A San Jose State professor claimed that she was reprimanded by her own department after speaking out about sexual harassment that allegedly happened in South Africa.

In early March, Sang Hea Kil, an associate professor of justice studies, alleged that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of South Africa (BDS-SA) director Muhammed Desai inappropriately touched her and two other professors.

BDS is an international movement to boycott businesses that directly sell weaponry, electronic devices and bulldozers to the Israeli military during its occupation of disputed territories such as the Gaza Strip, according to the BDS Movement website.

A coalition was formed and met with Desai and some members of his board on March 23 in an emergency meeting to address the issue. The coalition included the Teaching Palestine study group, the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC), and the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance and demanded that BDS- SA suspend its director pending an investigation in the sexual harassment among other demands, according to Al-Jazeera.

Kil said she filed charges against Desai with the South African police before she left the country.

Kil is a co-founder of the recently launched SJSU Anti-Racism Social Justice Transformation group under the California Faculty Association last month on campus, which fights gender and social inequality both at SJSU and abroad.

Not long after returning to SJSU, Kil was given a letter of reprimand by interim dean Pamela Richardson on April 4.

The interim dean claimed Kil contacted professor Alessandro de Georgi inappropriately as a member Kil’s promotion committee at the college level. In her rebuttal email, Kil argued that such a reprimand was gendered and an obvious case of  “he said she said”, in which Kil was not consulted beforehand.

The Spartan Daily reached out to Richardson for a comment, but did not receive a response.

Kil contacted De Georgi, urging him to admit that he retaliated against her as a whistleblower and used his status as graduate coordinator to negatively influence the graduate students.

In her rebuttal letter to the University Promotion committee, addressed to President Mary Papazian on April 18, Kil explains how both department chair James Lee and De Georgi are serving with a conflict of interest which also creates disability and whistleblower retaliation in her promotion process.

Lee, who was recently appointed to senior director of faculty affairs, reportedly had a faculty member serve on the member's spouse’s own retention committee, Kil said.

Kil felt offended and thus resigned from the department RTP committee over ethical concerns. In an email on Sept. 29, 2018 to Lee and former Dean Mary C. Schutten, Kil wrote, “I respectfully decline to serve on this RTP committee over James', the dean's, and the university's interpretation of the policy about 'conflict of interest' and serving on RTP committees. We have had many laws that legalized inequality and injustice in the nation, and they were morally wrong.  So our campus' application of allowing people with a 'conflict of interest' to serve on RTP committees is morally objectionable to me as a scholar- activist, feminist, and queer person of color.”

Kil named Lee in a disability discrimination and whistleblowing retaliation lawsuit that was settled last December. Kil claims that Lee contaminated the process for her last year when he served at her department retention committee, claimed a conflict of interest and did not vote.  

Lee participated again in Kil’s promotion process this academic year by writing the chair's evaluation letter and this time also allowed De Georgi to serve at the college level.  De Georgi spoke out against Kil when she was whistleblower against her former chair, Mark Correia and others for corruption.  De Gerogi He also circulated a petition against her anti-corruption campaign.  Graduate students also came out with a statement negative to her whistleblowing coalition and campaign.

The Spartan Daily also reached out to Lee for a comment, but did not receive a response.

Kil states, “If James Lee and Faculty Affairs found it [OK] by practice and policy for a husband to serve on a wife’s committee or a person who retaliated against a whistleblower to serve on the whistleblower’s RTP committee or a person cited in a lawsuit to serve on a faculty’s job committee or write a letter as their chair, then I shudder to think about the current state and future of faculty rights for this campus with James Lee as our new Senior Director of Faculty Affairs.”

The Spartan Daily additionally reached out to representatives of BDS-South Africa but did not receive a response.

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