A Former UC Berkeley Student Says a Professor Groped Her & Watched Porn at Work

A former University of California, Berkeley, student filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a distinguished philosophy professor, claiming the professor groped her and fired her for declining his advances.

The former student, Joanna Ong, 24, worked for Professor John R. Searle, 84, as a research associate and is seeking damages for sexual harassment and assault, wrongful termination and creation of a hostile work environment, BuzzFeed News reports.

Ong reported in the complaint that during her employment, Searle allegedly asked her to log into a “Sugar Baby, Sugar Daddy” website for him and watched pornography right in front of her.

The Los Angeles Times reports the lawsuit also alleges university officials mishandled the sexual misconduct accusations.

“My client had to suffer twice,” John Kristensen, Ong’s attorney, said in a press release. “First, when the assault and subsequent harassment took place. Then again when she reported the misconduct and the responses were, at best, indifference, and, at worst, enabling of the inappropriate sexual conduct that led to her original assault.”

Ong says that UC Berkeley made no effort to look into her complaint after she reported the sexual misconduct and harassment to university employees. Rather than helping her, Ong alleged that the university tried to cover up Searle’s actions and even cut her pay by 50 percent without any reason, according to the The Daily Californian.

“As a philosopher, Searle should be familiar with the concept of coercion,” Ong told BuzzFeed News. She said that Searle and the university “used their power and platform to abuse others." 

In March, Searle stepped down from teaching but he still has emeritus status at the school, according to BuzzFeed News. He declined to comment, reports The Daily Californian.

UC Berkeley said in a statement that the university hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment due to “privacy laws and university policy,” according to the LA Times.