UC Berkeley Professor Sues Accusers For Defamation Amidst Sexual Harassment BattleBy Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
A University of California - Berkeley professor has sued his accusers of defamation. This comes after he was slammed with a lawsuit for sexual harassment.
The Guardian reported that Blake Wentworth, UC Berkeley assistant professor of south and south-east Asian studies, is the subject of three sexual harassment complaints. He has accused the women of defamation and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Wentworth has continued to be at the center of ongoing sexual misconduct scandals plaguing the prestigious public university. This has sparked national debates about harassment and discrimination in campuses.
According to The Daily Californian, Kathleen Gutierrez and Erin Bennett, two current graduate students, filed sexual harassment complaints with the campus Title IX office in Mar. 2015 against Wentworth. The women are facing defamation charges, which were filed last week. A former undergraduate, Nicole Hemenway, was also included in the lawsuit. They all worked and studied in Wentworth's department.
They went public with their harassment cases this year after issuing discrimination complaints with the state. They accused the UC Berkeley professor of inappropriate touching and unwanted sexual advances.
The students described how the inappropriate comments and actions of the professor negatively affected their mental health as well as their studies. Critics have slammed the school for allowing men in powerful positions to repeatedly avoid consequences for harassment.
"We see this as him threatening us into silence," Kathleen Gutierrez said. "We're not backing down... The lawsuit is part of a long line of harassment. It's absolutely shameful to see a professor and teacher pull this kind of ploy against students."
Wentworth is not currently teaching classes. He is on paid leave.
This has continued to shed light on campus safety. Students can take part in creating a safer sexual culture in colleges by stopping situations or comments that are sexist, homophobic, racist or transphobic. They can be an active bystander and get involved when you hear or see something problematic happening as well as to proactively prevent these things from happening in the first place through sending messages of violence prevention.