Northwestern professor accused of sexual misconduct takes leave of absence

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A Northwestern University professor accused by 10 women of sexual misconduct is taking a leave of absence.

The women who made the accusations are speaking publicly for the first time.

Olivia Pera says with the #MeToo movement sweeping the country, she had to speak out.

"For me, seeing the news for the past couple months has been triggering. Because I went through this situation," Pera said.

Pera is one of 10 former students and employees of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who on Wednesday sent a signed letter to the dean, accusing one of the department's biggest stars of sexual misconduct and bullying women.

Professor Alec Klein teaches investigative journalism and is head of the Medill Justice Project, a watchdog group that has been active in uncovering abuse in the criminal justice system.

"Just very inappropriate sexual comments. Telling me about his sex life. Asking me about my sex life. Making comments about the way I dressed, the way I looked," Pera said.

"We just decided there was way too much of a pattern here and now we have to speak up," Kalyn Belsha said.

Belsha and Alison Flowers are former Medill students who also signed the letter.

"Alec's hostile and harassing behavior is an open secret at Medill. And I witnessed and I experienced his cruelty," Flowers said.

Through an attorney, Professor Klein categorically denies the accusations.

"It is unfortunate that these allegations are being made in a rush to judgment, denying Mr. Klein of due process. We are confident that...the allegations will be determined to have been unfounded."

A couple hours later Northwestern said in a statement: "Professor Klein has requested a leave of absence from all of his positions at Northwestern until the university completes its investigation, and the university has agreed that is the appropriate action."

Pera says the university investigated her allegations three years ago when she says she quit because of harassment, but administrators told her there wasn't enough evidence to take action.

"I think they didn't want to tarnish Northwestern's name," Pera said.

On campus, a Medill freshman told FOX 32 News she was warned by upperclassmen.

"Don't take Al Klein's class. He's just abusive, especially to female  students," said Medill student Morgan Lee.

The women say since they sent their letter Wednesday, 14 new individuals have reached out with allegations against Professor Klein.

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