The University of California-Santa Cruz has placed one of its professors on leave over allegations of making sexually charged remarks and calling a Muslim student a “terrorist.”
The action comes nearly one year after an unnamed Muslim student wrote an email to the engineering school dean against computer science professor Dimitris Achlioptas. The student alleged Achlioptas of calling him a “terrorist” and “Ay-rab,” and making inappropriate remarks regarding his beard and sexuality, The Mercury News reported.
Achlioptas is also accused of sexually harassing another student whose complaint has been referred to the Title IX and Academic Personnel offices for investigation, according to KSBW8 TV.
Students criticized the school over its handling of the complaints and said that action took months after the classmates first petitioned school officials. But, for the Muslim student, it was too late. He had already moved to another out-of-state university to restart his education.
Local Muslim community members strongly condemned Achlioptas’ behavior and termed it “disappointing.”
“It’s disturbing! It’s sad! And unfortunately, there’s a lot of negative threats against Muslims,” Houciae Ait Ahmed, with the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz Outreach, told KSBW8 TV.
“It’s never okay to have something like this but from a professor – someone you look up to – someone that our youngsters look as role models to calling their faces remind us of terrorists or outsiders, I think is very troubling,” Ahmed added.
Meanwhile, Achlioptas continues to maintain his innocence, saying that he believes the investigation will prove that he did nothing wrong.
“My client has confidence in the integrity of due process at UCSC, and is confident that he will be exonerated when the investigation that he violated the Faculty Code of Conduct ends,” Michael J. DeNiro, Achlioptas’ attorney, told The Mercury News.
The university has declined to make public any details related to the case and has said that its offices were already investigating and following up on the allegations.
“We understand our community’s alarm that our silence on this matter signals tolerance. This is simply untrue,” the statement reads. “The safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority, and we treat allegations of misconduct by anyone — faculty, staff, or students — with seriousness and care.”