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Earlier Complaints on Professor Accused of Harassment

April 10, 2017

Before a 2014 University of California, Berkeley, alumna filed a lawsuit against a distinguished philosophy professor there last month, the institution had fielded sexual misconduct complaints about the 84-year-old professor from at least three other women, BuzzFeed News found.

Berkeley officials in the philosophy department were also aware that John R. Searle, the professor, had made inappropriate comments in some of his classes.

Joanna Ong, who served as Searle’s research assistant, is accusing the professor of firing her from that position after she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed obtained documents from the university that show Searle was accused of sexual harassment on multiple previous occasions.

In 2014, a student said the professor declined to offer her a position as his research assistant because she was married. The year before that, an international exchange student said he tried to kiss her. And in 2004, a student said Searle tried to play with her feet under the table at a dinner for prospective students.

Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is reviewing Ong’s complaint, as it said it did with the three previous complaints. Searle has denied all such claims.

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Emily Tate

Emily Tate, Reporting Intern, has previously reported for The Huffington Post’s politics team and The Columbus Dispatch. Her work has been published by the Associated Press and featured in over 60 newspapers nationwide. She is a graduate of Miami University, where she earned degrees in journalism and international studies.

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