On the Firing of a Tenured Professor


On January 20, the University of California Board of Regents took the incredibly rare step of dismissing a tenured professor for cause, a sanction that has occurred only a handful of times in the University’s history. Rob Latham, Professor of English at UC Riverside, was dismissed, over the recommendation of the UCR Faculty Senate, after a disciplinary process that appears to have been significantly flawed. I will be following this case more closely in future, especially considering the issues it raises of disrespect for the institution of tenure and the principle of shared governance, but for the present Dr. Latham has permitted me to publish his statement delivered to the UC Regents at their recent meeting in San Francisco.

Address to UC Regents by Professor Rob Latham

I want to thank the Regents for permitting me to address you today, although obviously I wish the circumstances were different than they are. In fact, I can’t believe that this case, which began with false charges of sexual harassment brought by a disgruntled graduate student and his girlfriend, has been allowed to reach the Board of Regents. It should have been settled through informal mediation long ago.

However, not only was no such good faith effort ever attempted by the UCR administration, but I was never even invited to respond to the charges or to submit exculpatory evidence. Instead, the administration adopted an adversarial posture from the outset, as if the original allegations—the vast majority of which we now know to be untrue—had already been proven. As Vice Provost Daniel Ozer testified at the disciplinary hearing, the administration never sought to change course even when it became clear that the two complainants had submitted doctored evidence and leveled charges that were proven false by a police investigation. Professor Ozer also testified that the administration was aware of the existence of numerous witnesses who could rebut the complainants’ allegations of harassment, including some of their closest friends, yet they made no effort to contact or interview these witnesses.

The administration has asserted that the Faculty Senate Hearing Committee did not find the complainants’ allegations to be untrue but merely not proven to a clear and convincing standard. I’m sure you have all read the Senate’s findings report. Here is the kind of language the Committee uses to describe the students’ allegations: “not credible,” “inconsistent with contemporaneous evidence,” the full record “argues strongly against a finding of sexual harassment”; contrary to Complainant #1’s assertions that he found my communications unwelcome, “the evidence is that he enthusiastically participated in these exchanges”; and so on. In short, the two students were lying, and we provided substantial evidence during the hearing that their lies were malicious—evidence the Committee decided to ignore, but which a civil court will most certainly attend to. The administration could have—and should have—admitted the mendacity of their two protagonists early in this process, if they had been remotely concerned with justice or the truth. But that is not the path they chose to take.

As a result, the situation in which we find ourselves is a new one for all of us. I believe that none of you were sitting regents when Dr. Sergio Stone addressed this body in Spring of 2000, the last tenured professor to appeal a recommendation of dismissal for cause. That is how rare this process is, and how much the University of California has historically respected the institution of tenure. Professor Stone’s case reached this board after years of litigation that involved multiple felony indictments, whereas UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox is asking you to dismiss me for a month-long relapse into a substance abuse problem, following a spotless twenty-year career. So, if nothing else, the administration at my campus is breaking new ground in UC disciplinary policy.

Let me say upfront that I am not here to beg for my job, because I don’t believe I should ever have been put in the position of having to do so. I am here as the result of a misbegotten prosecution, driven by political pressures, homophobic bias, and administrative hostility. That said, I do not claim to be innocent of fault. I made a serious error of judgment in relation to substance abuse, for which I sought treatment one full year before any charges were filed against me. The Senate, for whatever reason, gave me no credit for that effort at self-correction, and now Chancellor Wilcox is asking you to dismiss me for the recurrence of a psychological illness, rather than for the original charges of flagrant, serial sexual harassment—charges that were considered and dismissed by the Hearing Committee, whose findings the Chancellor has accepted in their entirety. Yet these false charges were vigorously and recklessly pursued by the administration, in ways that amount to gross malfeasance by UCR Provost Paul D’Anieri’s office. This is the tainted context in which you are being asked to make your decision.

I have outlined, in my ten-page written statement, the political pressures and rank homophobia that deformed the disciplinary process, including acts of official misconduct that are currently being investigated by the Faculty Senate. All I will repeat here is that the intervention of the graduate student union, at an early juncture of this case, and their threats to “go public” if the administration did not acquiesce to their demand for my “removal as Professor of English,” was crucial in setting the administration on the course they pursued. This course included manipulating and corrupting an ostensibly fair and impartial Title IX investigation, coaching student witnesses supportive of their case while attempting to intimidate those supportive of me, and suppressing evidence crucial to my defense before the Faculty Senate.

As for the administration’s homophobia, I will simply remind you that the Provost’s Office submitted, as evidence of my alleged verbal harassment of the male complainant, the following communication: “You’re an intellectual thoroughbred, kiddo, and I’ve mentored very few of those in my career. I have to resist the impulse to ride you too hard too soon. If you’ll forgive the equine metaphor.” Suffice to say it is transparently obvious that, if a heterosexual man had made the exact same statement, no lewd implication would ever have been inferred. The rhetoric of UCR’s charging documents and administration counsel’s briefs was rife with homophobic language and assumptions, including the myth that gay men are always “on the make,” unable to relate to other males in any way except sexually. While I was not permitted to address this matter during the disciplinary hearing because the Committee arbitrarily ruled out consideration of homophobic bias in the formulation of the charges or the administration’s prosecution of them, this issue will, of course, be highly relevant to a civil court adjudicating the grounds for my dismissal.

My written statement, along with the November 8 rebuttal I submitted to Chancellor Wilcox, also details the multitudinous errors of fact, failures to apply the appropriate standard of evidence, and abuses of discretion in the Senate’s report, including their finding that I allegedly distributed drugs to graduate students on an evening when I was demonstrably not present and their sustaining of a single incident of an unwelcome advance towards a third party despite substantial exculpatory evidence, including that student’s own contemporaneous statements. I do not blame the Hearing Committee for these mistakes given the mountain of lies and innuendo shoveled at them by the administration, which included over 1000 pages of documentary evidence and over 1000 pages of witness testimony. Despite their flawed findings, the Committee did not recommend my dismissal, but they were overruled by Chancellor Wilcox in a significant flouting of the principle of shared governance. The administration’s contempt for this principle was clear throughout the disciplinary proceedings, as they persistently misled the Senate and (as noted) withheld evidence critical to my case, despite the Hearing Committee’s ruling that I was entitled to receive it.

In any event, the sanction recommended by the Committee—demotion in rank and two years of unpaid leave—was already disproportional to punishments imposed on other UC professors for similar acts of misconduct. I know personally of a case involving a professor at another campus who became addicted to crack cocaine, and bought and sold the drug; he was given a year’s paid leave and mandatory rehab. And I’m sure you are all aware of the recent case of the astrophysics professor at UC Berkeley, who sexually assaulted numerous students over at least a decade and received a light sanction simply warning him not to misbehave again. I do not understand the disproportion between the sanction imposed on this heterosexual man—a genuine predator rather than a fantasy one—and the sanction proposed for me, a gay man with no previous record of misconduct. Now while we can all agree that the Berkeley professor deserved a more significant sanction than the one imposed on him, to vote to dismiss me for considerably less egregious misconduct, especially after the vast bulk of the original charges were shown to be untrue, would merely be another miscarriage of justice. It would certainly be a violation of equal protection under UC policy and under the law.

I will not delve more deeply into these various matters here, except to say that the self-serving representations in the administration’s response to my written statement are woefully inadequate to insulate the University from legal fault if I am dismissed. But that is an issue to be adjudicated in a different venue. Instead, I would like to tell you a bit about myself, and some of the more significant accomplishments of my twenty-year career—a career you are now being asked to terminate for cause. The fantasy portrait of me evoked in the administration’s charging documents—of some sinister monster of vice, a predatory homosexual who lures vulnerable students into his depraved and reckless lifestyle—is so far from the facts that I believe I have to give you a sense of the kind of person and professor I actually am. If you are going to vote to fire me, I would prefer to be fired based on an honest assessment of my character and career, and not on inflammatory rhetoric, homophobic innuendo, or political expediency.

I got my Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford in 1995. My first job was at the University of Iowa, where for thirteen years I was a Professor of English and American Studies, and where I ran a Program in Sexuality Studies. In that role, I got to know the major scholars in the field of LGBT and Queer Studies, a number of whom have volunteered to testify as expert witnesses if I am compelled to sue the university for sexual orientation discrimination. During my career, I have written or edited nine books, including the Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction, which was just selected as an “essential academic title” by Choice magazine. Since 1997, I have been a senior editor of the premier journal in my field and also serve on the editorial boards of four other journals and three major book series. In 2012, I received the Clareson Award for Distinguished Service from the SF Research Association, the premier award in my field.

I would have been content to finish my career at Iowa, were it not for the unique opportunity to build a program in Science Fiction Studies to complement UCR’s world-class archive, the Eaton Science Fiction Collection. My hiring was the result of an international search for a senior scholar, mounted by former Dean Steve Cullenberg and former Chancellor Tim White, two very good men and superb administrators with whom I had an excellent working relationship. However, following the hire of Chancellor Wilcox in 2013—and especially of Provost D’Anieri in 2014—the atmosphere at UCR changed from one of cooperation and consultation with faculty to one of confrontation and hostility. I say this merely to indicate that I gave seven years of exemplary service to the campus but, following the lodging of false charges by a student with a grudge, have been hounded by a vengeful administration intent on railroading me out of my job.

During my tenure at UCR, I have done what I was hired to do: following my recruitment of a distinguished creative writer and a senior media studies scholar, UCR now has the top program in Science Fiction Studies in the world. In 2011, my colleagues voted unanimously to promote me to full professor, their report stating that I am “a scholar of international importance who has outdistanced all our expectations, and in a relatively short time has helped to raise the international profile of our department and of UCR.” The high status of the program I helped build was recognized by a Mellon Foundation grant supporting a yearlong Sawyer Seminar on the topic of “Alternative Futurisms.” This is one of the most prestigious grants in the Humanities, and this was the first time UCR had ever been invited to apply. Only ten grants were given in 2014, and other schools currently hosting seminars include Princeton, Brown, and Vanderbilt. I was also instrumental in building a research collection that attracted a donor who bequeathed $3.5 million to UCR in 2013, and I was in the process of further fundraising from major science-fiction writers and fans. I should have spent the past year celebrating these accomplishments—instead of languishing in the Kafkaesque limbo where I have been relegated by the UCR administration.

The program I helped to create is one of the few units at the campus that is globally renowned. The English Department has begun to attract applicants from Ivy League schools—students who expressly want to come to UCR to study with me. I am a highly successful graduate mentor, having advised four-dozen PhD students during my career. Former advisees are tenured or hold tenure-track appointments at the University of Illinois, the University of Connecticut, the University of South Alabama, the University of Indiana, and the New York City College of Technology, among other schools.

Many of my PhD students—as well as several current and former colleagues—offered testimony on my behalf during the disciplinary proceeding. By contrast, the administration presented no faculty witnesses and offered the testimony of only one of my advisees—the student whose claims were shown to be substantially false. Since neither the Faculty Senate nor the Chancellor have seen fit to quote from my supportive witnesses in their reports, I would like to use the balance of my time to share some of their words with you. These are the people who know me best, as a colleague, a teacher, a mentor, and a man. Needless to say, the portrait they paint of me is far different from that of the depraved fiend evoked by the administration.

My former department chair at the University of Iowa, a chaired professor who has known me for 30 years, writes:

“Rob is one of the finest graduate teachers and mentors I have ever worked with. His students consistently succeed in publishing early, winning graduate awards, and securing jobs. He was a winner of the University’s Teaching Award, which recognizes a faculty member who has ‘demonstrated outstanding rapport with students and who creates an exemplary classroom atmosphere.’ Rob has never hesitated to share his near encyclopedic knowledge with his colleagues and grad students, pointing them toward topics and supporting their writing with meticulous editing that has produced a generation of younger scholars who have Rob to thank for their success.”

Another Iowa colleague writes:

“Rob’s mentorship of graduate students was not only exemplary; it was a source of envy for other faculty. Simply put, I have never seen any other professor more thoroughly dedicated to graduate teaching and advising, more devoted to the developing careers and overall welfare of his graduate students, and more successful in helping students both to become excellent scholars and to land good academic jobs. I never once heard either a graduate student or a faculty member express anything but admiration for his selflessness and sensitivity as a teacher and mentor.”

A senior colleague at UCR who has known me for 25 years testifies:

“Rob is the single most dedicated and effective mentor I have ever seen at work. I don’t think there is any faculty member that’s ever served on an exam or defense committee that hasn’t walked away extremely impressed with Rob’s mastery, his kindness, the positive impact he is having on his students. He gives the most voluminous notes, the most prescient suggestions. He does not force his students to look at the materials they are working with from his perspective, but encourages them to develop as scholars in their own original ways.”

Another UCR colleague whom I have known for well over a decade testifies:

“Rob is an amazing mentor of graduate students. I have to say in my experience here at UCR that Rob’s students are at the top in terms of their preparation for dissertations and the job market among all the grad students I have worked with over the last nine years.”

And the former chair of my department at UCR, whom the administration initially planned to call as a witness only to decide at the last minute to exclude her, said this in an email to me after the charges had been filed:

“I know how many students you have helped, how many admire you and are grateful for all that you have done to launch their careers and enrich their intellectual lives. You’ve done a huge amount for our department and built a wonderful program and I am very sorry to see it in jeopardy now.”

These are the words of my colleagues. But since the sustained charges have to do with endangering graduate students, let me quote from some of my current and former advisees, since these are the very people Chancellor Wilcox wants to deprive of my academic mentorship and scholarly expertise. From advisees at Iowa and UCR come the following comments:

  • “Rob represents the best of what a mentor should be: an enthusiastic, invested, rigorous, and compassionate guide through the challenges of graduate education. His guidance made me both a better student and, now, a better faculty member.”
  • Another: “Rob was a vital link for me as a grad student. He brought budding intellectuals together, and we sorely needed that in our small, Midwestern town. He brought us together to think, and the conversations he prompted were intense, broad in scope, enlightening, and often profoundly challenging. To me, he embodied the very point of studying at a university—coming together with others to think deeply and critically about our lives.”
  • Yet another: “Rob’s tremendous commitment to his current and former students stands out in a profession that often lacks true mentorship. Rob’s concern for my professional advancement as well as my personal wellbeing was distinctive in my grad school experience. Rob took the time to get to know me as a person as well as a student and he fostered a sense of confidence in my own abilities, helping me to secure a tenure track job at a liberal arts college. This style of mentorship, one that allows for a friendship as well as a professional relationship to develop, sets Rob apart.”
  • And a fourth: “Rob is tough on his grad students. His standards are rigorous and he lets you know what he expects up front. At the same time, he’s deeply invested in each student whose career he agrees to shepherd. When we first met, I was uncertain about my choice to leave 10 years of law practice to pursue a doctorate in English. Rob took me under his wing and treated me like a colleague. His friendship and generosity helped me manage a difficult time. My prior law practice was as a prosecutor and so I take allegations of harm to vulnerable people as seriously as anyone. I’ve seen Rob interact with students and colleagues, in all kinds of settings, and haven’t heard anyone complain of a single thing that would suggest he could exercise the kind of disregard for others that would ever lead to harm. It isn’t simply that he’s principled; Rob is genuinely kind.”

Finally, two current graduate students at UCR—students who were the best friends of the complainants in my case, and who have had to endure harassment and intimidation at the hands of an administration intent on turning them against me—testified as follows:

  • “Rob is extremely generous with his time, has always been there any time that I have ever had a question. He has also been very generous with resources, has always gotten back to me promptly, which is in my experience very rare. He is honestly the best mentor I have ever had.”
  • And: “When I came here the faculty in science fiction, Professor Latham specifically, is what attracted me to this school. And he has done nothing but consistently impress me. I can’t explain it, how supportive and kind of an advisor he is. To me, that’s the best professor I’ve ever worked with. So I just want to work with him again. I don’t understand why I can’t.”

Speaking now for myself, I have to say that I don’t understand why he can’t either. I do understand that I showed extremely poor judgment with regard to a relapse into substance abuse for which I deserve to be sanctioned. I do not question that. Like all of us, I am a flawed human being who has made regrettable mistakes. But to be deprived of my position, after such great success and in the face of such glowing testimonials, because a hostile administration cannot admit that it pursued false charges, mishandled an investigation, and allowed political pressures and homophobic bias to color its judgment, is an outcome I simply cannot grasp—and one I am unwilling to accept without a fight. As the comments of my colleagues and students indicate, this profession isn’t just a job to me, it is my entire life and soul.

Moreover, I believe this case is much bigger than my own situation: by moving to dismiss me, you would be telling the academic world that the University of California has no respect for the institution of tenure, which can be abrogated after a biased and corrupt process driven by administrative misconduct and arrant homophobia. You would be telling all current and prospective UC faculty that a spotless twenty-year career can be tossed aside because a disgruntled student lodged incendiary false charges to which a rattled administration responded recklessly. You would also open the floodgates for hostile or even merely risk-averse administrators to move to fire other tenured professors in order to save themselves embarrassment or to cover up a tainted process. I cannot imagine that this is the message you would want to send to the larger academic community.

This concludes my comments to the board, and once again, I thank the Regents for this opportunity to address you. I thank you for your patience and attention, and I trust you will make a decision that is reasonable, fair, and wise—as well as in the best interests of this great institution whose global reputation you have the honor to shepherd.

95 thoughts on “On the Firing of a Tenured Professor

  1. Reblogged this on SEAN A. GUYNES and commented:
    An absolutely terrible situation and my heart goes out to Rob. I was certainly one of those students who applied to (and almost went to) UCR to study under him (I wasn’t able because of the two-body problem in academe). To a lowly grad student he’s a titan in the field; I respect him so much and I can’t believe that (1) the student did this and (2) UCR responded in this way.

  2. I studied with Rob at Iowa. He guided an independent study and directed my dissertation. He also helped me get started in academic writing, encouraging me to publish book reviews and present at conferences. He was extremely generous with his time, going above and beyond for me and for other graduate students. I also consider Rob a friend. For this to have happened is a crime and a tragedy.

  3. I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear that UC took such drastic steps. I knew Rob during my time as a graduate student at the University of Iowa. His class in my first semester challenged me each week to expand and test the limits of my thinking while at the same time helped to build my confidence in my own scholarly voice. That combination of traits is the gold standard of teaching, and of the dozens of teachers I have known, very few come close to being as successful as Rob is at this. I grieved when he left Iowa while at the same time I was thrilled for him and the opportunities he had at UCR. I only hope that some day that UCR recognizes what they have lost.

  4. I, too, studied science fiction with Rob at the University of Iowa. He taught me so much in the only formal science fiction class I ever took in my graduate career. He encouraged my first academic publication, a book review in Science Fiction Studies. He directed my special interest topic for my comprehensive exam. He was a more than generous member of my dissertation committee. He wrote recommendation letters for my first and second jobs in the academic world. He introduced me to other scholars at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts. He helped spread the word about the first collection I ever edited. He wasn’t even my dissertation director and he did all of this for me. He helped me believe that I could make it as a scholar at an R1 institution. Rob is a kind man in love with the profession and this epic travesty hurts all of us

  5. Pingback: Job Security While LGBT, Lack Thereof | Cheryl's Mewsings

  6. I completed my PhD at UCR in 2003 and can attest to some of the statements made about climate. I was also Graduate Student Association President from 1996-1998. I am shocked and dismayed that the students would get involved in such a serious issue that requires attention to both substantive and procedural rigor. This is a sad day to be a UCR alum

  7. The man is a bully and a hack. Studying with him is like an exercise in emotional abuse. He has not had an original thought about anything in several decades. His one and only joy in life is assembling a coterie of grad students whom he plies with drugs and creepy sexual advances. This man deserves everything that has come to him and more. Don’t believe his lies.

  8. So very sorry for the problems you’ve been dealing with over the last year and more, Rob. This is a most eloquent statement.

    Thank you.

  9. Like other commenters, I was a graduate student at Iowa while Rob was there. When I was considering Iowa for graduate school, I visited and met some professors. Though I had not scheduled an appointment with him, Rob made the time to talk with me–a naive and nervous prospective graduate student–even though he was as yet untenured and surely had more pressing work. I did not wind up studying in his field, but Rob’s professional generosity definitely influenced my choice of graduate program. While I was at Iowa, I bent his ear about my career issues many times. If I asked Rob “Do you have a second?” by the candy machines or the department mailboxes, he always did. Now that I am a tenured professor at an R1 institution, I appreciate Rob’s ready and tireless efforts at mentoring students, whether the nervous prospective student or stressed-out A. B. D. on the job market. When I feel impatient with my own students, I recall moments when professors such as Rob have shown me such generosity, and I am inspired to be such an example.

  10. I echo other grad students from Iowa here. Like Mary, I did not decide to study in his field, but he was a brilliant prof and hung in there on my dissertation committee when I seemed to be wandering. I’m grateful for his scholarship and disappointed in UCR.

  11. I can appreciate that Latham did kind things for a number of the people commenting here, but for others, that is not the case. Latham is a manipulative predator, plain and simple, a delusional man who believes his own lies. This is anything but a travesty, more like justice.

  12. Pingback: SF Scholar Rob Latham Fired by University of California | File 770

  13. I studied with Rob as a graduate student in Iowa, and he is my friend. He is a decent and kind person and a scholar of international importance. He has helped many of his students — some of us greatly — and he wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone. I’m disgusted by mud-flinging anonymous detractors.

  14. As academics and intellectuals, when a professional athlete or actor is accused of rape or sexual misconduct we pride ourselves in supporting the accusers (at least in spirit) and hold ourselves higher than those who can’t look past the fact that the accused is the star on their favorite team or movie. We know that those millions of fans who comment on the sports expose articles and call the accuser a liar or a “slut” or “gold digger” are on the wrong side of history. Why, then, when it is one of our own are we so quick to write this off as simply a disgruntled student? Or to say that “we know this guy, he wouldn’t do this?” Sure, if my former adviser was accused of sexual assault I would initially be shocked and would be tempted to not believe it. But at the end of the day we must take the word of the victims, who are powerless here, with more weight than the defense of the accused. If you wouldn’t call the people who accused Bill Cosby, Ben Roethlisberger, or Jameis Winston a “liar” or “gold digger,” why have a different feeling now? It doesn’t matter that other people did much worse (allegedly) and got only a slap on the wrist. Frankly, I’m glad that UCR won’t be on the list when the NY Times or the Atlantic runs an article calling out those schools who didn’t take Title IX claims seriously.

  15. I am the “former chair” whom Rob quotes in his post. Rob takes my words out of context and gives the false impression that I was prevented from speaking on his behalf at the hearing. It is true that I had a high regard for Rob’s teaching and scholarship before this case began, and I supported him in many ways while I was chair. I liked him as a person and as a colleague. However, by the time of the hearing, I had come to believe that Rob had profoundly betrayed my trust. In my opinion, Rob has harmed our students, damaged our program, and betrayed his colleagues and friends. That’s the gist of what I would have said had there been time for me to speak.

    I was involved with the case from the beginning and I believe that all procedures governing the disciplinary process at UCR were followed carefully. Rob had every opportunity to tell his side of the story and advance his theory of the case. He thinks what he has done is trivial. It is not.

    For once a university stood up for its students and made the right call. I applaud the decision by the UC Regents.

    Here is a statement recently approved by the English Department at UCR:

    “We, the faculty of the English Department at the University of California, Riverside would like to respond to Dr. Latham’s public statement. We wish to go on record in support of the decision of the University of California Board of Regents, which Dr. Latham references in emails to us. We stand with our graduate students, and those who came forward, filed complaints and supported each other through this difficult process. We are committed to moving forward with our students, and to working together to repair any and all harm done to our community and to our campus.”

    Deborah Willis
    English Department Chair from 2009-2015
    UC Riverside

    • Prof. Willis, I it true that all the original charges of harassment brought by the two complainants were dismissed by the Faculty Senate as untrue? Is it true that the Chancellor and Regents overruled the Faculty Senate? Can you clarify these matters? If both those things are true, do they mean nothing to you and your colleagues?

      • I agree with Tom. Aren’t there principles worth defending here? Was this man falsely accused by two students of sexually harassing them? Prof. Willis does not say. Was his tenure revoked over the recommendation of the Faculty Senate? Again, Prof. Willis does not say. If the Chancrllor *did* overrule the Senate, then what was the point of Prof. Latham’s mounting a defense. If what he says is true, the vast majority of the charges brought against him were not proven or demonstrated to be false. If a Chancellor can toss aside tenure in s case like this, then who is safe? I admit I do not know the facts of this case, but Prof. Willis gives us *no* facts that rebut what Prof. Latham has said about the charges and the process.

    • Where does Professor Layton say that what he did was “trivial”? That’s not the impression I get from the statement at all. It sounds to me like there must be some real nasty politics behind the departments statement.

    • Hey, Prof. Willis,

      A little birdie told me that you are going up for promotion to full professor this year with a very crappy publication record. And so you need to kowtow to UCR’s malicious Provost and the lickspittle crony Dean that he’s appointed to run your college. So I will take your denunciation of Prof. Latham with a large grain of salt. Really, you should be ashamed of yourself–as opposed to Prof. Doyle, who has no shame and is just a brazen liar.

      • Having looked at Dr. Willis’s CV, I don’t think it fair to call it “crappy.” There are many Full Professors out there at even more prestigious institutions than UC-R with worse records of scholarly activity (and hers is consistent, long-term and, to a cursory observation, of relatively high quality). Though I think the firing of Dr. Latham was outrageous, I see no point in using the incident for lashing out at Dr. Willis. By the same token, I see no value in calling Dr. Doyle “a brazen liar.”

        The comments here have been distressing–from all perspectives. I am saddened.

  16. I would like to answer your questions, but confidentiality rules prevent me from discussing the findings or other details of the case. This is all I can say at this time.

    • Wait a minute. Whose confidentiality are you protecting here? After all, you just threw a former colleague to the wolves without answering important questions about what he’s culpable for. This is typical in title IX cases. Confidentiality tends to protect the accusers, never the accused. There is no penalty whatsoever in the system as it exists for bringing false charges. Maybe the rest of the English faculty took the stand they did out of sheer self-preservation. All teachers these days have targets on their backs for students with a grudge.

      • She did not throw him under the bus as much as address the fact that he had manipulated her (and others) along with her words. She was quoted in his statement, and she obviously wanted to set the record straight on his deployment of her words and the obviously missing context.

      • John Doe: because he is a “manipulator,” as all gay men are.?Seems like your proving his point here

  17. Pingback: Statement on Rob Latham by His Former Department | ACADEME BLOG

  18. I write as a member of the English Department faculty, and as a queer studies scholar. This entire forum is treating our lives as clickbait. It is Latham, and the AAUP, who had forced us onto this forum by publishing this document. For his victims, this forum is on a continuum with the harassment that has characterized the experience of working and studying with him — just dragged out into the public sphere. We all want that harassment to stop.

    AAUP has shown the limits of its understanding of our working lives by publishing this document. In a followup post, sharing the departmental statement emailed to our graduate students, there is a reference to a “contentious meeting,” for example. More clickbait. The conversation in that meeting was respectful, thoughtful and caring.

    I will add: conversation about the necessary, important and principled defense of tenure should be staged as far from this case as possible.

    And: as someone who experienced how homophobia does shape the administration of harassment cases (my own case was same-sex in its structure), I will remind readers that institutional heterosexism makes it that much harder for victims to come forward. I do not doubt that ignorance vis a vis the sexual politics of the campus as a social space made this awful case all the more awful — for the students, and for Rob’s colleagues.

    • A number of points: First, the AAUP has taken no position at all on Latham’s case. This blog presents the opinions of the individual writers and not the organization. Second, I have been quite surprised Latham’s statement has received such attention; we do not have advertising, so ‘clickbait’ is rather irrelevant. Third, the meeting was described to me in much stronger terms than ‘contentious.’ I purposely toned that down. Fourth, I posted the department statement at the request of a graduate student. Fifth, I am open to others presenting their thoughts relating to this case specifically or, more generally, about sexual politics on campus. You–or anyone–is welcome to contact me and offer a guest post or, if wishing to write regularly, to work out something for that.

      • Responsible blogging does not involve manipulating people involved in a harassment case into staging that harassment as entertainment for readers. Barlow just made it clear in his reply to my comment that this is exactly what he is doing.

      • Professor Doyle, this is an issue that needs discussion. It is not entertainment. It should be, and likely is, painful for all involved (I know it is for me). But we cannot sweep it under the rug.

    • I don’t know anything about this case except what I’ve read here. But I was a grad student at UCR not too long ago, and I just wanted to say that NO ONE was a worse emotional manipulator of students than Jennifer Doyle. She maintained a cult around herself that flattered her over-inflated ego, and she used her grad students to run down her enemies among the faculty by spreading gossip about them. She also is a terrible adviser–never returns work, never responds to email, always too busy with her own things. In sum, beware of anything this self-serving woman has to say about this case–or about anything else, for that matter.

  19. As President of the department’s graduate student association in 2014-2015, I feel it necessary to also speak. I am not nor was I ever Prof. Latham’s student. I wish to make no comments about procedures nor the the accusations. What I do wish to say is this: I witnessed my peers, my colleagues, my friends come forward with shaking voices, swallowed fear, and deep dismay. I witnessed the feelings of alienation and temerity that come with verbalizing something one wishes one didn’t have to. And I awed in the strength it took and the fortitude to face such an intimidating and broken structure to stand up for oneself and one’s peers. I witnessed private moments brought into public, the continuing retraumatization of repeatedly telling the same story over and over and over until it is deemed credible. No matter how far removed, I watched as this situation impacted every single graduate student in our department, in various ways and various degrees. Those outside the department are quick to judge, or dismiss, based on claims made in this post. However, those outside this department, including our alumni posting here, did not witness the deep trauma left in the wake of this situation—the ripple of distrust, the uncertainty, and the fear
    ​. Comments from such a place necessarily ring hollow.

    In the wake of all of this, we have already begun to rebuild. We are a stronger, healthier community. In solidarity, we persist.

  20. Pingback: Weekend Links! Catch Them All! | Gerry Canavan

  21. All of the facts of this case will eventually come out in a court of law. That is all that matters. I suspect only a court decision will dispel the hysteria, innuendo, ass-covering, and political grudge-settling that has dominated this process in my former department. They have the right to issue their statement, but they do not have the right to defame me by implying that the complainants’ charges of harassment were sustained by the Faculty Senate. Since this violates no confidentiality, here are the relevant passages from the Senate report:

    “Taken as a whole, the Hearing Committee finds no clear and convincing evidence that Professor Latham violated the UC Sexual Harassment Policy, APM 015-II.A (Ethical Principles), or APM-015 II.A.2 with regard to Complainant #1….

    “The Hearing Committee finds no clear and convincing evidence that Professor Latham violated the UC Sexual Harassment Policy, APM-015 II.A (Ethical Principles), or APM-015 II.A.6 (entering into a sexual relationship with students) or APM-015.II.A.7 with regard to Complainant #2.”

    More specifically, the evidentiary record, considered as a whole and in context (as required by UC Sexual Harassment Policy), “argues strongly against a pattern of sexual harassment.”

    Findings in relation to specific allegations include statements such as these:

    “The Committee finds no evidence that [Complainant #1] expressed to anyone his discomfort with these
    communications, at least through August 2014. Indeed, the evidence is that he enthusiastically participated in these exchanges.” Further: “The record of social media shows at least well into August 2014, [Complainant #1] willingly participated in very personal exchanges or sexual banter with Professor Latham. The
    Committee does not find evidence from that period that such exchanges made [Complainant #1] uncomfortable or that he asked Professor Latham to moderate his exchanges.” On the contrary, numerous “examples of [Complainant #1’s] satisfaction with his personal relationship with Professor Latham can be found.” In sum, “the evidence shows that during 2013-2014, Professor Latham and [Complainant #1]
    developed a close relationship professionally and socially. Their communications were
    often very personal and their humor ribald. However, during this academic year, both
    parties appeared to be willing participants.”

    As for Complainant #2’s allegation of having been physically harassed: “Although [Complainant #2] described some level of discomfort during her testimony, the Committee found this testimony to be inconsistent with the
    contemporaneous documentary evidence. In addition, although the testimony is clear that
    Professor Latham put his arm around her waist at the party at her home, the Hearing Committee does not believe there is clear and convincing evidence that the gesture was sexual (according to Complainant #2) as opposed to appropriate between good, but platonic, friends (according to Professor Latham).”

    Finally: “The Administration’s exhibits present snippets of emails that may give the appearance of
    inappropriateness. However, when viewed in the overall context of the full exchange
    among the parties, they are not beyond the boundary of what would usually transpire
    between Professor Latham and his students. Professor Latham was strikingly unguarded
    in his communications regarding sexual matters.” My unguardedness regarding such matters also, incidentally, characterized my relationship with the vast majority of my advisees who have offered testimony on my behalf, both during the hearing and in comments on this blog.

    Whatever these two students have been telling their colleagues and my former colleagues over the past year, this was the judgment of a five-member faculty committee that heard 30 hours of witness testimony and reviewed 1000 pages of exhibits. The punishment they decided to mete out to me–a severe one–was based on drug charges brought by the two complainants. The sanction was not severe enough to appease an administration out for my blood, so the Chancellor decided to fire me instead.

    • And I would just add: my department has apparently decided that “standing with” two students who demonstrably brought false charges of sexual harassment is more important than defending tenure and shared governance in the face of an arbitrary decision by the UCR Chancellor to overrule the Faculty Senate and dismiss me. I can understand why Jennifer Doyle would want to say that “conversation about the necessary, important and principled defense of tenure should be staged as far from this case as possible,” especially given the nature of her own involvement in the case from the outset–the facts of which will eventually come out in other venues. But she cannot–and should not–be permitted to shut down a discussion of these issues by personal fiat. Nor can her self-serving designation of these students as “victims” erase the fact that their claims were found to be “not credible” and “inconsistent with contemporaneous documentary evidence” by a Committee that heard much more testimony about these matters than she has. If I could share the evidence they reviewed, I would, but I cannot. All I will say is that I am fully confident that this evidence was never shared by the complainants with Professor Doyle or my former colleagues.

      • Failure to meet a ‘clear and convincing evidence’ std isn’t equivalent to ‘demonstrable false accusations’. Perhaps if you spent a tiny amount of time showing ‘clear and convincing evidence’ of regret over how your actions might have been perceived (we don’t all appreciate touching), or expressed regret at using drugs and encouraging illegal drug use in your students, maybe if you acknowledged your fiduciary responsibility to your students and how that may have affected their responses to you…. Maybe you’d be a tiny bit believable as a victim. All I hear is crying that you were mistreated. And at least one prof has come forward to say how you tried to deceive us by misrepresenting her. I wonder how many others there are? W French Anderson, convicted child molestor, also had many supporters and those in the field who stood up for him. Having a bunch of folks write that you were a good guy to them doesn’t erase any harm you might have done to another. Smokescreen much? You fail to address your own severely bad egregiously horrid behavior in failing to acknowledge your influence over students while you appear to encourage drug use. Psychological illness? I call it criminal behavior and last time I checked cocaine use was a crime in CA.

      • Igee: According to Lathem, the report said the complainants’ claims were “not credible” and that the full record “argues strongly against a finding of sexual harassment.” I have no idea if this is true. But this judgment goes much farther than saying the allegations were “not proven.” People tend to make up their minds in cases like this without knowing the facts. I keep an open mind.

    • “Their communications were often very personal and their humor ribald. However, during this academic year, both parties appeared to be willing participants.””

      ^ The fact that your student appeared to consent to these conversations does not make them any less inappropriate! And this also goes against your original statement that your remarks were being unfairly seen as sexual due to your sexual orientation, you can’t have it both that your remarks were innocent but even if they weren’t it’s ok because your student didn’t protest them. The responsibility was on YOU to not make these remarks in the first place and to not cross the line. It has nothing to do with you being gay or not.

      “Although [Complainant #2] described some level of discomfort during her testimony, the Committee found this testimony to be inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence. In addition, although the testimony is clear that
      Professor Latham put his arm around her waist at the party at her home, the Hearing Committee does not believe there is clear and convincing evidence that the gesture was sexual (according to Complainant #2) as opposed to appropriate between good, but platonic, friends (according to Professor Latham).”

      ^ Holy smokes Professor, putting your arms around the waists of students like that is, again, NOT APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR for a prof, regardless of whether it seemed welcome or not or whether you meant it to be sexual or not. You may protest any pattern of harassment but these two items alone spell out a pretty clear pattern of either ignoring boundaries or not being aware of them, which you should be! This is confirmed with your own posting:

      “However, when viewed in the overall context of the full exchange
      among the parties, they are not beyond the boundary of what would usually transpire
      between Professor Latham and his students. Professor Latham was strikingly unguarded in his communications regarding sexual matters.”

      Students are not your friends, even in social settings you should not be treating your interactions with them any different than when in the classroom/workplace, they should ALWAYS be above reproach. Sexual discussions about yourself or these students is not appropriate, it should not have to be spelled out!

      This isn’t even getting into your allusions to substance abuse and what you did while under the influence, if you were EVER intoxicated around students to the point that it affected your judgement, or ever did so in the classroom/workplace, you crossed the line AGAIN. The fact that you can’t see this and continue to defend yourself as if it’s just a conspiracy against you is deeply troubling. It looks like the school admin did the right thing and none too soon.

      • It’s interesting how many people who support this professor are unhesitatingly posting under their own names, while others are hiding behind pseudonyms. That’s got to tell you something. Also if you read what the Committee apparently said, it was not simply that these students did not voice any objections but that they “enthusiastically” participated in “ribald humor.” Quick, call the cops! I am very happy that my own MA advisor treated me like a friend, allowed me to speak to her about my personal life and problems and shared her own personal stories with me, even though apparently in today’s university system, I could have brought charges against her for doing so.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head, Sunhawk. Many comments get to this notion that there has been “no pattern of behavior” consistent with sexual harassment. What they’re missing is that there has been a pattern of behavior that is incredibly inappropriate in a mentor/advisee relationship. The balance of power in such interactions is always in the favor of the professor, because the student may feel compelled to humor him or her in order to remain in good favor with that mentor.

        A professor should always be aware of the power he or she has in those relationships and take caution against crossing lines that could, in the end, lead to the outcomes like those we are witness to in this event. And of course, as you point out, one should treat these relationships as professional ones. It’s fine to be friendly with one’s students and develop a good rapport with them, but crossing the line by procuring and using controlled substances with your students, becoming intoxicated in their presence, or simply trying too hard to be friends with them is a recipe for disaster.

      • @Tomas it’s a shame you feel the need to suggest the only reason someone has to use a pseudonym is for nefarious purposes, I would have used my full name but the only way to do so on this WordPress blog was to log in with Facebook which I don’t like doing for various boring technical reasons. But I also support those who use pseudonyms as a means of protecting themselves, if nothing else from the various “men’s rights advocates” who regularly appear on any blog that posts about sexual assault to stalk and harass female posters, doxx them and try to get them fired from work, etc. For some, using their legal name is not a privilege they get to enjoy, welcome to being an often-targeted demographic on the internet! We are often viciously punished for saying things that people, often men, don’t like!

        But let’s not get too derailed here about names instead of what’s being said. Are you telling me you’ve never been in a situation where you felt compelled to pretend you liked something because you didn’t want to offend someone or couldn’t afford to? That you’ve never succumbed to peer pressure or felt intimidated to not to make waves in a group situation? When I was in school, I was on equally friendly terms with my profs, we sometimes even went out as a group to grab a beer at the student pub, and yes we talked about all sorts of personal subjects. But not about my sex life or other equally inappropriate subjects. And when it came to academics, I was not given my grades on the basis of how good we got along, and I’m hoping your MA was equally careful to never let their personal feelings sway whether you passed an assignment or test, because that would have been super unprofessional.

        That’s one of the lines I’m talking about here. We all know these lines, that are there to make sure that those with power in a situation are not tempted to abuse that power for their own betterment at the expense of those they are responsible for. But sadly some profs do cross that line, and students are aware of this, and aware that some profs are just jerks or equally not suitable for teaching but that’s the course the student needs to take to graduate or get that co-op so they suck it up and try to just pass the course. That’s why it’s not hard at all to believe some students may give the impression they are OK with all sorts of behaviors or situations that they are secretly not. They are just trying to protect themselves. Just like people who prefer not to use their legal name online.

        That’s why it’s so important that it not always be until a student complains for a prof’s behavior to be retified or the prof taken to task. Asking students to put their own academic careers at risk in the *hope* that someone will believe them is hugely unfair to them. It’s hard enough to speak out against behaviors that are still often accepted in society (ie men touching women without their permission ahead of time) without doing so in a way that puts someone’s livelihood at real risk. Even the tidbits of the hearing that Rob has posted, there is all sorts of “he said/she said” judgements about whether someone was upset because they didn’t SEEM upset, as judged by people hearing a second-hand account, it’s ridiculous because it doesn’t even matter! Touching students, making sexual jokes with them, these are not ok things to do period! How the student responded to these grossly inappropriate actions is immaterial period!

      • Exactly. I would never presume to touch my students or discuss sex with them. In fact I don’t discuss sex at work. Boundaries anyone? And the drugs? Please. That alone is grounds for termination. This guy doesn’t bother to even acknowledge that gosh just maybe his actions might have been offensive or harmful. Not even lip service to an apology. We all in academia know profs who are socially inappropriate with students. They don’t socialize with folks who are their own age or their employment ‘equals’ (other staff as opposed to students). Instead, under the guise of ‘being really down to earth and so accessible to budding young minds’ these socially stunted people develop a ‘fan club’ or try to. They prefer to socialize with those who cannot reject them due to the fact they work for them, and because they want to be the ‘big guys’ at the party’. They tend to select for certain traits in their students, so they can appear to be ‘nurturing’ vulnerable young people, heaping praise on the student who might feel flattered to receive such attention from this ‘higher up’. That’s also called grooming by predators… They are in fact using the students to feed their own narcissistic needs. All might not extend to sexual or drug abuse. What is clear is that these types of profs harm their students by setting very poor examples of boundaries, to serve their own selfish needs. Why does a grown man choose to play with kids; why not play with someone his own age? We all know these types. Once roped in, a student who after growing up a bit wants to exit finds its not so easy to gracefully do so bc of the dynamic established by the prof and their near complete dependence on their advisor for a reference. This is why you don’t socialize with your students. They are your employees not friends. I wouldn’t socialize with my students bc I know that they might not feel that they can set a boundary bc we are both aware this is not a relationship of equals with respect to power. I have power to fire them, refuse a reference, or to just cold shoulder them as a mentor. I wouldn’t do those things but bc of that power I have the responsibility to avoid any relationship other than a professional one. Additionally bc I am aware that these are very young adults I have the responsibility to model what constitutes an appropriate mentor/me tee relationship so that these kids have the confidence to set boundaries if needed, with less scrupulous individuals.

  22. To Rob Lathem’s loyal friends–I never heard of this professor until I saw this post. But you have known him so long and so well that you cannot be mistaken. So why are you confining yourself to testimonials in the comments section? Put your money where your mouth is! Rush to your chairs and tell them about this great opportunity to add to the luster of your department! Offer this man a job at your own school. Let him mentor and socialize with your own students. There’s no possible harm if he is as innocent as you all claim. (But you might want to retain a lawyer just in case).

    ps. to Tomas Cassandro: I can’t tell if you are naive or disingenuous but the fact that his former students are writing under pseudonyms reflects the very real threat of reprisal–likely incited by Lathem and his loyalists–for speaking out.

    • Hi “Jan.” What possible reprisal could these students face from a professor who has been dismissed from the university and who no longer works within the UC system, someone whose reputation has only been tarnished by this process? Instead, you might wonder about the sustained harassment suffered by graduate students still active within UCR’s English department who support Professor Latham. I can only hope that the English department is doing everything it can to ensure that Professor Latham’s supporters within the department are not facing the kinds of reprisals you seem to be so worried about here.

      • This professor has longtime friends in a number of fields in which his graduate students are working. Behind the scenes comments could destroy careers. In addition, since a lawsuit is already in the works, students who publicly come out and say something on the internet under their own names could be pulled into a legal situation.

  23. Like so many commenters here, I was a student of Professor Latham’s. However, unlike many of the commenters here, I was Rob’s student during the time of the allegations levied against him. I was present at many of the events mentioned by the administration and by the complainants, and I worked closely with Rob and many of the graduate students on campus who were involved in studying science fiction. I can state without hesitation that I never witnessed any attempt by Professor Latham to willingly or unwillingly endanger graduate students. Instead, I can tell you that many of the charges against Rob were demonstrably false.

    I’m not doing this to “re-traumatize” the complainants. I refuse to go into specific charges here, and I’m providing zero information about the complainants and their allies. I’m offering this statement in support of Professor Latham.

    But, honestly, my statement and many of the other statements above shouldn’t matter. Some, like the faculty of UCR and many of Latham’s former students, have already made up their minds about his guilt or innocence. You can believe his actions were appropriate or inappropriate regardless of your knowledge of the facts. What every reader of this blog should consider, however, is the actions of the administration.
    When Professor Doyle states that “conversation about the necessary, important and principled defense of tenure should be staged as far from this case as possible” she is quite wrong.

    An Academic Senate comprised of Professor Doyle’s own peers judged that Professor Latham should be placed on two years of unpaid leave for his actions. They also dismissed the majority of the charges against Professor Latham, finding “no clear and convincing evidence” to support the majority of the complainant’s charges. The Chancellor of UCR then decided to overrule the Academic Senate’s recommendation and dismiss Professor Latham, and recently Janet Napalitano and the UC Board of Regents decided to uphold that recommendation.

    What this means is that Professor Doyle, the faculty of the English Department at UCR, and several graduate students support the administration’s actions to override the Academic Senate, a panel comprised of their peers. These people have chosen to ignore the actual findings of the Academic Senate in favor of a narrative shaped solely by the administration and by their own opinion of Professor Latham.

    The way the administration at UCR directed the case against Professor Latham was flawed enough so that he will be bringing a civil suit against the university soon. The administration ignored my personal testimony and the testimony of several other faculty members, graduate students, and former graduate students who knew Rob well and could testify to the veracity of the complainant’s claims. The administration ignored several hundred pages of exculpatory evidence and ignored the findings of the Academic Senate in order to fire a tenured professor.

    It doesn’t really matter what your opinion of Professor Latham is. All of us should care about the ability of the administration to ignore the body designed to maintain a balance of power between itself and the faculty in order to fire a tenured professor who presented clear and convincing evidence that the majority of the charges brought against him were false.

    • Again, the failure of a charge to meet the ‘clear and convincing’ std doesn’t mean that the prof showed ‘clear and convincing’ evidence they were false. Apples and oranges. One is a failed std that doesn’t prove innocence. Doesn’t prove anything. It is a failure to make a case, which doesn’t ‘prove’ innocence just as it doesn’t prove guilt. What you state is that Latham proved with clear and convincing evidence that the charges were false. That would be the equivalent of Latham bringing charges that these complainants knowingly providing false testimony and that there was ‘clear and convincing’ evidence that his claims were found to be true. Did Latham bring such a counter claims? Was the decision in support? No evidence for that. Careful in your phrasing you appear to be victim blaming.

  24. Wow, the new Puritans are put in force here. You would think they were talking about kindergarteners, not adult graduate students in their mid- to late 20s (or older). Maybe ya’ll think grad students should be treated like kindergarteners, their virgin ears untainted by a salty joke, their small vulnerable bodies protected from a friendly hug or a pat on the shoulder. Good lord, I am so glad I’m not a university teacher in this environment.

  25. First, to Deborah Willis:

    Your wholesale condemnation of Professor Latham, only to be followed by your claims of confidentiality after you were challenged, is emblematic of the radically unfair treatment this case has received from the start. I would think that you, as someone who studies witchcraft and witch hunts, would be a little more alive to the processes in which accusations are abused.

    You know, as well as I do that the vast majority of the charges originally brought against Professor Latham were dropped by the administration as their witnesses’ credibility vanished, and most of the remaining ones were dismissed by the Faculty Senate. The Senate made it very clear in their report that the students who opened this case were not credible and had knowingly brought false charges. Are you saying the English department stands by these students’ demonstrably false charges? Are you saying you applaud the students for bringing false charges?

    Why, instead, do you not stand with all the students who told you (and the administration and the Faculty Senate and the ombudsman) that these complainants were lying? These students, and there are many of them, are now bereft that their friend and advisor has been fired, and they are in great distress because of this supposed departmental consensus being forced upon them, published as if they agreed with it? They are out in the cold now, their advisor gone, afraid to come to campus and be attacked by the complainants for testifying In Latham’s behalf, cowed by what they see as a Stalinist atmosphere in the department. Aren’t you saying in this statement that you do not stand with them? Why not? These are, in fact, student victims, real student victims of this process. How do you think this departmental statement makes these students feel? Safe?

    (By the way, a brief digression: I said “friend and advisor” above, and I see in some of the comments here what is the burgeoning consensus that professors should have a relationship with graduate students that precludes friendship. I don’t know about you, but I was friends with two professors on my committee, and since PhDs take 10 years to complete — the national average in English — I think it is a shame to think that fully grown adults working in close proximity to each other for a decade should be barred from being friends with each other; nonetheless, in the puritanical, witch-hun atmosphere we find ourselves in, I find I have, under the subtle pressure and pervasive fear in this university, stopped having actual friendships with my graduate students. I don’t think there is any way to see this as an improvement in the learning environment or the scholarly community.)

    You say,”all procedures governing the disciplinary process at UCR were followed carefully,” and yet the opposite is true. Here is my understanding: the initial investigation was bungled so badly that (a) the UCR Title IX officer mishandled the case and needed to recuse herself; (b) the administration hired not a Title IX investigator to replace her, but a termination firm, whose report was so one-sided and prejudicial that the Faculty Senate refused to accept it into evidence; (c) an administrator who is and has never been a faculty member, and with whom Professor Latham had locked horns in the past (over the deaccession of special collections in Latham’s field and the forcing into retirement of the librarian in charge of the collection), was in too much of a rush to judgment to wait for the Vice Provost for Administrative Resolution, a faculty member who was out for minor surgery, and whose job it was, to proceed with the case — it was this man who authored the homophobic charging document; (d) this same person harassed students, calling them late at night at home, trying to get them to testify against Latham; they came to me for help and I suggested they tell you, their chair and the ombudsman, which they did; (e) a half dozen of these students went together to complain about this harassment to the ombudsman; neither you nor the chair referred the matter to the Title IX office or otherwise acted on their complaints, as far as anyone can tell from the available records (f) when the Faculty Senate asked this administrator whether he had entered into the mediation strongly recommended by the Faculty Code of Conduct, he lied to them, saying the mediation was going well, and only then set up a “mediation” session; (f) that supposed mediation session consisted of giving Professor Latham a single option — immediate resignation with nothing — and when he declined, the representatives of UCR threatened exposure with a bizarre ransom note-like visual aid, which several attorneys have concluded constituted felony extortion; (g) this same person coordinated testimony among the complainants, entered documents he knew to be doctored into the record, quietly disappeared some of their most obviously untrue charges between the Title IX report and the charging document, and again between the filing of the charging document and hearing itself; (h) he also told students — falsely — that they were obligated to testify to the termination specialist, which person, while posing as an attorney and a Title IX investigator, was licensed neither as a Title IX investigator nor an attorney in the state of California; (i) this fake Title IX investigator has conveniently “lost” her notes for the interviews she had with the complainants after taking Prof. Latham’s testimony, when, his lawyer suspects, she coached them on how to address the facts he presented that contradicted their stories — I could go on. This was a corrupt mess in every possible way.

    I will also say that I have never seen a departmental chair (or ex-chair) go public on a personnel matter like this, something that is in itself is quite shocking. And I think it is important to note that although the statement from the department that you quote above won a vote at a meeting, it is far from representing the views of the department. I don’t know who Aaron Barlow talked to who said that ‘contentious’ was a mild word to describe that meeting — it wasn’t me; I have had no communication at all with him — but let me just say that that is my understanding, too, that many people in that meeting strongly disagreed with the content of the statement, and strongly opposed publishing it. As self-appointed spokesperson for the department, will you share with us the dissenting opinion, and what it was based on? The utter disregard for those faculty members who disagreed, and more importantly the lack of consideration for the many students who are directly hurt by it, is inexcusable.

    Prof. Doyle:

    You talk about Latham’s “victims” as if the complainants charges of harassment were sustained. THEY WERE NOT. So they are not victims. I notice you do not seem to worry about the “victim” in your own case. That student left the program in disgrace, but that is OK, because why? These comments of yours are slanderous, and, I assume, libelous, too, since you know better — you know enough about the case to know that you are intentionally misrepresenting it, playing to an audience that doesn’t know what you and I and the student complainants and the Faculty Senate and Prof Latham all know. Your dramatic claims about harassment as entertainment: YOU KNOW that the harassment charges were dismissed. Why are you pretending otherwise?

    Ryan Sullivan:

    You write movingly about the distress among graduate students, but I think you are disingenuous in saying you are not talking about the accusations; you are implying that these outward signs of trauma are the result of sexual harassment, aren’t you? Don’t you have to reassess what all these emotional signs mean now that you know that these students’ sexual harassment claims were found to be not credible? Isn’t it distinctly possible that their distress was due to their fear of being found out as frauds, their fear of lawsuits, their panic at finding themselves in the path of the snowball they themselves had started rolling? Yes, it was difficult to tell the story over and over and over, because they couldn’t remember how they told it each time; in fact, the record shows that their stories changed significantly each time they told them — they had no memory to rely on, because they were making it up!

    I have no doubt that, as you say, the department is suffering from a ripple of distrust, uncertainty, and fear. You have the mendacious students to thank for that, and the lack of leadership in the department, and the overzealous administration out to bag some big game faculty. You say, “In the wake of all of this, we have already begun to rebuild. We are a stronger, healthier community. In solidarity, we persist.” But in saying that, you are forgetting about all the students now in hiding from this “community,” as discussed above. And you should read Nietzsche and Rene Girard on the scapegoat and then see how these sentences sound to you.

    Steve Jones:

    No, these are not powerless people, and they have proved it. They had the power to destroy a man’s career out of momentary spite. Go look at the hundreds and hundreds of students on Facebook talking about how important Professor Latham’s mentorship was to them over this last twenty years, and see if you can find (re your Cosby reference) dozens and dozens of victims coming out in the sunlight. That is what the administration expected, and yet they could not find a single other student willing to lodge a complaint, while dozens rushed to defend him from the people they knew (because in many cases they were very close friends of theirs, at least until this all happened) were lying about their supposed trauma. The professor, at this point, had absolutely no power — he was banned from campus and nobody had seen him for six months, and nobody expected him to come back.

    People are still holding on to some pre-Title IX notion of powerless students and all-powerful professors; if nothing else, this case proves that students now hold all the power. They are making professors, staff, and administrators resign all over the country. And here, students were proven by an investigation to be knowingly misrepresenting fact after fact, and yet even though their testimony was not found credible because contradicted by abundant other witness testimony, still they prevailed, and ruined a professor’s career. Who has the power in this scenario? Who is scared right now, me or the graduate students? I have no power over any of these students, and yet any one of them can have me fired. Friends, in fact, told me not to post this, that I was crazy to take the risk. After all, Prof. Latham spent $70,000 defending himself, while the students had the university’s lawyers helping them. The students still have health insurance, while Latham doesn’t. Your sense of the power of the professor is completely out of date.

    As Tony Canberra said above, “This is typical in Title IX cases. Confidentiality tends to protect the accusers, never the accused. There is no penalty whatsoever in the system as it exists for bringing false charges. Maybe the rest of the English faculty took the stand they did out of sheer self-preservation. All teachers these days have targets on their backs for students with a grudge.” I guess I just made mine larger.

    And Tom McGarrity and Marilyn Carter, you are right. The larger context is more important than this case. The current UCR administration has shown itself to be hostile to shared governance, overriding the faculty’s recommendations in the choice of the provost and deans, attempting to change the title of lecturers to Teaching Professors in order to obscure the distinction between tenure track and non-tenure track faculty, instituting a hiring plan that takes hiring decisions away from departments and colleges and puts them in the hands of the central administration. This is part of the war on tenure, pure and simple, part of the full corporatization of the university, the reduction of faculty to employees with no say in the future of their own institutions or even departments. What better way to strike fear into the faculty than to fire one of them on the flimsiest of pretexts of student protection.


    I just had my partner read this and was told that under no circumstances should I risk a Title IX investigation and lose my job, and so I am going to post it under an assumed name. My partner knows that any student or administrator in the university can haul me up on charges, and cost us $70,000, meanwhile risking absolutely nothing themselves, even if the charges are completely false. I am a senior full professor at UCR, and I have come to the sad conclusion that my tenure no longer means squat, and as a result I can no longer both hold on to my job and exercise my free speech rights, express my own opinions in my own person. It’s a sad state of affairs, and I apologize for not standing up to be counted, for my last minute cowardice. But can you blame me?

    • Dear Prof. Cautious,

      First, you call out many who have stood up and used their names, yet you yourself do not. This should speak volumes. If you are indeed a UCR professor, and you believe this is a conversation that should be had, stage it and stand by your statements.

      Second, before responding to your direct comments: Your final paragraph shows a complete and utter lack of thought. You say “any student or administrator in the university can haul me up on charges, and cost us $70,000, meanwhile risking absolutely nothing themselves, even if the charges are completely false.” This statement could not be more untrue or ridiculous. You grossly underestimate the vulnerable position of graduate students. Many students never make a claim, or end quickly into one, because of the emotional and mental trauma that comes with one. They face the distrust of peers, the constant questioning of who might support them and who might not. And even after such is over, they are told by administration to not say a word or risk lawsuit. More than anything, they risk their careers or potential careers, especially in a climate where so few allegations make through title ix, and even fewer are acted on.

      Two years ago I witnessed a partner in the position of working with an abusive professor on a different campus. Nothing was done by people I knew well because friendships were involved. I witnessed the impact first hand, watching the person I loved most in the world self-harm and spiral. Your dismissive comments show a complete misunderstanding and utter ignorance.

      Finally, as to your direct comments:

      First–I imply no such thing, nor is my claim disingenuous. You read it in such a way as an attempt to dismiss it, which I can’t help, but my statement is simply about the climate of the department during this time. Your attempts to construe my statements shows a clear desire to bait me, however, into an argument about the the accusations, which I will not dignify or engage with. No matter what the situation was, or the process, or the results, my statement still stands and represents the feeling of the time. It is your prerogative to read as you wish, but I am not responsible for that reading.

      Second–Finding “a lack of clear and convincing evidence” does not, in fact, comment on whether an event happened or not–it comments on a committees opinion. Perhaps you should read more Nietzsche on perspective. This is not an accusation, nor an implication, but a correction to your statement. These words are used in such reports for a reason, and we should not misconstrue them.

      Finally–Until you can speak from the position of a grad student in the present climate and job market, truly knowing what the stakes are for coming forward, and until you go back in time and experience it from within the department, don’t make claims about something you don’t know.

      If you wish wish to address me personally in the future, have the dignity to stand by what you say by name.

      And finally, I am not your student, thank god, so don’t tell me what to read.

      • Wow, if this is the level of intelligence of the supporters of these students, and this kind of unreflective, kneejerk, self-righteous victimization is their common posture, then I perfectly understand why a professor would fear them. Contrary to this student’s claims, I have seen many friends have their lives ruined by Title IX investigations based on false charges brought by disgruntled students. It happens all the time. I suspect you will never get a job anyway, not with these argumentative skills, so hey, why not destroy the life of someone who has one?

      • Dear Ryan,

        Your anger here and willingness to lash out prove that I was right to remain anonymous, and prove that the picture you want to draw of traumatized, trembling-flower graduate students, too fearful of faculty (like me) to make accusations, too afraid of reprisals to speak out, is a bunch of hooey. .

        In the “current climate and job market” UCR’s English department was very lucky to have a professor like Latham, who helped his students get up to speed professionally — build a broad and deep foundation in the discipline, develop a compelling research agenda, learn the profession, make the contacts, get the publications — and thus get jobs. He had the largest number of advisees and by far the best placement record on the faculty.


        And briefly, to Dazed and Confused and Soma26:

        Without risking exposing the identities of the (yes, Marie Reilly, fully adult) students, the inciting incident seems to be Prof. Latham telling one of them that he had decided he should no longer act as the student’s director, but simply a member of the committee — reassuring the student that he would continue to help with publication and fellowship opportunities and the like. Because the student had been overstepping boundaries in numerous ways, Latham felt it best to bring in a different director for the student’s exams and dissertation. That’s why I called it a fit of momentary Oedipal rage, which the student had no way of knowing would be exploited by the administration in this way. Through the whole process, I kept having an impulse to go to these students and say, hey, you could stop this, he’s been humiliated enough don’t you think, and financially punished enough, don’t you think? But of course I could not, as it could be construed as retaliation, intimidation, whatever, rather than the kind gesture it would have been; this is a bad thing for these students’s futures, obviously, especially once it goes to court.

        The “didn’t want to ride the student too hard” comment was one of a thousand lines similarly plucked from emails and text messages and social media to build the “case.” When asked in the hearing if he really thought the use of the word “touchy” in one communication was evidence that Latham was physically touching students, the administrator (whether as a New Puritan or a New Machiavellian or New Homophobe or some combination is unclear to me) said “I thought it was a distinct possibility.” This is a sex scandal in which there was no sex except in the administrators’ imaginations.

        And these complainants are students who were extremely comfortable with, in fact very performative about their sexuality. They not only “enthusiastically participated in” sexualized banter, it was central to their self-presentation among their peers — and I dare a single one of their supporters to deny this characterization by the Faculty Senate; it was certainly true in my experience with them. They have since scrubbed their Facebook pages, but the Senate transcripts have plenty of screenshots. This all makes for very salacious reading, since they engaged in their everyday way of speaking, without censoring themselves, with Latham, which, being anything but Puritanical himself, Latham responded to in kind, and these exchanges, especially when divorced from the ongoing professional conversation it punctuated, can give a sense from the outside of wildly “inappropriate” discourse (that word the perfect witch-hunt tool). I could say much more about this, but not, again, without making it too easy to identify the students. Just trust that the most egregious examples of student-initiated discourse recast as the harassment of innocents are not yet known by most people in the department, and won’t be revealed until it goes to trial in civil court. Then we’ll see who wants to stand up to be counted.

        There are, I should say, some very good professors in the English department who are the opposite of “vicious, misguided, dysfunctional” people, who have their students’ and colleagues’ best interests at heart, and who never went along with this demonization of Latham. And there are many wonderful, smart, accomplished, functional grad students, some of whom have commented here. The faculty did not want to throw Latham off campus just before he was to teach the last class of the quarter; the faculty did not want this to escalate; the administration and a graduate student friend of the complainants — like Ryan Sullivan, completely unafraid of reprisal — were the agitators for immediate removal. And in the meantime, rumors have been circulating — one recently relayed to me was that Latham was exchanging fellowships for sex (and again: THERE WAS NO SEX! and Latham had no fellowships to bestow!). And we all know how academic envy works, don’t we? Latham was very successful in the profession, and very popular with grad students. There were people who just loved watching him go down in defeat.

        (I imagine my upcoming hearing: Administration: “Isn’t it true, Professor Cautious, that you accused the English faculty of voyeurism, claiming that they ‘loved watching’ Professor Latham ‘go down’ on students?” Prof. Cautious: “No, I ….. seriously?”)

        And Ryan’s reference to the job market is apropos — the UCR administration has noisily announced the hiring of 300 new professors, 90% in STEM fields, none in English, not even to address attrition: a shrinking pie (not just locally, but nationally) always brings out the worst in people — the rats gone down the maze only to find no cheese. We all know the scarcity of opportunity for this generation in general, and for this generation of PhD candidates in particular. Combine that with the enormous sense of over-entitlement of the helicopter-parented portion of this generation, and an administration hell-bent on concentrating all power in the academic 1%, and you get the “present climate.”

      • @Prof. Dejectedly Cautious

        ** “And these complainants are students who were extremely comfortable with, in fact very performative about their sexuality. They not only “enthusiastically participated in” sexualized banter, it was central to their self-presentation among their peers …. his all makes for very salacious reading, since they engaged in their everyday way of speaking, without censoring themselves, with Latham, which, being anything but Puritanical himself, Latham responded to in kind, and these exchanges, especially when divorced from the ongoing professional conversation it punctuated, can give a sense from the outside of wildly “inappropriate” discourse (that word the perfect witch-hunt tool).” **

        The fact that you think this is some sort of “gotcha!” detail and not evidence of your own inappropriate opinions is more telling than you know. This is the essence of a “they were asking for it by what they wore/what they said” victim-blaming attitude. And since you need it spelled out, what makes it inappropriate is not the sexual content in and of itself but that a professor – someone with authority and significant age difference over these students – participated in this “banter” without seeming to acknowledge that imbalance of power and how it put everyone involved at risk. And if you need it spelled out further, these types of little pushes, little crossing of the line where sex or personal space are involved, making people just a little bit uncomfortable, these are often the beginner actions of a social predator who does so to test and see what they can get away with and who is the best target for their abuse.

        These students are not children but they are still young and still lacking the life experience to either recognize abuse in its earlier stages or the confidence to stand up against it, even when it gets really bad. So a teacher who doesn’t respect social or personal boundaries is teaching a dangerous precedent to these students, even if this teacher doesn’t abuse the student themselves, they are normalizing a type of behaviour that someone else, maybe even another prof, will use to abuse their own students.

        And before you continue to scoff at the harm this behaviour could have for students, here are some examples of recent incidents of profs abusing students (warnings for self-harm, substance abuse, coarse language, etc):


        How these students talked amongst themselves doesn’t matter at all, it’s still no excuse for a teacher to join in. And the fact that you tried to make some sort of point that these students are too obviously sexual, as your remarks suggest, to the point that you are trying to use it to blame for their teacher’s behavior, I’m starting to think I get why you aren’t putting down your name, because if I were a school admin reading your remarks, I would start looking more closely at how YOU treat YOUR students. You seriously don’t think Rob’s behaviour ever crossed the line and wasn’t worth being taken to task? Do YOU trade sexual jokes with your students?

      • This Sunhawk creature is very very scary. It is precisely this sort of puritanical Stalinism that is destroying academia. You were smart to post under a pseudonym, Dejectedly Cautious, because this creepy troll is directly threatening you. He/she/it is pretending to do this out of concern for victimized students, but you can feel the lust for power in every sentence this creature writes. Students, beware of so-called champions like this.

      • “And if you need it spelled out further, these types of little pushes, little crossing of the line where sex or personal space are involved, making people just a little bit uncomfortable, these are often the beginner actions of a social predator who does so to test and see what they can get away with and who is the best target for their abuse.”


      • (This blog is set up strangely, why can’t we reply to posts directly sometimes? Some posts have a reply link and others do not)

        @Toni Mancuso – If the subject matter wasn’t so serious, I would pinch your tiny adorable cheeks, do you know how ridiculous you sound when you call me a scary creature who lusts for power? If you don’t have anything serious to contribute to the discussion, how about you not try to derail by making weird assumptions about me based on your self-generated hysteria. I made no threats, I asked questions and expressed my concerns over any teacher suggesting that sexual remarks are normal and OK from teachers to students being in an active position in academia and pointed out that it’s likely I am not the only person who feels that way. I would like nothing better than for the dejected prof to tell me I’ve got it all wrong and he’d never flirt or trade sex jokes with students or any of the other inappropriate incidents that have been referred to over the course of this blog post and comments. Commenting on the harmful nature of teachers disrespecting boundaries with students and abusing their position of trust as a teacher is not “puritanical Stalinism” or whatever outdated buzzwords from the 60’s you care to try to throw at me.

      • Exactly. And I’ve witnessed situations where faculty and admin acknowledged a students claims as real but advised them against taking action. Bc the student almost never ends up without damage. Future employers view them as possible troublemakers. There is almost always the message to just buck up and move on. Anyone commenting differently is either unfamiliar with the 19th century nature of the reality of sexual harassment in academia or else just living with their head in the sand. I’ve been in academia nearly 30yrs. I’ve almost never seen the student walk away unscathed after being mistreated. I’ve seen the profs get away with offenses that were criminal in some cases. Protected by a system that protects those who bring in the grant money and protecting their own dept image. The student has to hear about bad things said about them, when they see colleagues at conferences, etc. there is enormous pressure to remain quiet. Hence the pseudonyms. There’s no way I’d post these thoughts under my own name. Bc the profs I’ve seen abuse people (including g myself when I was a student) would figure quickly who I was referring to. Anyone who knew me would know. Why would I do that to myself or the others that I’ve witnessed be abused? We don’t live in a sunny idealist utopia where we can’t be targeted for bringing these discussions out.

    • I can’t say I agree to this claim- I was preparing a response, including some very specific citations to events that our professor friend should remember if he’s been at Riverside as long as he says he has (they happened in the department next door), but ultimately could not because of fear of reprisals by faculty.

      • GRL — You don’t agree with the claim being made against Latham, or with “dejectedly cautious prof’s” arguments against said claim?

      • The latter, and, to be more precise, the claims made about the relative power of graduate students and faculty under Title IX.

  26. Reading through these comments, my only thought is that this professor is much better off no longer being in such a vicious, misguided, dysfunctional department. I have never seen such a level of spite in my life. This sort of department culture would traumatize anyone.

    • Yes, it isn’t often that you get to watch a department melt down in real time. Usually it takes at least a decade.

  27. “Dejectedly cautious”: You say that Prof. Latham was fired out of “spite,” but what reasons did his student accusers have to be spiteful towards him? If they’re being dishonest, what was their motivation? I understand that the administration may have been holding a grudge against Latham, but why were these students?

  28. I just want to know: is it true that the UCR administration brought a charge of sexual harassment based on a message saying that a professor “didn’t want to ride a student too hard”? Leaving aside the fact that yes, if that happened, it’s clearly homophobic, it’s also pretty hard to believe. I mean, I’ve known some dumb administrators, but none quite that dumb.

    • Do you think an email to a female student from a straight male teacher saying, “You’re a thoroughbred, kiddo, and I have to be careful not to ride you too hard and fast,” wouldn’t be read as inappropriate?

      • You mean I shouldn’t tell my female students, “You’re an intellectual fertile crescent, honey, and I’ll have to be careful not to plow you too hard. If you’ll forgive the agricultural metaphor.”?

        What sort of New Puritanism is this, anyway? All these precious snowflakes just want to be coddled.

  29. Is the “plow you” (yuck) expression really the fairest analogy? “Ride you too hard” has a potentially non-sexual meaning; your example does not.

    This doesn’t necessarily clear the prof. of a predatory intent, of course. I’d be curious to how it fits in to the other “thousand lines similarly plucked from emails and text messages and social media” that “dejectedly cautious” mentions. Is this a representative example, or is it one the accused has handpicked because it can potentially be read innocuously?

    • The fact that someone was able to find either an actual thousand remarks or some number in the double or triple digits with the potential for misinterpretation if not outright harassment is not really the defence the dejected prof seems to think it is. A handful of remarks, less than ten let’s say, a case could be made for innocent misunderstanding. But that many over time like that, that’s not a mistake, that sounds more like one’s modus operandi.

  30. Dear Professor Lathem,

    I read your moving statement and all of the comments in this thread. You have my deepest sympathies. I went through something similar four years ago—fired from my university based on false charges of harassment, got no support from my incompetent department, and ran up against a trigger-happy administration.

    I sued, and a civil court reinstated me. The same thing can happen to you. As isolated as you may feel right now, you should know that tenure is your legal property, and if you were alienated from it by a biased and flawed process (as you allege), or if there was any abuse of discretion in the proceedings (as there seems to have been), a judge will overrule any official body, even the UC Board of Regents, and give you back your job. I’m sure you have good legal counsel and none of this is news to you, but I figured I’d just share my own experience.

    I didn’t pursue a civil lawsuit after I was reinstated, but it does appear that (if there is much more along the lines of the “ride you too hard too fast” business) you would be in an excellent position to sue the university for sexual orientation discrimination in employment, which is illegal in California.

    You should also consider targeted lawsuits. I sued a hostile colleague for defamation after he made false statements about my case in the press, and won a decent settlement. I don’t think you can sue your department for issuing that cowardly statement—although you might be able to sue your former chair for posting it here, since state courts take confidentiality in personnel matters very seriously (this is guaranteed by the privacy provisions in the state constitution).

    Your best option for a defamation suit would be Professor Doyle. If what you and Professor Cautious say is true about the harassment allegations being dismissed, then her statements above are clearly libelous. She doesn’t get to state her negative opinion about you publicly if the effect is to damage your reputation. In other words, you don’t have to take this sort of thing sitting down. Be proactive—take every measure you can to defend yourself.

    I would ignore the rest of the trolls on here (especially this Starhawk kook)—their comments are pure noise and won’t matter a damn in a court of law. In my experience, people talk a good game until they have to tell it to the judge. The UC may make a big show of confidence and keep trying to bully you, but having to take a bullshit case to court will change their tune real fast.

    Keep your chin up. I wish you all the best.

  31. ATTENTION PLEASE: This is a toxic thread. I urge the UCR professors who have commented with their real names to refrain from further discussion here, and warn others to stay away. You may visit/return to see that things have been said that you feel strongly compelled to respond to. Know that there has been a great deal of casually threatening talk thus far, and this is not the place to make a stand. Confidentiality has already been violated. No Mod on Duty. Please be safe.

  32. It is very hard to understand how a department that wants the profession to take it seriously would align itself with an administration so apparently corrupt in order to stand up for two students who were determined to have lied by the Faculty Senate. There must be much more behind this story that hasn’t been told. Or perhaps this is just one of those spasms of madness that grips a department from time to time. Usually, these spasms don’t become such an ugly public spectacle. Speaking for myself, I don’t see how the Riverside English Department will manage to live this down. Whatever one may think of Professor Latham, the abrogation of tenure and shared governance in this case is so rare — and so concerning for all of us — that a fuller explanation than Profs Willis and Doyle have given here is absolutely essential.

    • Will Riverside live this down? Well the University of NC, Princeton, and the University of Chicago just lowered the bar.

  33. I was the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) who hired Rob Latham to build up a cluster program in Science Fiction Studies (SFS). We hired Rob as the result of an exhaustive, international search to be the founding faculty member charged with developing SFS at UCR into a world-class program. He was extremely successful in doing so, and today CHASS houses one the very best places in the world for the graduate study in SF. I do not want to belabor the critical role that Rob played in creating and nurturing SFS at UCR but I do want to thank him and give him his due for all he has done. I also want to point out that Rob is a titan in his field, a fact our chancellor may not have fully appreciated when he decided to fire Rob. Rob has made such enormous contributions to the overall life of the university that it seems almost spiteful on behalf of those who wish him to be completely removed from the thing he loves doing most in life, especially given the already harsh punishment recommended by the Academic Senate. It would seem to me that this is a time for leadership to show forgiveness and grace, but graciousness is not a trait our current administration values.

  34. It’s not clear to me the grounds on which the Faculty Senate based its two-year suspension of the accused, given its dismissal of the sexual harassment charge. It’s an aspect of the case that none of the accused defenders, even “dejected and cautious,” have directly addressed. Considering that the Senate’s written dismissal of the sexual harassment charge has been widely quoted, I’m surprised this hasn’t also come out.

    • I thought it was clear that it had to do with violation of the university’s substance abuse policy.

  35. I figured that was probably it, but I wonder what the extent of the charge was. Did the Senate make a ruling on whether the accused had actually shared drugs with students, for example?

      • Well, if that’s on record it seems like it would make any civil suit more likely to be dismissed.

      • The problem is the equal protection issue. If this guy got fired for doing drugs with students, then UC has to show a judge that other UC professors have been fired for similar offenses. If not–if instead they were given, say, mandatory rehab–then there’s still a civil case here.

    • Cross-posted from a comment on Instinct Magazine’s article on the story:


      I am a colleague of Rob’s posting under a pseudonym because the atmosphere at UC Riverside right now is toxic. The “ride you too hard too fast” comment was only the tip of the homophobic iceberg. Here are a few more tidbits from UCR’s charging documents:

      1. A text Rob sent to the male student apologizing for “getting touchy” after an argument was interpreted by the administration to refer to an act of *literal* touching.

      2. The administration referred to Rob’s relationship with the student as a “sugar daddy” set-up and said Rob invited him to gay bars to “show him off to the Riverside queens.”

      3. The administration speculated that Rob may have “set his sights” on the student as soon as he first met him.

      4. They said Rob “drew students in with lures” and then subjected them to “emotional and sexual predation.”

      5. There are persistent references in the charging documents to Rob’s “risky” and “reckless” lifestyle.

      And so on. It’s a classic 1950s “seduction of the innocent” scenario.

      Also, the student who initiated the harassment charges (which were found to be untrue) is very conflicted about his own sexuality, so his lashing out was pure homosexual panic that the UCR administration inflated into a witch-hunt.

      • You lost me at ‘seduction of the innocent’ being a 1950s scenario. Sounds like you’re implying that it’s no longer possible for predators to prey on the innocent? The things Latham admits doing are prime examples of grooming behaviors. The ‘lures’ comments etc you cite from administration appear consistent with lathams own comments about his lack of boundaries. Those in power have an obligation to avoid the very appearance of wrongdoing. This guy jumped into wrongdoing with both feet and both hands. By his own statements. Why is it gay panic? Bc gay men can’t be predators too? And why does no one seem to find it odd that this guy doesn’t have friends his own age? He fits the profile of a predator. And the drugs. Honestly how can you folks defend a guy who cries out for pity at his ‘psychological illness’ as he calls his addiction but never once expresses horror at his demonstrated behavior in encouraging his young charges into developing ‘psychological illnesses’ of their own? Where’s the caring paternal prof? If he had given a single line expressing ‘good golly o can’t believe I did drugs with folks I was supposed to be mentoring. Gosh I’d feel just oh so bad if one of them became an addict too.’ This guy is all ‘me me me me’. Followed by ‘me me’.

  36. His “poor judgment” divided a department and broke up friendships. Students who were friends with him willingly perjured themselves in his defense, claiming he wasn’t around when the drugs were or that he didn’t use them with him. He regularly had parties at his house with many of his students, and drugs were commonplace. Those students who told the truth about his actions and were honest in their testimonies found themselves on the outs with those who were too busy trying to stay friends with Latham. He used cocaine in full view of graduate students and provided it to others. Boundaries were crossed, and people were manipulated to provide a buffer for him.

    • Anon: You seem to think you know what you’re talking about. So if he’s being fired for drug offenses, then why are his colleagues quoted by name above saying he’s being fired for serial sexual harassment?

  37. For those who remember the UCR English department of the 1980s and 1990s, a time when a number of the professors herein were first employed at the university, that a member of the current department would be fired for sexual harassment of grad students comes as no shock at all. An actual deposition tracking all the hetero- and homosexual games played–between professors, professors’ spouses, grad students–would be an amazing document for the public to read even now…

  38. Yes, Igee Popp, you sound very homophobic. “Grooming behaviors”? LMAO. Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. Happily, your opinion means exactly squat in a court of law.

    • This from the Semiotexte catalogue:

      Campus Sex, Campus Security
      By Jennifer Doyle
      The management of sexuality has been sewn into the campus. Sex has its own administrative unit. It is a bureaucratic progression.
      —from Campus Sex, Campus Security

      The psychic life of the university campus is ugly. The idyllic green quad is framed by paranoid cops and an anxious risk-management team. A student is beaten, another is soaked with pepper spray. A professor is thrown to the ground and arrested, charged with felony assault. As the campus is fiscally strip-mined, the country is seized by a crisis of conscience: the student makes headlines now as rape victim and rapist. An administrator writes a report. The crisis is managed.

      Campus Sex, Campus Security is Jennifer Doyle’s clear-eyed critique of collegiate jurisprudence, in the era of campus corporatization, “less-lethal” weaponry, ubiquitous rape discourse, and litigious anxiety. Today’s university administrator rides a wave of institutional insecurity, as the process of administering student protests and sexual-assault complaints rolls along a Möbius strip of shifting legality. One thing (a crime) flips into another (a violation) and back again. On campus, the criminal and civil converge, usually in the form of a hearing that mimics the rituals of a military court, with its secret committees and secret reports, and its sanctions and appeals.

      What is the university campus in this world? Who is it for? What sort of psychic space does it simultaneously produce and police? What is it that we want, really, when we call campus security?

      [I believe this much more than I believe Doyle’s mendacious comments in this thread, which are diametrically opposed to what she says in her own book. “Today’s university administrator rides a wave of institutional insecurity, as the process of administering student protests and sexual-assault complaints rolls along a Möbius strip of shifting legality.” Indeed. “the criminal and civil converge, usually in the form of a hearing that mimics the rituals of a military court, with its secret committees and secret reports, and its sanctions and appeals.” Indeed. “The psychic life of the university campus is ugly.” Indeed.]


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