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Op-ed: UCSF’s disappointing response to sexual harassment cases perpetuates harm

At UC San Francisco, an acclaimed researcher has been left unchecked amid two sexual harassment lawsuits. (Eljona Piñon/Daily Bruin)

By Rachel L. Kaplan

Oct. 24, 2019 10:22 p.m.

The #MeToo movement has brought an overdue reckoning for people – most of whom are men – who abuse their power in every sector from Hollywood to politics. Our country has only begun to face the profound damage this abuse has done to the careers and well-being of survivors – most of whom are women. Some men have tried to ride out the storm by benefiting from institutions that are slow to act or reticent to hold highly revered faculty members accountable.

UC San Francisco research icon Stanton Glantz is one of those men, and it’s past time for him to face the consequences of his actions.

Bringing in millions of dollars of research funding for the university should not trump the health and safety of women, learners, people of color and individuals with these intersecting identities.

In December 2017, Eunice Neeley, a former UCSF postdoctoral researcher, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Glantz. An internal investigation found that Glantz had engaged in sexual harassment and created a hostile work environment. The University of California Regents paid out a $150,000 settlement. A second lawsuit has been filed against Glantz by former research associate Juliette Jackson for sexual harassment and racism in the workplace.

Thus far, the most Glantz has faced is a letter in his employment record and a requirement to take sexual harassment training, a laughable slap on the wrist for creating a hostile work environment for women of color. Although these suits are public knowledge, UCSF has not provided guidelines for its community to restrict Glantz’s duties or privileges properly; he continues to conduct research, receive funding, communicate with the media and engage with students.

A student in a graduate seminar last year in which Glantz was a guest lecturer reported to me that Glantz created a hostile learning environment via racist, violent and homophobic language during his lecture. A faculty member then told me that Glantz went on to conduct himself similarly in an undergraduate classroom just months later. As is typical in these kinds of cases, they are never isolated incidents. They are part of a pattern that continues to inflict harm.

UCSF’s inaction has now led to the harm of countless learners in our academic community. It is well past the point at which UCSF leadership must take stronger action. Both instances of harm could have been prevented if UCSF had been transparent with its community, put Glantz on administrative leave or otherwise restricted learner interaction during the investigation period.

Meetings with the leadership at UCSF have led nowhere. Leaders at the highest institutional ranks have told me that despite an upsurge in reports of sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement opened the floodgates, it’s too much to ask for someone facing multiple sexual harassment suits to be put on leave. Individual faculty members – who may not be aware of the scope of Glantz’s actions – now have the onus of protecting learners due to UCSF’s inaction.

Students are encouraged to stand up to people like Glantz, a notion that is completely blind to the obvious power dynamics of a student challenging an esteemed faculty member who has shown no evidence of accepting responsibility for his actions or responding appropriately to such feedback. Despite all of this, some argue that the system of accountability at UCSF is not broken. One of these responses would be irresponsible at best. Taken together, they are outrageous.

When UCSF’s actions enable Glantz and others like him, the consequences are devastating. UCSF has lost two talented women of color scientists, and their inaction allowed countless learners to be harmed. The careers of these two individuals and numerous others in similar situations throughout universities across the country have no doubt been gravely impacted.

Allowing the status and privilege of professors like Glantz to obliterate any form of accountability facilitates continued violence in learning communities. Glantz’s research and salary are funded by our federal tax dollars, and UCSF is a public institution of research and higher education.

As U.S. taxpayers and community members of the UC, we have an ethical responsibility to voice our outrage to the UCSF leadership, the UC Regents and Glantz’s government funder – the National Institutes of Health.

Kaplan is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at UCSF. Kaplan completed a Ph.D. at UCLA.

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