UC Berkeley has barred a once-respected Middle Eastern Studies scholar and architecture professor from teaching after a five-month-long investigation found that he sexually harassed a student, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
From 2012 to 2014, 61-year-old Nezar AlSayyad allegedly acted inappropriately toward a student under his guidance, putting his hand on her upper thigh while driving home after getting drinks, even going so far as to invite her on a trip to Las Vegas as “close friends.” The Chronicle obtained a 52-page report detailing the accusations.
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The student, 34-year-old Eva Hagberg Fisher, said she wanted to step forward because, “If my speaking up can shine a light on this person — and maybe he can’t do it to someone else — that’s my goal.”
“This behavior from a male professor towards a female student in the close confines of a car demonstrated physical conduct of a sexual nature as well as the opportunity for Ms. Fisher to provide sexual favors or respond favorably to his subtle sexual advance,” said Eve Fichtner, an independent investigator hired by school.
“I have absolutely done nothing wrong,” AlSayyad said. “I actually feel terribly victimized.”
“I almost left school, and had years of self doubt,” Hagberg Fisher added. “And when I trace it back, it all goes to him.”
This was not the only accusation leveled at AlSayyad. Another woman claimed he took advantage of her through sex while she was a student 20 years ago. A third accused him of nonsexual misconduct this past spring. An investigation is pending, and he has denied all allegations.
University officials blocked the professor from teaching this coming spring, the Chronicle reported. He reportedly makes a salary of $210,000 and has received a slew of honors since he joined the university in 1985, but the newspaper suggested he may resign soon.
AlSayyad, however, said he’d heard nothing indicating that the school has tried to stop him from teaching. “If true, I will not accept it, as it presumes I did something wrong, when I did not.”