Third student alleges harassment by Cal professor
A University of California at Berkeley assistant professor has been accused by three students of sexual harassment, including one who filed a complaint last month against the university.
Former undergraduate student Nicole Hemenway made allegations on May 19 to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against assistant professor Blake Wentworth, as well as the university and the UC board of regents, according to a copy of the complaint provided Thursday by Hemenway’s legal team.
The complaint says Hemenway was a student at UC Berkeley majoring in South and Southeast Asian Studies with support from a UC Berkeley fellowship until she graduated in May 2015.
Wentworth was Hemenway’s senior thesis advisor for a period of time until he did not provide comments on her thesis in December 2015 as he promised, according to the complaint.
Wentworth had agreed to be Hemenway’s thesis advisor in October 2014 when she was taking a class taught by him. But once Wentworth became Hemenway’s thesis advisor, “he immediately began using his position to pursue a personal relationship with her,” the complaint states.
Wentworth implied that he and Hemenway could have a sexual relationship once she graduated and he proposed a date after graduation, the complaint alleges.
Wentworth allegedly made promises to help her get into graduate school that implied she reciprocate in some way.
Hemenway sought and obtained a no contact directive against Wentworth before she was interviewed by the University of California Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination and attended an orientation for a university program in Pakistan she is planning to attend.
Graduate students Erin Bennett and Kathleen Gutierrez filed their complaint on April 11.
The students’ attorneys said in April that student complaints of sexual harassment against Wentworth have been pending for more than a year and the university has not taken any disciplinary action.
Bennett and Gutierrez’s attorneys said the two gave evidence of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments by Wentworth.
The three students are demanding a change to the university’s sexual harassment policy and process that consists of, among other changes, holding harassers accountable and not allowing professors with multiple sexual harassment claims against them to work on campus.
UC Berkeley has faced multiple sexual harassment scandals in recent months, including a case involving an assistant men’s basketball coach and another involving former law school dean Sujit Choudhry.
In March, the university appointed Carla Hesse, its dean of social sciences, to coordinate campus efforts to address sexual harassment.
Wentworth did not respond to a voicemail left at the phone number listed on his university website.
University officials said in a statement:
“The university is aware of the concerns from students and others regarding the time it takes for the faculty discipline processes to be completed. We understand and share those concerns. For these and other reasons, we await with great interest the new and refined recommendations that will be coming from President Napolitano’s task force that is reviewing the faculty discipline processes and the work being done by the Chancellor’s Committee on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.”