glasgow. He allegedly made numerous unwanted advances and forced his tongue into their mouths.
The statement of claim further alleges that Piterberg began harassing Glasgow in 2008 and continued until 2013. Glasgow felt she could not report him as he sat on a board that allocated departmental funding to graduate students. Piterberg was Takla's dissertation advisor.
"Glasgow's statement of claim indicates UCLA officials did nothing about her complaint and that she was repeatedly told to keep quiet about the situation," Barron, who is not involved in the case, explains. "Fed up with not being heard and in the face of what the administration said versus what it did not do, Glasgow and Takla filed suit."
The two students claimed they endured emotional distress and fear of returning to campus, which kept them from their studies. They said that they hope no graduate student should have to put up with being harassed and assaulted by a trusted staff member or mentor.
It was not long ago that the lid was blown off sexual harassment and assault cases on campuses across the nation, which led to a presidential call for a commission to take a hard look at how such accusations were being handled by universities and colleges. In fact, UCLA, among other educational institutions, is under review by the U.S. Department of Education for violating Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education programs and activities.
Interestingly, California State Auditor Elaine Howle, revealed in her 2014 report that the Los Angeles campus and three other colleges had failed to "ensure that all faculty and staff are sufficiently trained on responding to and reporting student incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence." The report went further, stating that students were also not being educated in an appropriate manner about the issue of sexual harassment on campuses.
"No matter how you regard sexual harassment and assault, no matter what the circumstances behind it, or any reasons a harasser may provide, it is wrong, against the law and morally reprehensible. If you are in a situation like this, you can talk to me," said Barron.