On October 28, 2023, University of California Berkeley made an official statement regarding Professor Nezar AlSayyad being suspended due to sexual harassment allegations from one or more former graduate students of his. A three year investigation concluded that AlSayyad engaged in harassment behavior towards them during his time there as well.
AlSayyad, an internationally-recognized scholar in architecture and urban planning, has taught at UC Berkeley since 1985 and currently sits on its faculty as professor. Since 1985 he has been subjected to multiple cases alleging sexual harassment related to faculty at Berkeley; with suspension being the latest episode.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ issued a statement explaining their dedication to providing safe, respectful learning environments for all their students, taking sexual harassment allegations very seriously and investigating all incidents relating to sexual misconduct or violence against women or gender-based violence against anyone at any point during their academic journey at Berkeley.
Investigation of AlSayyad’s conduct began in 2020. It found that AlSayyad made sexually suggestive comments to graduate student, as well as touched her inappropriately and then retaliated after reporting his conduct to university authorities.
AlSayyad has denied any wrongdoing and stated that all allegations leveled against him are false and represent an orchestrated campaign to destroy him professionally. However, an independent university investigation discovered credible claims against AlSayyad.
AlSayyad will serve a three year suspension without pay and must attend training on sexual harassment prevention.
AlSayyad’s suspension marks an important development in the battle against sexual harassment on college campuses, signaling that universities are taking sexual harassment accusations more seriously and willing to discipline faculty who engage in any forms of misconduct or sexual misconduct.
AlSayyad’s suspension marks an evolution at UC Berkeley. While in recent years UC Berkeley was under scrutiny for how it handled sexual harassment cases, more recently they have taken steps to better respond to such allegations, with AlSayyad’s suspension as evidence of that progress.
What Are AlSayyad’s Future Plans?
AlSayyad remains uncertain of his next move: either appealing his suspension, retiring, or being terminated from his university post.
AlSayyad’s suspension serves as a stark reminder that sexual harassment on college campuses remains an acute problem; conversely, universities are taking proactive steps towards solving it.
What Students Can Do
As a UC Berkeley student, here are several steps you can take to prevent sexual harassment and report it should it arise:
Be familiar with your university’s policies on sexual harassment. Speak up if anything appears improper.
Report sexual harassment to the relevant authorities.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, don’t feel powerless–there are resources available to support you – such as the university Sexual Assault Resource Center and/or Berkeley Police Department or even calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE for advice and support.
The suspension of University of California Berkeley Professor Nezar AlSayyad for sexual harassment allegations marks an important shift within academia: they show they take such allegations more seriously and are willing to discipline faculty who engage in any sexual misconduct.
Students can help prevent sexual harassment at universities by being aware of its policies on sexual harassment, speaking up if something appears amiss, and reporting incidents of harassment to authorities as soon as they occur. If sexual harassment has happened to you personally, resources exist that can assist.