Students call for professor’s resignation after sexual harassment accusations

By The Daily Illini staff report

The Student Bar Association is calling for the resignation of law professor Jay Kesan following accusations of sexual harassment.

Three accusers, including a former law student and two professors who no longer work at the University, have come forward and said Kesan sexually harassed them by discussing inappropriate topics during professional meetings.

The initial investigation of Kesan started in 2015 and ended in 2017.

The Office for Access & Equity said such behavior committed by Kesan goes against the University’s rules regarding sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, as well as the general Code of Conduct.

“The College of Law has taken a number of steps to address concerns expressed over the past few days about (Professor) Jay Kesan,”said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman, in an email. “The 21 students in his patent law course have been offered an alternative section with a different professor, and those who might prefer not to continue in the course at all have been offered an extended deadline to withdraw without cost or penalty. The college also is reviewing alternatives for future semesters.”

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    Kaler said the University owes the students, staff and faculty a safe learning and working environment and is committed to that obligation.

    “The University administration is reaching out to the Senate and Faculty Advisory Committee leadership to work together to review our statutory disciplinary processes, rules and available sanctions to consider any changes that might be needed to ensure they are adequate to protect our university community,” she said.  

    Last week, a community member informed students about the OAE report and Professor Kesan’s behavior. The Student Bar Association, a student-run organization in the College of Law, held an emergency meeting the next day to allow students to voice their concerns. A motion was passed to write a letter requesting his resignation, said Ashley Kennedy, president of SBA.

    “There have been other student organizations who also have submitted similar letters and opposition of Professor Kesan, or in support of Professor Kesan’s resignation,” Kennedy said.

    During a town hall meeting Wednesday night, law students questioned administrators on why Kesan didn’t face harsher consequences and why the findings of the investigation were kept quiet. 

    Vikram Amar, dean of Law, apologized on behalf of the administration for the sexual harassment that happened at the institution. Kennedy presented a letter calling for Kesan’s resignation, which has been signed by more than 220 people.

    “We are hoping he does resign,” Kennedy said. “He was still teaching classes, he was here on campus all week, teaching classes. Beyond his resignation, we’re hoping that the administration and the University as a whole will look into their policies in how they define sexual harassment, and change those policies so that these behaviors are no longer tolerated and fly right under the radar.”

    Kesan has since apologized for his actions. The investigator of his case still recommended him to undergo sexual harassment training and professional coaching.

    “We’re hoping that the administration and the University takes our concerns seriously,” Kennedy said.

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