Former University Student Claims School ‘Blackballed’ Her Career

(CN) – A former doctoral student at University of California, Berkeley filed a lawsuit in state court against state university officials Tuesday for what she calls “blackballing” her career after she filed a harassment complaint against a professor.

Loan Le alleges that professor Robert Van Houweling, a member of her dissertation committee, began to “aggressively stalk” her, including lurking outside of her apartment building and sending flowers to her home.

After filing complaints with the university and university police, Le says that neither agency investigated the matter. She alleges in the lawsuit filed in Alameda County that another professor “discouraged” her to pursue further action, telling her that Van Houweling had “all the power.”

Rather than investigate Van Houweling, Le claims that the university assisted him in filing a retaliatory harassment complaint against her, which she said “virtually doomed her chances of finding full-time employment in academia.”

This isn’t the first time the university has been accused of ignoring harassment complaints on campus. Over 1,000 people have filed sexual harassment or violence complaints at UC Berkeley since 2014. A federal investigation found that the university failed to properly investigate such complaints.

In January, the school settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $1.7 million, brought forward by Tyann Sorrell, an executive assistant at the law school who was subject to “unwelcome” kissing from her superior.

In December 2017, the university settled a separate sexual harassment lawsuit for $80,000.

“Public records show that tenured faculty at U.C. Berkeley were given virtual free reign to harass women, and that, only after public outcry, were some of these faculty members finally disciplined,” the lawsuit states.

Le alleges that the school first refused to share any information about its investigation into her complaint, claiming they were “exempt from disclosure.” She claims university officials later told her that no such records existed.

She claims that her former professors refused to give her references as she went into the job market, as retaliation for her complaint against Van Houweling. Le also alleges that her name was dropped from several manuscripts she co-authored.

Le is represented by Matthew Brinegar. University officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

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