UI professor accused of sexual assault for over two decades to resign in August


Photo courtesy of Weibo

Portrait of Gary Xu.

By Jessica Bursztynsky and Karen Liu

University tenured associate professor Gary Xu has been accused of sexually assaulting students for nearly 20 years.

The allegations were first posted on Douban, a Chinese online discussion forum, by a user who was identified as Wesleyan University professor Ao Wang.

While the original post did not explicitly name the accused, a later post from the same user disclosed Xu as the professor in question.

The original post claims Xu maintained inappropriate relationships with multiple students and had made unwanted advances toward several female colleagues of the accuser over the years.

According to the original post, Xu invited a student who was applying to study in the United States to his home in Beijing when he was in charge of admission and “forcibly cuddled” her upon meeting.

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    The original post also said a famous Chinese writer commented on Xu as “a wolf leading a pack of sheep” when he led a group of female students on an exchange trip to Beijing around 2001 to 2002, allegedly referring to Xu’s long-standing reputation.

    Following the allegations, Xu was removed from his position as the curator of the Shenzhen Biennale, an art exhibition focusing on urbanism and architecture.

    Xu, a professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, has been removed from the University directory.

    Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman, said Xu is not teaching any courses at the moment, but he will hold his tenured status until his resignation from the University on Aug. 16, in an email.

    The University investigates and takes appropriate action whenever conduct is reported that may jeopardize or impact the safety or security of our students or others,” Kaler said. “We are precluded, however, from discussing or disclosing the specifics of any such investigations.”

    In 2015, an anonymous article from a former student at the University, claiming she was in an abusive relationship with her professor, circulated on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.

    In the same year, a person filed an order of protection against Xu but the case was later dismissed, according to the Champaign Public Court Records.

    Additionally, an article in Sixth Tone, a Chinese media site, said a student reported Xu’s misconduct to the University in 2015. The Daily Illini has requested any potential filings through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Xu was granted sabbatical leave by the Board of Trustees first semester of 2015 to 2016 with full pay to finish a book project, according to the board’s meeting notes for March 12, 2015.

    Editor’s note: Gary Xu did not respond to request for comment. Ao Wang did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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    Correction: The Daily Illini redacted the plaintiff’s name from the court case mentioned.