Hearings begin to decide punishment for USCS professor accused of sexual assault

Students protest and testify against UCSC professor accused of sexual assault

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Tuesday marked the first day of hearings surrounding sexual assault allegations against UCSC professor Gopal Balakrishnan.

This week the Privilege and Tenure Committee will hear from several survivors of sexual assault and harassment, including former University of California, Santa Cruz student Anneliese Harlander.

Harlander says Balakrishnan sexually assaulted her after a graduation party in 2013. She went public with her case, along with several other victims, back in 2017, which prompted an investigation.

A Title IX investigation found Balakrishnan violated school sexual harassment policy and he was placed on paid administrative leave.

Harlander says it's shocking and frustrating he's still getting paid years after the case was brought to light, but hopes he is soon held accountable.

“I’ve been able to move from victimization, to survivor to advocacy and that in itself has been incredibly empowering. To be where I’m at right now has taken a lot of healing," said Harlander.

One of her mentors, Marcia Ochoa, also a professor at UCSC, said she believes in the investigation process, but this is taking too long. "The complainants have had to withstand a long period of investigation and questioning that i think we should really not put people through. We do have to have a due process, but I think a year is enough time for due process, not two.”

Scott Hernandez-Jason, spokesperson for UCSC, said after these hearings the recommendations will be passed on to the chancellor for a decision. 

"Speaking generally about any title nine case that involves a tenure faculty member, if the decision is to terminate that has to go to the UC Board of Regents for review, anything below that will be determined by the chancellor.” he said.

Harlander's attorney, Dan Spiegel, was also at the hearing Tuesday morning. They filed a civil lawsuit against Balakrishnan last year. Spiegel added that either way, Balakrishnan will have to face what he's done. "Hopefully they’ll do the right thing in this case and regardless of the outcome of this hearing Annelise and I and all of you will be proceeding in a legal, political, cultural public effort to hold Balakrishnan accountable.”

Balakrishnan also has the opportunity to speak at the hearings this week. We tried to contact to him for comment, but he hasn't gotten back to us.

A decision on what action will be taken against Balakrishnan is expected to be made within the next month.

Criminal charges have not been filed against Balakrishnan, but under the Title IX investigation he did violate policy.

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