Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

UCLA students, faculty and alumni are escalating their complaints against the university over its decision to allow a history professor accused of sexual harassment to return to campus after imposing what they regard as inadequate sanctions.

More than 75 people rallied Wednesday to protest the decision involving Gabriel Piterberg, a Middle East specialist who joined the UCLA faculty in 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported. Two female graduate students have accused Piterberg of repeatedly harassing them over many years by making sexual comments, pressing himself against their bodies and forcing his tongue into their mouths.

The students, Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow, have filed a federal lawsuit against the UC regents for failing to take sufficient action regarding their complaints.

UCLA launched an internal investigation and quietly settled with Piterberg in March 2014, according to The Times. The settlement was released by UCLA on Wednesday, nearly two years later.

Piterberg did not concede that he had engaged in improper or unlawful conduct or that any of the allegations were accurate. But he agreed to pay a $3,000 fine, accept a suspension without pay for one quarter and attend sexual harassment training. He is barred for three years from holding one-on-one meetings in his office unless the door is open and the meeting takes place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., The Times reported, and  any future allegations will be reviewed in an expedited disciplinary process, according to the settlement.

In exchange, UCLA agreed to end its Title IX investigation into the harassment charges without reaching a conclusion or initiating charges.

The university’s deal with Piterberg has been sharply criticized by Takla and Glasgow, as well as by other graduate students, history department faculty and UCLA alumni now teaching at other universities, according to The Times. Some critics pointed out that UCLA allowed Piterberg to defer his suspension until the spring of 2015 while he served as a fellow at the European University Institute in Italy — a move that lessened the impact of the sanctions.

Piterberg is on sabbatical in Europe and scheduled to return  in July.

—City News Service

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