Protests at UCLA Force Professor Accused of Sexual Harassment to Cancel Classes

Photo: Luis Sinco/LA Times via Getty Images

A history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is back on the job after being suspended following allegations of sexual harassment. The problem for him (perhaps unsurprisingly), is that the student body isn’t too happy with his return and the students are making it known. Monday was supposed to be the first day back on campus for Gabriel Piterberg, a Mideast specialist at UCLA, but things didn’t quite pan out. Piterberg quickly cancelled his classes following protests from students inside and outside the classroom, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Two graduate students accused Piterberg of sexual harassment over the course of many years, according to the Times. He allegedly made sexual comments to the two women, pushed his body against them, and stuck his tongue into their mouths. Piterberg and the university reached a private settlement in 2014, but only released its details last spring. Under the terms agreed to, Piterberg didn’t concede any wrongdoing. Instead, he paid a fine, took a term without pay and agreed to attend training on sexual harassment, according to the Times. In addition, the university agreed to not pursue any action that could harm Piterberg’s tenure and it also dropped a Title IX investigation into the matter.

Students protesting the professor’s return told the Times they believe the consequences are insufficient. Others, however, took greater issue with the overall lack of transparency on the campus regarding the case. “To obtain more transparency would be a bigger victory than having (Piterberg) removed,” Viola Ardeni, a fourth-year student who was protesting, told the Times. A university spokeswoman told the paper that new policies are currently in place to better deal with allegations against “senior leaders and faculty.” Instead of a few administrators dealing with the matter (like they did with Piterberg), sanctions are now dealt with by campus peer review committees.

UCLA Professor Accused of Sexual Harassment Returns to Post