UC Berkeley will let Professor Nezar AlSayyad's city planning students switch instructors with just weeks left in the semester, a decision announced Wednesday amid an outcry over allegations he sexually harassed a student.
The move came shortly after the San Francisco Chronicle reported the campus had found the architecture professor had touched a graduate student's upper thigh and suggested they become "close friends" — allegations that led students to protest Tuesday outside of Wurster Hall, demanding his immediate suspension.
"We have heard your concerns about the completion of the course and of the semester," Teresa Caldeira, the head of the Department of City & Regional Planning, wrote Wednesday to students enrolled in AlSayyad's history of city planning class. "We have decided to set up an alternative section for the course. ... Each one of you will have the option of either remaining in the current section, with Nezar AlSayyad as instructor of record, or moving into the new section, and having the new instructor serve as instructor of record."
AlSayyad has denied wrongdoing, and on Wednesday a crisis management consultant representing the professor said the move violated his tenure protections.
"UC Berkeley's preemptive action about Prof. AlSayyad's teaching violates his due process rights as defined by the Academic Personnel Manual," Larry Kamer wrote in a statement.
"The leaked Title IX report is exactly that – a leaked document – and should be viewed skeptically," he said, referring to the campus investigation the Chronicle cited in its story about the case.
This is just the latest in a string of sexual harassment cases to stir controversy at UC Berkeley. Students are planning a larger march through campus on Thursday to protest the campus's handling of the problem. By allowing such professors to keep teaching and advising students, organizers say, the campus is putting the interests of powerful academics and administrators ahead of students' safety and well-being.