Illinois Student Bar calling on Professor to resign amid pervasive sexual harassment

Image result for university of illinois college of lawPer Julie Wurth of the News Gazette, the Illinois student bar association is calling upon the University to force sanctioned professor Jay Kesan to resign over multiple issues of sexual harassment following an investigation into his conduct in 2017. From Wurth; “The investigation was launched in 2015 following complaints filed by two former UI law professors, who are now teaching elsewhere, and a former law student now working in Chicago. The three women accused Kesan of talking with them during professional interactions about his sex life and views on adultery, inquiring about their sex lives, making veiled references to masturbation, inviting them to stay at his apartment in Chicago, rubbing one student’s thigh during a meeting in his office and failing to respect their personal space, according to the report.” 38 anonymous witnesses in interviews also suggested that Kasan’s behavior was ongoing and made for an uncomfortable work environment. Certain students even felt forced to drop out of his class altogether because of Kasan’s actions. The investigation pretty much corroborated all of this, but instead of firing the tenured professor, he has only had to undergo sexual harassment training and a few minor penalties to his salary. According to the investigation, Kasan’s actions were not pervasive enough to warrant firing, and thus the illinois student bar has responded with outrage. There’s going to be a townhall next week where administrators and law school dean Vikram Amar will face questions over their handling of the investigation and the subsequent penalties-or lack thereof- handed out. The student bar concluded that if Kasan’s actions aren’t considered too pervasive according to institution policy, than policy needs to be changed. Kasan for his part, had the usual oh I didn’t mean it did that way but i’m sorry it got interpreted like that response.  “In a statement this week, Kesan apologized for his conduct and said it was “never my intent to offend anyone.” He said he’s been careful to make sure that his words and deeds don’t cause offense moving forward. The report said Kesan “denied engaging any colleague or student in a sexual manner,” and said other friendly gestures such as hugs, reassuring pats or invitations to male and female colleagues to use his Chicago apartment may have been misinterpreted. He also said he may stand too close to people because of his hearing loss.” As mentioned before, Kasan is a tenured professor of over 20 years and continues to teach elective classes. The school i’m sure will respond that it followed the investigations recommendations on how to handle this issue but like the student bar questioned, are the schools policies even an appropriate measuring stick for this kind of misconduct? This isn’t just a one off complaint, these are allegations that an actual investigation confirmed to be viable and yet Kasan has received a slap on the wrist. Sure there are further penalties if Kasan violates any part of his punishment, but is that really incentive enough to prevent further behavior like this from other people in power? Shouldn’t the school set an example and say that there is a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior, especially from those in power positions? The kinds of things Kasan did he may think are harmless, but in reality he leveraged his position of power against these women and that is harmful. He made his work environment an unsafe one, and once someone does that, shouldn’t that be the last straw? There were 38 other witnesses who testified to the fact Kasan has exhibited this sort of behavior for years. The school didn’t punish him then when he was making his work environment unsafe, so why should the students believe that the school will ever punish him now? Because they made him undergo sexual harassment training? The punishment is toothless and the student bar has every right to be angry. What does pervasive enough even mean? If an investigation can conclude that Kasan “violated the spirit of UI policies prohibiting sexual harassment and sexual misconduct and violated the more general University’s Code of Conduct” without being pervasive enough than what is pervasive enough?

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