UC Santa Barbara administration placed Professor Samuel Sweet on involuntary leave in early October following a sexual harassment complaint Sweet said is “really damaging to [his] reputation.”
Sweet is a professor within the UCSB Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB).
He said he has been barred from entering campus and was told he could not speak to anyone at UCSB.
“I got summoned up to Cheadle late on Friday afternoon a couple of days after my 70th birthday, with no advance notice of what it was about,” Sweet said in an email to the Nexus.
“I was handed two things: a formal charge alleging sexual harassment of a visiting undergraduate, and a letter placing me on paid leave indefinitely, effective immediately.”
Sweet’s leave of absence comes after a junior faculty member and an undergraduate summer trainee filed a complaint against him regarding an interaction in July of this year.
Sweet detailed the interaction and his difficulties dealing with the UCSB administration in a Facebook post on Oct. 13.
“A junior faculty member got a key to my locked graduate student office room and put one of his off-campus undergraduate summer trainees at the desk of one of my graduate students, displacing her private materials,” Sweet said in the Facebook post.
Noticing the unlocked office, Sweet requested the undergraduate trainee leave the graduate student’s office.
“I informed [the junior faculty member] of department policy on secure offices for grad students, and copied my department chair, late afternoon,” Sweet said. “She replied that she’d sort it out, and next morning sent an email telling [the junior faculty member] he was out of line, and that I had responded appropriately.”
Sweet believed the issue was resolved at the time, but the administration presented a formal charge against him and suspended him approximately two and a half months later.
According to Sweet’s personal inquiry into the matter, the details of the complaint were not the same as Sweet’s understanding of the encounter.
Sweet was allegedly told that he “stalked” the female undergraduate trainee, “waited until she was alone” and “harassed and bullied her” before she fled, according to Sweet’s Facebook post.
“The allegation and all of its add-ons are just flat out false,” he said.
As of late October, Sweet is unable to access his on-campus office and teach classes.
In an updated Facebook post on Oct. 24, Sweet said one of his courses is canceled and the other is being taught by a grad student.
“I think this is an example of how hypersensitivity to sexual harassment can be used unfairly to try to settle scores,” Sweet said. “I don’t know what score is being settled here, but it is causing a lot of disruption, not simply to my good name.”
“I am aware that former students and scientific colleagues worldwide have reacted with incredulity… UCSB is getting a monstrous black eye over this.”
UCSB did not offer an official statement regarding Sweet’s case.
Sweet’s full Facebook post can be viewed here.
Correction [Nov. 1, 3:38 p.m.]: Sweet is an EEMB professor, not an earth science professor.