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UCSF records shed light on sexual harassment of students, workers

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Nurses walk through the UCSF Medical Center Parnassus campus in San Francisco, Calif. October 2, 2012. (Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner)

UC San Francisco fired at least nine employees and investigated more than a dozen others who violated sexual harassment policies between 2013 and 2016, according to university records released last week.

The university found that 26 employees violated sexual harassment policies — more than any of the other nine campuses in the state. The cases range from male staffers calling their female co-workers “bitches” to “grave sexual misconduct” with a student at UCSF Fresno campus.

The University of California released the UCSF cases and 87 others in response to a public records request from multiple news outlets seeking answers after UC Berkeley drew scrutiny for not punishing faculty members accused of sexual harassment.

At least one case at UCSF raises similar questions. It took nearly a decade for the university to fire a medical employee who first violated sexual harassment policies in 2007, according to university records.

Despite being warned, placed on leave and transferred in 2007, the worker kissed a female colleague on the back of the neck the following year and was put on leave again. He faced further sexual harassment charges between 2012 and 2014, but was not fired until April 2016.

According to Barbara French, Vice Chancellor for University Relations, most of the 26 cases were investigated under sexual harassment policies that are no longer in effect. However, the university responded to all of the cases with training, counseling or dismissal.

“Over the past two and half years, UC has taken steps to significantly change and improve the way such cases are handled,” French said in a statement. “UCSF has adopted a top-down message of zero tolerance.”

The news comes at a time when there is heightened awareness of sexual assault on college campuses, as well as greater scrutiny on colleges for the handling of such cases. According to the UC, just 7 percent of the cases systemwide involved sexual assault.

UC staff members made 58 percent of the allegations and students made 35 percent of the complaints. It is not known who filed the remaining 7 percent of the complaints.

“The allegations included a wide range of conduct, from inappropriate comments to, in rare cases, sexual assault,” the summary reads. “Most of these involved no physical contact at all.”

Eleven of the 26 cases at UCSF involved physical interaction, ranging from unwelcome hugs to groping. Just two cases involved students — the others involved laboratory staff and nurses, for example.

The most serious case involves a physician named Khoi Manh Le who was fired for “grave sexual misconduct” with a student at UCSF Fresno, according to university records.

“The texts Dr. Le sent the student are unequivocally predatory,” the UCSF investigation reads. “He used a [redacted] voice, flattered her, offered her valuable ‘opportunities’ and tried to cultivate reliance. This is the grooming behavior of a predator.”

The Fresno District Attorney’s Office charged Le with misdemeanor child molesting in July 2015, according to court records. He later pleaded not guilty to the allegations, and the case is still ongoing.

In the other case involving a student, UCSF demoted a professor who had an affair with a student in 2015, including a sexual encounter at a strip club and a failed attempt to have sex in his office.

In 2015, the District Attorney’s Office signed agreements with six colleges in San Francisco — including UCSF — to streamline the reporting process when a sexual assault occurs on campus.

District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Alex Bastian said in an email that the effort is meant “to address the high rates of sexual assault … and the lack of training and established procedures for addressing such crimes on college campuses.”

According to Bastian, one in four women across the country are sexually assaulted while in college.

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