Professor Punished for Sex Harassment Returning to San Jose State University - NBC Bay Area
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Professor Punished for Sex Harassment Returning to San Jose State University

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    Classes will begin soon at San Jose State University and a professor who was punished by the school for sexually harassing a student is scheduled to return to teach. Robert Handa reports (Published Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017)

    Classes will begin soon at San Jose State University and a professor who was punished by the school for sexually harassing a student is scheduled to return to teach.

    As NBC Bay Area reported last September, Lewis Aptekar was placed on paid leave after college officials ruled he acted inappropriately with a student. But punishment did not happen until five months later after the college's investigation was revealed publicly by the San Jose Mercury News.

    Aptekar's return is upsetting some on campus and dredging up painful memories of the original scandal.

    An internal SJSU memo obtained by NBC Bay Area states Aptekar, a counselor education professor, will return in the fall. His return to teach two classes is causing a stir on campus.

    Aptekar was on paid leave after a school investigation concluded he sexually harassed a student when he inquired if she was single and wanted to date. But the school did not take that action until after the Mercury News revealed Aptekar was still on the job five months later.

    Dr. Jason Laker, a professor in the same department, is involved in various lawsuits with the college over his criticism of the school's response.

    "I'm shocked, appalled, disgusted, scared, upset, worried for our students...embarrassed for my employer," Laker said.

    Students interviewed Wednesday had mixed reactions, but some instructors told us they had to take a lot of extra training this summer on appropriate conduct.

    "It does seem like they're stepping up the HR response to this with a lot of emphasis on student-teacher interactions," SJSU lecturer Kendall Sooter said.

    Meanwhile, Laker is not swayed.

    "I think any faculty member who has been found by their own investigation to have committed sexual harassment shouldn't be in a classroom at all or on campus," Laker said.

    SJSU spokeswoman Pat Harris points out Aptekar was also suspended for two weeks, stepped down as department chair and was ordered to take diversity training. Harris said another allegation was investigated and had no merit.

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