Rebecca Ora spoke during the public comment session of the Nov. 13 UC Board of Regents meeting, alleging that Regent George Kieffer grasped her leg under a table at a dinner in 2014. Ora is a doctoral candidate at UC Santa Cruz in the film and digital media department.
Kieffer was elected as a Regent in 2009 and served as Chair of the UC regents from 2017-18. Kieffer was present at the Nov. 13 meeting and gave a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle later that day.
“I was and am stunned by the allegation made about me at today’s UC Board of Regents meeting,” Kieffer told the Chronicle. “It simply did not happen. There is an independent process and a set of policies which address any complaints of this nature, and I have full confidence in that process.”
About three minutes into Ora’s statement, a buzzer marking the end of her allotted time went off. Anne Shaw, Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents, repeatedly spoke over Ora to tell her time was up. Ora persisted through these interruptions and grabbed the microphone after a disturbance not visible in the livestream caused it to move.
City on a Hill Press decided to publish Ora’s full statement. Read it below.
“On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, the night before the November regents meeting that year, George Kieffer took a group of students to dinner to lobby us to support the UC over the state in a tuition battle. Kieffer purchased wine for the table despite the undergraduate students present. I do not drink and did not drink that night, but Kieffer did.
At one point in the conversation, I was shocked to feel pressure on my upper thigh and looked down incredulous to find Kieffer’s hand firmly grasping my leg. This persisted throughout the evening. I was unsettled, uncomfortable and felt powerless to stop this figure of authority from putting his hands on my body. I told myself we were discussing the tuition of hundreds of thousands and I should not make a scene.
I did not immediately report what happened to me because, like so many others, I felt alone and ill-equipped to know how or whether to report given the significant power differential between a poor graduate student and a wealthy member of the Board of Regents. I tried to forget it had happened only to watch one powerful man after another in the UC system be revealed as a serial abuser.
While conduct varies from case to case, reports are consistently ignored, investigations delayed and harmful conduct condoned by the UC administration. The timelines of complaints against Gopal Balakrishnan and Dimitris Achlioptas at the UCSC campus are two such examples.
A year and a half ago I reported what happened to me because I do not believe the board responsible for overseeing the University of California, including how it responds to complaints of sexual harassment and violence, should be populated by those who engage in the same misconduct it supposedly condemns. As is the case for so many others, the reporting process has proven intensely traumatic.
Apparently, the UC regents have a policy all their own written by the regents which states that all complaints against a regent will be handled by the regents — in my case, John Pérez, Richard Sherman and Ellen Tauscher, later Cecilia Estolano — and with a clear focus on ensuring the utmost delicacy toward the powerful regent reported rather than the individual reporting. In the words of a Title IX employee, in the regents policy, I the complainant do not even exist.
Janet Napolitano, you have said publicly in this space that you and the University have no tolerance for these infractions. I know you’ve known about this case for well over a year, and nothing has been done.
While protecting the wealthy and powerful regents, this excruciating and interminable process continues to harm.
I was encouraged to informally resolve the matter so as to avoid an investigation. I’ve been told not to bother trying to fix the world and told to let it go. I’ve been excluded from committees because of Kieffer’s presence. I experience regular panic attacks and have fallen behind in my academic progress. I’m afraid of being hacked and of being harassed and followed, as I’m aware other reporters have been. I had to move. I’ve lost friends and relationships.
Until now I’ve tried to follow the appropriate process, but it has failed because it is fatally flawed. So I call upon students, UC workers and others made vulnerable by the UC system to demand George Kieffer’s immediate resignation. I call upon the state government of California to conduct real oversight of this body of co-conspirators that cares more about cronyism than it does the health and well-being of the vulnerable.
This has gone too far. We need resignation, we need policy change, we need punitive measures against the university and we need support for students who report.
George Kieffer, get the fuck off this board.”
— Rebecca Ora