Campus Officials Unaware of Visiting Professor's Past Relationship With Student

Photo: Gideon Aran
Gideon Aran

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Before coming to campus, visiting Israeli professor Gideon Aran reached a mediation agreement in June 2010 with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem regarding his relationship with a female student, an incident UC Berkeley officials said they were not aware of.

After student Ortal Ben-Dayan complained to a Hebrew University sexual harassment authority in 2008 about Aran - who is visiting UC Berkeley for only the spring semester and currently teaches two political science classes - a mediation agreement was reached, including over $10,000 in compensation to Ben-Dayan, and disciplinary proceedings were dropped, according to a Orit Sulitzeanu, a Hebrew University spokesperson.

In May 2008, Ben-Dayan went to the university's designated authority on sexual harassment, according to Sulitzeanu. This authority found that there was no sexual harassment, but an investigation was opened up to look into possible inappropriate behavior by the professor, Sulitzeanu said in an e-mail. Ben-Dayan then filed complaints in June 2008 with the Israel Women's Network, and a further referral of complaint was made to the university ombudsman.

After the university began disciplinary proceedings regarding the complaint, a mediation agreement was reached. Sulitzeanu said in the e-mail that "it was agreed by all parties that what was involved were consensual sexual relations." As part of the agreement, the university paid Ben-Dayan about $10,580.

Neither Ben-Dayan nor the Israel Women's Network could be reached for comment.

After the agreement was reached, the senate of the Hebrew University introduced an addition to the university regulations on sexual relations that prohibits intimate relations, including consensual sexual relations, between a teacher and a student as long as academic authority exists between them, Sulitzeanu said in the e-mail.

UC Berkeley was not informed of Aran's disciplinary procedures in order to uphold confidentiality, according to Sulitzeanu.

Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare Angelica Stacy, who entered her current position in January, said that she had not heard of the mediation agreement and that to her knowledge, her predecessor Sheldon Zedeck had not heard of the agreement before Aran arrived on campus.

In a written statement, Aran said his relationship with Ben-Dayan was consensual and that he was not found guilty of misconduct by Hebrew University officials.

"The university's ombudsman for issues related to sexual misconduct and a team of professors and lawyers appointed to investigate the matter concluded that there was no basis for the allegations of misconduct of any kind, and fully exonerated me," he said in the statement. "All charges were dropped."

According to Chris Patti, chief campus counsel, visiting professors are subject to the Faculty Code of Conduct while on the UC Berkeley campus, but conduct issues on visiting professors' home campuses are expected to be dealt with by the home institutions.

"It's more appropriate for (home campuses) to deal with it because UC Berkeley doesn't have the ability to investigate and provide due process that's required when incidents occur off campus," he said.

The UC Office of the President Faculty Code of Conduct states that "Entering into a romantic or sexual relationship with any student for whom a faculty member has, or should reasonably expect to have in the future, academic responsibility (instructional, evaluative, or supervisory)" is subject to disciplinary action from the campus.

Stacy said the campus does not have evidence to take action regarding the agreement.

"If we got a report of an incident that happened on this campus, we would certainly take action immediately," she said. "It comes down to what we are legally allowed to do when we are not the direct recipients or observers of the behavior."


Alisha Azevedo covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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