UC Berkeley Suspends Tenured Professor Accused of Sexually Harassing Doctoral Candidate

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The University of California, Berkeley has suspended a tenured East Asian languages and cultures department professor cultures after finding last year that he sexually harassed a female doctoral candidate and created a hostile work environment.

Alan Tansman is shown in an undated faculty photo from UC Berkeley.
Alan Tansman is shown in an undated faculty photo from UC Berkeley.

Professor Alan Tansman agreed on Nov. 20 to a two-year suspension with one year unpaid and the other partially paid, according to a letter sent to the former student obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and detailed in a story published Wednesday.

The letter said the unpaid suspension of Tansman, a specialist in modern Japanese literature and culture, “represents a significant loss of income of over $190,000, in addition to a loss of all benefits, including service credit toward his retirement.”

UC Berkeley declined to provide the letter to The Associated Press, saying personnel matters are confidential.

In a statement Wednesday about the suspension that omitted the professor’s name, the university said it concluded that between 2007 and 2009 a professor in the Arts and Humanities Division engaged in “unwelcomed verbal conduct of a sexual nature that was found to be sufficiently severe that it created a hostile environment and interfered with a complainant’s study and work.”

It added that that the university and the professor agreed in a settlement on the suspension and “two-year limited access to the University of California.”

“At all times, the Professor denied, and continues to deny, the allegations and maintains that he did not engage in conduct that violated the SVSH Policy or the Faculty Code of Conduct,” the university statement said.

Tansman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Also as part of the agreement, Tansman lost his endowed chair and may not participate in department activities or access his office until July 1, 2020. He is also prohibited from serving on new graduate student committees until June 30, 2022, according to the letter to his former student.

The professor’s former student told the newspaper that the terms of the agreement appalled her and that Tansman should have been fired.

“He was able to broker a devil’s deal,” said the woman. “It’s an affront to anyone who reports sexual harassment.”

She told the Chronicle she tried to report Tansman’s behavior in 2009 but was told she would have to find witnesses to come forward and write a detailed report.

In 2017, she filed a second report after being inspired by the #MeToo movement and a new process to file complaints about sexual harassment. It prompted the investigation.

The newspaper and the statement from the university did not name the woman, who the Chronicle reported is now a tenured professor at another university. The Associated Press typically does not name alleged victims of sexual harassment.

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