How Do Universities, Professors Handle Sexual Assault Accusations?

University of California Santa Cruz is currently struggling with accusations against a tenured professor.

How Do Universities, Professors Handle Sexual Assault Accusations?
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A professor at University of California Santa Cruz is facing a swarm of sexual misconduct allegations. Gopal Balakrishnan is a tenured professor at Santa Cruz, and to some, he is a perpetrator of sexual harassment and assault. To others, he is a scholar who has mistreated women by being offensive or inappropriate, but should not be physically threatened or professionally shunned. Stuck in between these two ideas is the university itself. Unlike in Hollywood, where someone can easily be let go after allegations come forth, a tenured professor is entitled to an investigation and a hearing. Last month, more than 130 researchers signed an open, online statement accusing Balakrishnan, a professor of the history of consciousness, of sexual harassment and assault. Those who signed vowed to shut him — and anyone who actively supports him — out of “any events or gatherings where we are present.” Seven anonymous people accused Balakrishnan of misconduct in the letter as well. One of the biggest allegations was that he climbed in bed with a visiting scholar after an alcohol-fueled party and returned, after she said no, to stand naked next to her bed. She writes that if other people had not been in the house, she is certain that “Gopal Balakrishnan would have raped me.” Other accusations include him drinking and doing drugs with young women and hitting on them. The professor, who is on academic leave this year, says that these accusations are gossip. Humanities scholars at Santa Cruz, meanwhile, are deeply divided by how his case has been handled. Balakrishnan has been threatened, causing other professors to worry about his safety and their own.

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