UC Berkeley assistant professor fired over sexual harassment accusations
BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - An assistant professor at UC Berkeley was fired on Wednesday after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple students, some cases dating back years.
The University concluded with clear and convincing evidence that Blake Wentworth had violated campus policy on sexual harassment. He was dismissed by Cal Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, following a lengthy investigation that lasted more than two years.
It's a process some of the alleged survivors say took too long, but it's something the school is working on fixing. The University is making an effort to "intensify and reform" its response to sexual misconduct on campus.
Wentworth was an assistant professor with the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies.
In February 2015, four students reported allegations of sexual harassment to university officials.
Eight months later, the University concluded their investigation into Wentworth while he remained teaching. It wasn't until June of 2016 when he went on involuntary leave. He was fired on Wednesday.
"Professor Wentworth was not harassing just his own students but other grad students in the program. It involved unwanted touching, inappropriate intimate remarks, inappropriate remarks about his own sexual proclivities and desires, efforts to ask students to date him, discussions about the marital problems he was going through. He at one point even said to one of the students 'I could get fired for this' and then proceeded to make an improper advance," according to Senior counsel James Wheaton.
During the investigation process, Wentworth not only sued his students who reported the harassment, but he also sued their attorneys claiming the allegations were false.
An attorney for the students call it a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit, which is an attempt to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of legal fees in hopes they would drop the allegations.
Wentworth then sued the University for discriminating against him for a disability he identified as mental illness. None of those efforts worked.