Five Staff Resign Without Discipline after Violating Title IX Policy

Jonathan Hernandez / The Triton

Content warning: This article concerns graphic accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Six UC San Diego staff violated university policies prohibiting sexual violence and sexual harassment since 2016, but only one faced disciplinary action, according to public records. The other staff members resigned or retired.

According to documents obtained by The Triton through a public records request, six staff members were accused of sexual misconduct, including former Revelle Humanities Professor John Hoon Lee and multiple hospital employees.

The UC Office of the President sets Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) policies that define sexual misconduct and outline protocols for reporting and investigating sexual misconduct. Each campus is required to have a Title IX officer, office, and a CARE office. Title IX is the federal policy that protects students from gender and sex-based discrimination. The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) serves as the Title IX office for UCSD.

The Policy and Records Administration office provided records of employee sexual misconduct investigations but declined to turn over any investigation records in which students violated SVSH policies, claiming that they are not public records under state law.

Former OPHD Director Elena Dalcourt told The Triton in October, “All members of our community — including members of our student organizations — are encouraged to report conduct prohibited by the SVSH policy, whether it occurs on campus or off campus, for investigation by OPHD.”

The Triton requested documents for 2018 sexual misconduct investigations in January 2019, but the public records office will not make those available until September 2019.

Racism and Sexual Harassment

In a June 2016 report, a female employee accused a female supervisor of sexual harassment and mocking her accent. The university withheld the employee names and their workplace.

According to the report, the supervisor made sexual remarks using phallic foods. The employee also reported that her supervisor made sexual comments about her body parts and mocked her accent.

The supervisor denied all of the allegations, but witnesses supported the woman’s account. The supervisor was found to have violated SVSH policy and resigned.

Former Nurse Manager Elizabeth O’Brien

Elizabeth O’Brien, a former nurse manager in the Emergency Department at Thornton Pavilion, was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing male staff members.

In an investigation from August 2016, male employees reported inappropriate touching by O’Brien, such as groping their butts and nipples, snapping the waistbands of their underwear, inserting her tongue in their ears, and inserting lube in someone’s ear.

O’Brien was also accused of making sexual comments and other sexual gestures to male employees.

One employee reported her actions as “too many [sexual comments and gestures] to count.”

Another employee reported that he was told it was his job to give other employees massages. In defense of her behavior, O’Brien said that massages happen “all the time” in the department.

O’Brien denied most of the allegations but said she groped a coworker’s nipple who she “knows socially.” She also admitted to putting lube in a nurse’s ear to wake him up while he was tending to a patient.

O’Brien was found in violation of SVSH policy and resigned.

Registered Nurse (RN) Carlos Valdez

Two members of the Head and Surgical Oncology team at Moores Cancer Center accused each other of sexual harassment in March 2017.

RN Carlos Valdez accused a female coworker, whose name was redacted, of sexual harassment. That same coworker also accused him of sexual harassment. Valdez was found in violation of SVSH policy, while the coworker was not.

The coworker reported that they had previously been close friends. She said that she gave him recommendations to improve at work, and he “blew up” at her one day. She reported seeing “red flags” since their work orientation, telling her superiors that “he cannot ever stop talking about sex” and he likes “scanning women with his eyes.” She said that she repeatedly asked him to stop discussing sex with her, but he wouldn’t stop.

Valdez sent a letter to superiors, asking them to transfer the female coworker to another department. He called her unfit for the team and accused her of sexual harassment.

Valdez reported he was friends with the woman until 2016. He accused her of having “emotional outbursts” at work when they interacted. He denied sharing details about his sex life with her and declined to discuss a video submitted of him kissing a coworker at a Christmas party, according to university records.

Witnesses reported that they were not surprised by the sexual harassment allegations against Valdez.

Valdez resigned following the investigation.

On-Campus Employment

A report from November 2017 found that a supervisor at an unidentified workplace made unwelcome personal comments in person, over text, and via email to a student. The student involved turned over emails, a Facebook screenshot, and 56 pages of texts as a part of the investigation.

The student said that student employees were very social with each other. She reported that the respondent saw himself as a “father figure” to student employees, and he met with students one-on-one as part of a leadership program and bought them gifts.

She reported that he often texted her late at night and told her that he loved her multiple times in person and over text. She also reported that he became jealous after she started dating another student, which he said was because they were both employees he trusted. The workplace did not forbid personal relationships between employees.

She said she repeatedly told him that his conduct made her uncomfortable, but he did not stop. She eventually left her job due to his conduct.

The supervisor acknowledged repeatedly telling students that he loved them but insisted that he had no romantic intentions. He said he communicated through text and email with student employees, and there had been times when he texted them while drinking.

The supervisor was found in violation of SVSH policy and resigned after the investigation.

Sexual Harassment and Homophobic Comments

A female worker in an undisclosed UCSD workplace was harassed by a male coworker who repeatedly made homophobic and sexist remarks in June 2016. The university withheld the names of both parties in the investigation.

According to the investigation report, the woman and her coworker discussed their personal lives while they “stood watch.” When the male coworker found out the woman was a lesbian, he told her that “gay parents shouldn’t be allowed to raise children,” and she informed investigators.

She claimed that he also made sexual comments about her legs and, in another instance, he told her that women should not be allowed to serve in law enforcement or the military because of their menstrual cycles.

University records show that the coworker denied all of the allegations and told OPHD investigators that he didn’t have an issue with women in law enforcement and that he supports gay marriage and gay rights. He submitted character statements as a defense.

The OPHD investigator wrote that the character statements were given little weight and the respondent was found in violation of SVSH policy.

The respondent was directed by his supervisor to take an online training on sexual harassment through the UC Learning Center and told not to express his views about sexuality or gender in the workplace.

If you are in need of support services, please consider calling the following resources:

CARE at the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC), (858) 534-5793 or sarc@ucsd.edu. After hours: 858-534-HELP

CARE at SARC is located on the fifth floor of the Student Services Center and is available to UCSD students, faculty, and staff.

Center for Community Solutions (CCS), San Diego County’s rape crisis and domestic violence agency, (888) 385-4657

National Sexual Assault Hotline, (800) 656-HOPE

Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD), UCSD’s Title IX office tasked with investigating sexual harassment and sexual assault between students. You can report incidents anonymously by using the report bias web form, calling (858) 534-8298, or emailing ophd@ucsd.edu.

Ethan Edward Coston is the Managing Editor of The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books.