UI criticized for response to sexual misconduct complaints

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Three women who accused a University of Illinois law professor of sexual misconduct say the university hasn't done enough to protect students or discourage similar misbehavior.

Former law student Prachi Mehta, former university law professor Melissa Wasserman and former visiting assistant professor Pamela Foohey say they're upset Jay Kesan remains a tenured faculty member with access to students, The News-Gazette reported .

"I don't really see anything in the College of Law's response that was really built in to protect the students from this occurring again," said Wasserman, now a tenured law professor at the University of Texas.

The university's Office of Diversity, Equity and Access investigated Kesan after receiving multiple complaints about his behavior. Complaints alleged Kesan talked about sex during professional interactions, failed to respect women's personal space, invited women to stay at his Chicago apartment and inappropriately touched a student's leg during a meeting.

Kesan denies engaging in a sexual manner with any colleagues or students. He said he wasn't aware his actions were construed as sexual, offensive or unwelcome.

"It was never my intent to offend anyone. But obviously I did. For that, I am truly sorry, I apologize," Kesan said. "Since this was brought to my attention, I have become very careful to make sure that my words and deeds don't offend or cause discomfort to anyone going forward."

A September 2017 report found that Kesan's actions violated the university's code of conduct. Investigator Kaamilyah Abdullah-Span said his conduct didn't qualify as sexual harassment or misconduct under university policy, which states that harassment must be "severe or pervasive" and interfere with a person's education or work.

The report recommended several actions, such as sexual harassment training for Kesan and all law faculty, as well as more information about sexual misconduct and how to report it. The university also decided not to consider Kesan for any endowed professorships until at least August 2019 and didn't give him a raise in 2017.


Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com