Thursday, March 23

Student protesters demonstrate outside Piterberg’s class


History professor Gabriel Piterberg left his class shortly after the start of lecture. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

History professor Gabriel Piterberg left his class shortly after the start of lecture. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)



Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Kathleen Salvaty, the Title IX coordinator, attended the protest.

This post was updated Jan. 9 at 10:56 a.m.

UCLA students disrupted a class Monday morning taught by a professor accused of sexual assault.

Members of the Bruin Consent Coalition and Bruins Against Sexual Harassment protested a class taught by history professor Gabriel Piterberg. Two of Piterberg’s graduate students accused him of making unwelcome sexual advances and forcing his tongue into their mouths in 2013.

The protesters held up signs saying “Fire Piterberg” and “Zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” and chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Piterberg has got to go” at the classroom in Royce Hall. Piterberg released the class after about 20 minutes, an hour before its scheduled end time.

History graduate students Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow sued UCLA in 2015, saying the university did not properly handle their sexual assault complaints. UCLA suspended Piterberg for a quarter without pay in 2014, and settled the lawsuit with the graduate students in September.

The university also removed Piterberg from his position as director of the UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies, required him to attend sexual harassment training and prohibited him from meeting with students individually. The history department also restricted Piterberg’s access to his office during weekends.

Chloe Pan, a Bruin Consent Coalition co-director, said she hopes the protest will send a clear message to professors who are accused of sexual harassment in the future.

“If the administration isn’t going to be holding them accountable, the students will,” said Pan, a third-year international development studies student.

She said a new Title IX coordinator has been hired since Piterberg was accused in 2013 and the university has made positive policy changes in regard to sexual assault and harassment, but more steps need to be taken.

Henry DeGroot, a member of Bruins Against Sexual Harassment and a third-year political science student, said he thinks the controversy around Piterberg is a workplace issue as well.

“The university has the money to keep Piterberg and pay the legal fees, yet we have skilled trade workers going on strikes because the university says they don’t have the money for their wages,” he said.

Some of the students who took Piterberg’s class said they did not know about the sexual assault case until they saw the protests.

The first student to leave Piterberg’s class was Andrew Wheeler, who left after 20 minutes. He said he heard about the controversy regarding Piterberg, but didn’t know the extent of the circumstances. He is now planning to drop the class.

“I took the class because I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not worth it,” said Wheeler, a fourth-year history student. “It’s not a good learning environment.”

Piterberg released the entire class a few minutes after Wheeler left.

Ariel Pazooky, a fourth-year history student, said he is thinking about dropping the class because of the protests.

“I took this class just to fulfill a history requirement,” he said. “I’m probably just going to drop it if (the protests) are going to happen every class.”

[Photos: Click here for a full gallery of the student protests]

Mahmoud Shukry, a fourth-year Middle Eastern studies student, said while he agrees with the protesters, he disagrees with their methods.

“They’re affecting our education,” he said. “I don’t understand why they are protesting the person instead of protesting the university which made the decision.”

Yong-Yi Chiang, a Bruin Consent Coalition co-director, said students organized the protest to support survivors and make sure people enrolled in the class were informed of the accusations against Piterberg.

A letter from Stephen Aron, chair of the history department, outlined that Piterberg will be required to hold his office hours in Charles E. Young Research Library through the academic year and must leave the door open while meeting with students.

“It doesn’t even sound like UCLA trusts the professor,” said Chiang, a third-year international development studies student. “It’s important for survivors to know we’re here and that we hear their stories.”

She added that Bruin Consent Coalition plans to partner with Bruins Against Sexual Harassment to create a list of tasks outlining steps the university can take to improve its response to cases of sexual harassment and assault on campus.

The history department cancelled Piterberg’s second class, History 105A: “Survey of Middle East, 500 to Present: 500 to 1300″ for the day, UCPD officers confirmed.

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  • Jim Jack

    Good to see that sexual repression is alive and well in the USA! Remember, all good fascists know that sexual repression is the root of Authoritarian Government, so we must be continually vigilant to maintain a sexually repressive atmosphere, lest the gains of 20th century fascism evaporate under our noses!

    Sexual Liberation = Death of the State!
    Sexual Slavery = The Eternal Life of the State!

    • Chloe

      Sorry, are you suggesting that sexual assault = sexual liberation? What am I missing?

      • Jim Jack

        The easiest way to eliminate sexual assault is to simply consent, thereby avoiding the hypocrisy of forcing the state to enact violence against the perpetrator. If violence is wrong, it is always wrong.

        • Chloe

          Oh, I see. Yes, you’re very clever. Congratulations on your very good job. We’re all so proud of you for your comment. Truly an asset to the community.

          • Jim Jack

            The Community? The whatnow? There’s no such thing, y’know.

    • Jim

      Cringe.

    • Todd Lu

      Troll.

      • Jim

        you are too

        • Todd Lu

          If I am a troll, you do realize I’m enjoying this, right? Also, you are engaging in an ad hominem argument given our other discussion chain.

          • Jim

            lol

    • Ben Applegate

      Is this what you yell after sticking your tongue down strangers’ throats on the bus?

      • Jim Jack

        Comrade, I would hate to see the gains of made last century by authoritarian socialism, that is, fascism, be rolled back. To keep the pressure up, we must continue subjecting human sexuality to a bureaucratic system of control, in addition to culture-jamming in the key of ‘this isn’t fascism.’ I mean, absent repression of genital sexuality, human males, once large enough, would simply substitute their will for the “rule of sexual repression,” that is, “the rule of law.” We cannot have that; it would be very bad for all of the pension funds and so forth that buy the bonds issued by national governments to finance their own existence.

  • Jim

    What a joke. These so called “protesters” just HAVE TO interrupt classes to have them heard?
    This reminds me of the canceled bonfire rally before SC game couple years ago, most of these people dont know what they are doing.
    Classic populism.

    • Todd Lu

      I think the greater problem is that UCLA allowed back a professor who sexually harassed two graduate students to continue teaching in winter quarter. I mean, the European university who hosted this professor during his sabbatical last spring let him go because of this.

      So, I think it is completely rational for students who are seriously pissed off that an instructor can just sexually harass students and then just come back to teach students as “business as usual” to show up, make their voice heard, and raise attention to what is going on.

      Particularly in a professional setting like graduate schools, I just find it completely unacceptable for university to not hold this guy accountable. It’s like when child molesting Catholic priests who are brought to light get a slap on the wrist and can just continue being around children. That’s just completely irrational and stupid.

      In a time when we are paying a lot of money for this expensive education, can we at the very least be in a professional setting where students are not sexually harassed or around instructors who have sexually harassed students?

      • Jim

        Im sorry but your logicality is really off, and your reply is unnecessarily long, classic populism trick.
        If you and your friends are mad about the decision of hiring him back (and you should), go protest the authority who hired him back. If you dont like this person, go confront him in a legal way. If you sympathize the victims, go support them. Its very simple.
        But, none of these things you said legitimize interrupting a class as the “protesters” did no matter how long your reply is and how political correct your opinion is.
        Please, have some independent opinion and dont just do something because others are doing it.

        • http://cargocollective.com/davidhwon David Won

          I don’t think giving a reasoned response is a “classical populist trick.” Maybe you should stop calling it that because others are doing it and form your own opinion, building off of the reasons other people give, which clearly you did not. Instead you dismissed his thoughtful post and ignored the reasons why direct protest against the professor and his class was chosen after “protests against authority” had already been taken to little effect. OP also refers to the ethics of a university making its own decision to hold onto this professor while a university in Europe dismissed him entirely instead after it knew of this misconduct.

          • Jim

            tbh i cant understand your post.

          • http://cargocollective.com/davidhwon David Won

            Try reading it then.

          • Jim

            lol

          • Todd Lu

            Classic fall-back on bringing up issues of semantics during internet conversations like this in order to intentionally avoid talking about the issue at hand. I believe this is called a “red-herring”?

          • Jim

            i honest couldnt care less about what you and your friend want to do. have it your way. just stop replying to me its a waste of my time

          • Todd Lu

            Reply.

          • Jim

            what a troll

          • http://cargocollective.com/davidhwon David Won

            :^)

        • Todd Lu

          Is that your best reply? That I am engaging in some “populist” trick via ritualistic machinations to conjure up some sort of “political correct” opinion. And that my response is “long”?

          Do you not see the “independent” opinion that I find it MORE horrible that UCLA puts a slap on the wrist on a sexual predator than of protesters disrupting a class based on this issue? You can disagree with me, and I understand the logic of the view you pose. I just disagree with it. Let’s just agree to disagree with one another respectfully. Unless, of course, your definition of “independent” means “sharing a similar shade of opinion that I hold and any others are biased.”

          • Jim

            look, straight up, these protesters have no right to interrupt a class, period.

          • Todd Lu

            An opinion without presenting evidence, nuances, conditions under which protesters have the right and not have the right to interrupt classes. Amazing.

            Well, whatever you tell yourself to hold onto your own opinions without engaging in critical dialogue.

    • Melissa Melpignano

      The class was interrupted and canceled by the Chair of the History department. Piterberg never stopped delivering his lecture until the intervention of the Chair. Protesters inside the classroom were still and silent. Fact. As the Dean of Social Sciences explained, it is up to the instructor to judge and declare when a class is disrupted. Piterberg kept talking and never declared the class disrupted. Fact.

  • Gropple

    Hysterical liberals do seem to have a lot of trouble discerning the difference between accused and guilty. Its as if they want their own legal system based on feeling and emotion rather than justice and reason.

    • Todd Lu

      There was never a criminal lawsuit against him, so whether or not he is “guilty” under the narrow legal definition is not relevant. UCLA, according to the LEGALLY established Title IX settlement, saw need to have some punishments/guidelines (despite how modest and mild) for his behavior, is that not enough to lend credence to that he probably harassed these students?

      Is it “rational” or “just” for a professor who sexually harassed students and was punished, albeit lightly, by the university that employs him to just waltz right back into teaching students?

      • Jim

        you dont you know what you are talking about.

        • Todd Lu

          And you of course made this conclusion based on no explanation and engagement of my statement. Very fruitful conversation we are having.

      • Gropple

        Yea, your career and reputation should not be ended by claims that cannot be proven in the court of law, especially in a public school. School conduct boards are a joke, and should not be making decisions on things like this, especially when it seems they are more concerned about appeasing feminists and their big hammer view of title nine than actual fact. See Duke Lacrosse team

        • Todd Lu

          “Yea, your career and reputation should not be ended by claims that cannot be proven in the court of law, especially in a public school.”

          Well, this is an opinion I don’t agree with. Careers and reputations can be ended due to claims that cannot be proven in courts of law. This happens all the time, i.e. office politics or basically firing any employee.

          “School conduct boards are a joke, and should not be making decisions on things like this, especially when it seems they are more concerned about appeasing feminists and their big hammer view of title nine than actual fact”

          So according to your assertion, school conduct boards should not be making decisions on if it’s okay to fire someone if they sexually harassed someone else? And how the heck is making decisions based on sexual harassment like these appeasing “feminism”? Any decent human being would most likely agree that we should take seriously sexual harassment. And I already statement, we do not know if it is “actual fact” that he sexually harassed these students because they decided to stop investigating, but the FACT that UCLA responded in a way to curtail his behavior lends credence to the assertion he probably did it.

          And people can’t protest decisions they find as unacceptable, such as this case where the school decided to keep this guy even though he sexually harassed graduate students?

    • whatgenre

      He admitted to UCLA that what the first victim said was true, he just argued that “It was consensual.” Then another girl joined the suit and her testimony was almost identical. Three other faculty also came forward but weren’t involved in the suit. You should read the actual claims which are very detailed and to which he said “the basic details are correct.” The guy is a sexual deviant, tried to groom his grad students, and threatened their academic careers if they did not acquiesce. At any other institution or business he would no longer have a job.

  • Jon

    I strongly believe that sexual harassment is never excusable. However, one of the shining advancements that this country brought to the world was the concept that anyone accused of a crime, no matter how serious or atrocious, is innocent until proven guilty. Murderers, rapist, and inside traders have two things in common with each other. They all committed a felony and they would have had to be convicted of their crimes in order to gain the titles that will forever follow them.

    Mr. Piterberg may very well have committed the acts he is accused of, and in due time the courts will decide. According to the LA Times there is a case pending in the US courts to determine if UCLA did indeed investigate the matter with the level of scrutiny that is deserving of accused sexual assault. But until he is convicted by a jury of his peers, the man is innocent in the eyes of the law. You do not just embarrass the man when you force him to end class an hour early, you are stealing the education away from the students that have payed a fortune and worked hard to be in that classroom. It is not their fault that the professor that teaches the class may have committed sexual assault

    Let’s not start a witch hunt here until we known the witch aurally exist. I am not saying that he is not the witch. All I am trying to say is that the man has never been convicted of sexual assault so let’s not punish his students who need to take his class.

    • Ben Applegate

      You know there was never a criminal case pending, right? This isn’t a criminal matter at this point, so no one is “innocent until proven guilty.” What is happening is that the university has closed its investigation into the allegations as part of a deal with the professor, and allowed him to pay fines without admitting guilt.

      Translation: UCLA is letting the witch continue to teach classes without bothering to find out whether he actually is a witch. (And they’re paying to settle his lawsuits.)

  • garyfouse

    I do not approve of disruptions. Students in that class are paying money for those lectures and had a right to hear the lecture. Having said that, I am no supporter of Piterberg. If UCLA found that he was guilty of sexual harassment and that he committed the acts alleged, he should have been fired. I suggest they take their protests to the chancellor’s office.

  • Kelly’s Gross-o

    I know this has been beaten to death in the comments below, but the issue at stake here is much greater than one man’s reputation, the consequences endured by his victims, or even whether or not he is guilty.

    The fact is that the UC agreed to drop all investigations of Piterberg and to put an end to any/all actions that could endanger his position in order to, and here I am quoting the settlement, “avoid the cost, uncertainty, and inconvenience of an administrative proceeding.” Apparently, NOT investigating potential criminals is the more budget-friendly option.

    You can read the settlement here:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2737318-Piterberg-Settlement.html

    This means that the UC has barred itself from all possible action against him in the future, and that we will never be privy to the information found by the (forcibly interrupted) investigation. The victims were not privy to information about this settlement until March 2016 (see article above).

    This effectively makes UCLA a lawless zone, where faculty can do what they want with students’ bodies with impunity, as harassment cases are processed internally by the UC and not by the US judiciary system, as criminal acts should be. That this makes of UCLA a lawless zone is further evidenced by the fact that the UC Regents were found guilty of not protecting the two victims in federal court.

    I cannot stand for a campus that exists outside of the laws that govern the rest of our country.

    From a purely financial standpoint, this man has cost the UC hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will continue to do so as he must now be escorted by police to and from classrooms. Students are paying thousands for tuition, and deserve the best professors available. As a graduate student I know that there are literally hundreds of well-qualified candidates who would love to replace him, and yet the university continues to protect him at a high financial and moral cost to us all. The justification of preferring a settlement to cut costs is thus invalid.

    I simply cannot find one argument in support of Piterberg and against the protesters. It is a shame that students have had to take matters into their own hands, but as everything else has proven ineffective it has now fallen to the campus community to ensure our safety and attempt to bring this man to justice in some way.

    All of this without even mentioning the inconceivable pain suffered by his victims.

    This is just food for thought. Feel free to hatefully troll away.

    • Glory the Palomino

      Thanks for sharing the link to the settlement. It lays bare the utter corruption of the UCLA administration, especially Carole Goldberg, who signed off on it. These people have no shame.

  • Aaron Wells

    When will protests start taking place outside the office of the former Title IX officer who blew this whole case and then got a promotion? Just sayin.

    Current protesters, thank you.