by

U. of California Will Pay Student $1.15 Million to Settle Sexual-Assault Suit

The University of California system has agreed to pay $1.15 million to a former student on the Santa Cruz campus who said that she had been raped by a professor, in one of the largest individual settlements of a campus sexual-assault case.

Luz Portillo, the former student, told BuzzFeed News that she was raped by the professor in June 2015, the day before her graduation. She said she immediately reported the assault to the campus office that handles Title IX violations and to the police. Ms. Portillo said that she had decided to bring the claim against the university because the institution knew about previous predatory behavior by the professor but failed to act on that information to prevent future incidents of sexual assault, including her own.

The faculty member, Hector Perla Jr., an assistant professor of Latin American studies, resigned in June of last year.

Ms. Portillo’s lawyer, John Kristensen, said in a written statement that the case was “emblematic of the crisis of sexual assault on female students at our nation’s institutions of higher learning.” Mr. Kristensen added he hoped the settlement would send a message to the system that it “must take responsibility for its secrecy and failure to protect students.”

The Santa Cruz campus responded to the allegations in the case on Tuesday, saying that it was committed to creating a safe campus and had “acted swiftly to address the victim’s claims.” The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ms. Portillo said the actions of the university “were not immediate at all” and contested the university’s assertion that the professor had been dismissed immediately after the incident was reported.

Return to Top