Ben-Gurion University has decided to begin disciplinary proceedings against one of its deans, Prof. David Newman, following a sexual harassment complaint by a student who worked under him.
Newman’s position as dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences makes him one of the university’s top administrators.
Prof. Rivka Carmi, the university’s president, recently received the findings of a preliminary inquiry carried out by the institution’s sexual harassment complaints representative. After examining the findings, she decided to approve disciplinary proceedings against Newman, as she believed his actions had unequivocal sexual connotations.
The complainant has been a student in one of the departments where Newman teaches for the past several years. She also worked at the faculty of humanities and social sciences. She decided to file a complaint only after much hesitation, and said she did so only because the professor had serially harassed both her and some of her colleagues.
According to the complaint, Newman would frequently praise the student’s looks and make suggestions to her, some of them sexual in nature. She repeatedly refused his suggestions and asked him to stop. In a few cases, he touched or embraced her.
Once, the complaint said, Newman suggested that she stay overnight with him. She refused and asked him to not repeat the offer. After that, she said, he continued harassing her, despite her refusals.
Eventually, she decided to quit her job at the faculty in order to avoid any professional contact with him.
Meanwhile, other people in the faculty decided to ask the university’s sexual harassment complaints representative, Prof. Esther Priel, to look into Newman’s behavior. The moment he found out Priel was looking into the matter, the complaint said, Newman tried to dissuade the student from filing her complaint.
After Priel finished her inquiry, she transferred her findings to Carmi, who decided to begin disciplinary proceedings.
Newman’s attorney, Naomi Shalev Melzer, said, “Prof. Newman has no interest in proving anything or defending himself against anything in the pages of a newspaper, and he does not intend to recruit the media in order to prove his innocence. The confidential disciplinary process laid down in the academic bylaws is what will guide his steps, and he will act in accordance with its instructions.”
The university said it “attributes supreme importance to eliminating sexual harassment, and it has acted and is acting in accordance with the law and with its orderly, scrupulous, process for preventing sexual harassment and examining every complaint. In its inquiry process, the university is scrupulous about preserving confidentiality, as mandated by law.”