ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A professor fired after allegations that he sexually harassed students is fighting the university to get his job back while denying the claims against him.
Cristobal Valencia’s response to the claims against him were laid out in a 15-page letter to the University of New Mexico’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, an independent group that reviews issues with faculty employment. Valencia’s attorney, Michael Mozes, told the Journal he had no comment.
“Dr. Valencia had maintained throughout that the findings of the (Office of Equal Opportunity) report were mistaken, unsupported by evidence, and based upon false and invented statements instigated by faculty who had created a hostile work environment for him,” according to the appeal sent to the committee.
Provost Chaouki Abdallah last month approved College of Arts and Science Dean Mark Peceny’s decision to terminate Valencia’s contract at month’s end. Valencia, a tenure-track professor, earned a salary of $71,000.
The appeal is the latest in the monthslong investigation that culminated in Valencia’s termination from the anthropology department. His appeal also marks the first time Valencia has argued his case publicly. Multiple requests for comment from the Journal have gone unreturned.
According to a UNM report, Valencia was accused of making lewd comments about his students, touching them inappropriately and at one point saying he didn’t take orders from “white bitches,” according to complaints filed with the school.
Marsha Baum, chairwoman of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, would not confirm or deny whether the committee received the appeal, saying it is “bound by confidentiality.”
The committee, which is made up of faculty members, reviews appeals, university spokeswoman Dianne Anderson said.
Mozes argues that portions of the university’s investigation were debunked in prior investigations and that Valencia wasn’t given the chance to defend himself on other charges. He also dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct or treating students differently based on their physical appearance or sexual orientation.
“It’s important to note that the majority of the discriminate /retaliation/sexual harassment claims were found to be lacking sufficient evidence,” Mozes wrote in the appeal.
Valencia is seeking reinstateent, unspecified monetary damages and an apology from university President Bob Frank, Abdallah, Peceny and others
Meanwhile, the climate at the anthropology department appears to have worsened, based on a departmentwide email obtained by the Journal . In that missive, Les Field, the head of the department, acknowledged a “declining sense of trust by the students for the department and my administration.” Earlier this year, three faculty members walked away from the department in connection to the Valencia case.
“I want to apologize to all of you for behaviors on my part that contributed to the corrosion of trust,” Field wrote in the Oct. 21 email.
He said an anonymous survey to gauge the department’s climate is likely.
Field didn’t return a call or email Monday from the Journal seeking comment.