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Sexual harassment by UC regent faces backlash from Bruin community

University of California Regent Norman Pattiz (center) made sexually suggestive comments toward an employee, for which he apologized in an interview in the Los Angeles Times. (Mackenzie Possee/Assistant Photo editor)

By Ankita Nair

Nov. 6, 2016 10:26 p.m.

Several University of California students and officials condemned a UC regent for sexually harassing a former employee.

UC Regent Norman Pattiz, who is also executive chairman of the radio company PodcastOne, made sexual comments about his former employee, Heather McDonald, while she was taping a commercial for memory foam bras.

On the Oct. 26 episode her podcast, Juicy Scoop, McDonald played an audio recording of her encounter with Pattiz.

“Can I hold your breasts?” Pattiz said on the recording.

When she said no, Pattiz said his hands were “memory foam.”

When she worked at PodcastOne, Pattiz also commented about her clothing and asked if he could follow her into the bathroom. McDonald added she had felt uncomfortable with his remarks but initially brushed them off.

McDonald was reluctant to discuss the incident or why she left PodcastOne at first, she said. But she became motivated to disclose the incident to her podcast listeners after other women came forward to accuse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Pattiz apologized for his remarks in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

“There is no excuse for any such comments or making anyone feel uncomfortable,” Pattiz said. “If I did that, I sincerely apologize, and it will be a valuable learning experience.”

Though the UC has a strict policy on sexual harassment that takes place on UC campuses, it is unclear whether these policies apply to UC officials who commit these actions off campus.

[Related: Napolitano calls for more effective handling of sexual harassment cases]

Monica Lozano, chair of the UC Board of Regents, said in an email statement that she condemned Pattiz’s actions.

“We take the allegations of sexual harassment against Regent Norman Pattiz very seriously,” Lozano said.

Danny Siegel, Undergraduate Students Association Council president, said he disapproved of Pattiz’s conduct.

Siegel said he was disappointed to see such a high-ranking figure in the UC system make such comments because the UC talks about ways to prevent sexual harassment.

“What he said is reprehensible and is not acceptable of any role,” Siegel said.

He added he thinks the UC should support and protect survivors of sexual harassment, and that students and administrators should publicly condemn Pattiz if there are no consequences for his actions.

Rafi Sands, USAC external vice president, said he thinks Pattiz’s actions were deplorable.

He said he thinks the UC has an obligation to ensure a safe campus environment for all members of the community and a fair adjudication and reporting process. Sands added he could not further comment on the issue because he did not know enough about the incident.

[Editorial: UC administrators’ actions do not reflect their own Title IX policies]

Jehan Kazi, president of the American Association of University Women at UCLA and a fourth-year political science student said she thinks Pattiz’s comments contributed to what she called a growing rape culture in our society.

“UC Regent Pattiz’s disturbing comments were utterly disrespectful and in no way a joke,” Kazi said. “There is absolutely no justification for making sexually charged comments.”

Lozano added that though current UC Board of Regents policies do not specifically address the behavior of members when they are not engaged in university business, she would try to introduce new policies that would address the issue.

The UC Regents will meet at UC San Francisco from Nov. 16-17 for their bimonthly board meeting.

Contributing reports from Shweta Chawla, Daily Bruin contributor.

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Ankita Nair | Opinion columnist
Nair is an Opinion columnist.
Nair is an Opinion columnist.
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