The University of California confirmed Thursday it is investigating a graduate student’s allegations that a UC regent touched her upper thigh during a dinner five years ago.
Doctoral student Rebecca Ora made the claim during a public UC regents meeting Wednesday, saying Regent George Kieffer inappropriately touched her during a 2014 dinner.
“This persisted throughout the evening,” Rebecca Ora said into the microphone. She said she felt “powerless to stop this figure of authority from putting his hands on my body. I told myself we were discussing the tuition of hundreds of thousands, and I should not make a scene.”
After the meeting, Kieffer denied Ora’s account to the San Francisco Chronicle. He declined to tell his side of what happened at the dinner and added he is cooperating with the UC’s investigation of “this false allegation.”
Ora, who is a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said she first tried to forget what happened, but couldn’t, and reported the incident to the university a year and a half ago.
She told The Chronicle she was encouraged to resolve the dispute through “alternative resolution,” in which no investigation is conducted, but complainants and the accused instead each meet with a mediator to achieve a settlement. After nearly a year, however, the sides could not agree on what to do.
UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said the university has hired an outside investigator.
“The University of California takes these allegations — as we do any allegations — seriously and is committed to maintaining an environment in which all students, faculty and staff are free from harassment and discrimination,” Doan said.
Kieffer is the second regent in recent years who has been accused of sexual misconduct.
Regent Norman Pattiz resigned in early 2018, more than a year after a recording surfaced in which he is heard asking an actress if he could hold her breasts.