The UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct announced it considers University of California Student Regent Jesse Cheng responsible for the sexual battery of his former girlfriend.
According to the Irvine Police Dept., Cheng’s former girlfriend filed charges under the pseudonym “Laya” on Oct. 26, claiming Cheng, a fifth-year UCI Asian American studies major, attempted to rape her in his off-campus apartment three weeks earlier. Cheng was arrested for sexual battery on Nov. 4, 2010 and was released shortly after.
According to Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen, the District Attorney’s office has yet to make any progress on Cheng’s case and could not say if Cheng will face criminal charges.
Cheng released a public statement on Feb. 21 in response to the accusations. In the page-long statement, Cheng denied all charges against him and said all of the physical activity that followed the break-up was consensual.
“On Oct. 3, the night that become the source of the accusations against me, I invited [Laya] over for a dinner at my apartment in Irvine,” Cheng said in the public statement. “That night, although we engaged in kissing, all contact was consensual and we did not have sex. Afterward, we ate dinner at my apartment and watched a movie.”
Cheng went on to state that although he did confess via e-mail to Laya’s accusations, it was only in response to her insistence to do so and did not reflect the reality of the situation.
“She demanded that I write e-mail apologies to her, and specifying exact language that she wanted to see in those e-mails,” Cheng said. “What I said in those e-mails are not true and did not reflect my behavior, but I thought that by adopting her language and meeting the standards that she set out, we could both move forward.”
On March 9, the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct found Cheng accountable for the “unwanted touching” of Laya, according to the Mariposa Center for Change. All UC Irvine affiliates declined to comment on the matter.
Although the UCI Office of Student Conduct has no legal power to take action against Cheng, its statement stirred strong reactions from many members of the public.
Since the charges surfaced, various student groups, community members and women’s organizations created the Justice for Laya Coalition and demanded Cheng be removed as UC’s Student Regent. The coalition also insists more funding be allocated toward women’s resource centers in the University of California school systems.
“A sexual batterer should not continue to represent the student voice,” Annalisa Enrile, the Mariposa Center for Change board president, said. “The UC Regents said they would take the lead from the UCI Office of Student Conduct. By not removing him from his office, the UC Regents are publicly condoning sexual battery and assault on their campuses.”