NEW YORK – Gopal Balakrishnan, an Indian American professor in the history-of-consciousness department at the University of California in Santa Cruz, has denied allegations of sexually harassing and assaulting students over a number of years, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
According to a public statement which was circulating online, seven anonymous individuals accused Balakrishnan of sexually propositioning students and other activists at university events.
The statement describes Balakrishnan as “someone who regularly hung out with undergraduate and graduate students in bars and at parties” often being the only faculty member present at the party where there were alleged nights of heavy drinking and drug use, back in 2009.
One account came from a woman who was a freshman at Santa Cruz in 2009 when activists had occupied an administration building to protest tuition increases and other demands.
“I was introduced to GB as the ‘down’ Marxist professor. Students of the movement were really enamored with him, and it was a must to take his classes. The upsetting thing about this was that everyone knew he was creepy to women. It seemed to be tolerable to everyone because he was a Marxist and supported the student movement,” she wrote.
By Sunday the statement had drawn more than 130 signatures of support for the accusers but Balakrishnan denied the accusations over the weekend, saying the unnamed accusers were “simply spreading gossip that the university’s Title IX office.”
In May, the university’s Title IX office sent Balakrishnan a letter saying that “based on its initial inquiry, it didn’t see the need for a formal investigation as the statement charged that he used his position of power as a professor and influential academic ‘to intimidate, harass, and even assault young women and gender nonconforming people.’”
“This spring I was subject to nearly two and half months of graffiti attacking me in my workplace, accusing me of being a sexual predator, followed more by anonymous leafleting along the same lines, which called for a boycott of my classes, also that I no longer be invited to conferences and that my work be ignored,” Balakrishnan wrote in an email to The Chronicle of Higher Education, adding that he had decided to take this year off “to be out of that environment.”
Balakrishnan told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he has no idea who his accusers are and doesn’t even recognize the encounters they are describing.
In fact, he believes that the same people who slid fliers under the doors of his colleagues and scrawled messages about him on the walls outside his office helped circulate the open public letter, hoping that “in the current context of national indignation around the issue of sexual harassment, they might have a better shot.”
The statement was not specifically directed to the university, but to “the community of intellectuals, academics, radicals, and current and former students” of Balakrishnan to make clear what kinds of behavior should and should not be tolerated.
“GB’s behavior has kept women and gender nonconforming people, especially younger people with less social capital, from participating in political and intellectual spaces,” the statement read, but instead Balakrishnan said that it was he who had been pushed out of intellectual gatherings by an orchestrated attempt to smear his reputation as an anonymous statement on Twitter read “In keeping with the Public Statement on Gopal Balakrishnan and Sexual Harassment, Gopal Balakrishnan is not welcome at Commune Editions events or spaces, which we hope to help make as safe as possible for vulnerable people.”
Scott Hernandez-Jason, a campus spokesman, said that that the university was looking into the matter and if the allegations were deemed true, then they “represent a serious violation of campus policy.”
“Sexual misconduct has no place at UC-Santa Cruz, and we seek to hold perpetrators accountable,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education adding that the Title IX and academic-personnel offices were aware of the allegations and were asking anyone with additional information to report it so they can investigate.