An Administrator Says #MeToo

Kern Holoman, of the University of California, Davis, was stripped of his emeritus professor status this week after allegations of sexual assault from 1987 surfaced. He has denied the claims, which were made by a former student who now works at the university.

December 15, 2017
D. Kern Holoman has been accused of sexual assault.

In 1987, his freshman year at the University of California, Davis, Danny Gray says, he was sexually assaulted by a professor.

He reported this incident to the university, but to no avail.

Now, 30 years later and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has spurred the firings of a number of high-profile men accused of sexual assault and harassment, Gray is ready to tell his story again.

That’s the narrative Gray laid out in a blog post published this week. In an agreement reached with the university, D. Kern Holoman, the former university symphony orchestra conductor accused of assaulting and later raping Gray, has relinquished his titles of professor emeritus and distinguished professor, though he denies Gray’s allegations.

Gray -- who now works at UC Davis himself as the director of academic employment and labor relations -- wrote a blog post detailing the allegations against Holoman, and showed a draft to the university last week. A spokeswoman said that the draft “helped spur some activity” leading to Holoman’s discipline.

Holoman, Gray wrote, sexually assaulted him in a hot tub at Holoman’s home, and later raped him. Gray said Holoman apologized, but the professor's unwelcome advances continued in the form of letters and correspondence sent to Gray, and Holoman assaulted Gray again.

“Although in hindsight I can see viable options for resolving this situation, at the time I felt I had no choice but to try to navigate my relationship with him,” Gray said. “I believe I responded to Holoman’s dozens of communications that summer with one or two letters, written in language that I hoped would be received as polite but not welcoming of his romantic and sexual advances.”

In a statement given to Gray by Holoman’s lawyer, Steven Sabbadini, Holoman denied the allegations.

“I am distressed and deeply apologetic for my role in any event that has harmed Danny Gray in any way, and heartsick at the thought of harm that has festered for 30 years,” Holoman wrote. “Our memories of that time differ markedly, but the remorse is very real. I continue to treasure memories of our long friendship and its focus on the beauties of art, literature and history.”

A representative from Sabbadini’s office said that neither Holoman or Sabbadini would be issuing further comment.

According to a disciplinary letter signed by Holoman and the university, provided by UC Davis, Holoman agreed to have his distinguished professor and professor emeritus titles removed in lieu of an investigation into the allegations, which, “if true, would have been a violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy.”

Per the letter, he is allowed to continue with his current projects with the university library, though he is not allowed to have in-person interactions with graduate or undergraduate students.

In a separate disciplinary letter signed by Holoman in 1997, also provided by the university, Holoman faced a complaint alleging “unprofessional conduct.” He agreed to receive counseling, according to the letter, and “any such future conduct” found to be a violation of the campus sexual harassment policy or the Faculty Code of Conduct “shall result in filing formal charges against you with a proposed sanction of dismissal.”

There are no records of Gray’s 1987 complaint to the university, though Gray said in the blog post that he made the complaints within the calendar year.

In a statement Monday, UC Davis Chancellor Gary May acknowledged that the university has not always adequately served victims of sexual assault.

“Many of the reports of abuse emerge after years and sometimes decades of silence and shame. In the past, few if any institutions had adequate reporting and investigative processes, UC Davis included,” May said in the statement. “Our protocols and processes have improved greatly over the years. I am encouraged that our team is dedicated to being thorough, fair to all parties and timely.”


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