A professor has been fired from the University of California – Riverside, after a hearing determined he made inappropriate sexual comments to a male student.
Dr. Rob Latham, a tenured professor in the English department at UCR, was let go last month after a male student issued a formal complaint alleging Latham verbally harassed him and distributed drugs to other students.
“You’re an intellectual thoroughbred, kiddo, and I’ve mentored very few of those in my career,” Latham reportedly told the student, a T.A., during one encounter.
“I have to resist the impulse to ride you too hard too soon—if you’ll forgive the equine metaphor.”
Latham, who is gay, claims the charges of sexual harassment are false, trumped up by “a disgruntled graduate student and his girlfriend.”
He also accuses the UCR board of homophobia, writing in a post on Academe that if a heterosexual teacher had made the exact same comment about “riding” someone hard, “no lewd implication would ever have been inferred.”
“The rhetoric of UCR’s charging documents and administration counsel’s briefs was rife with homophobic language and assumptions, including the myth that gay men are always ’on the make,’ unable to relate to other males in any way except sexually.”
The English department where Latham, 57, worked is standing by the school.
“This is a case in which the system worked,” Deborah Willis, the former chair of English at Riverside, told Inside Higher Ed.
“People are saying this is an attack on tenure, but I don’t think tenure should be used as a shield for faculty misconduct. That’s not what it was invented for.”
In a statement, the department said it stood “with our graduate students, and those who came forward, filed complaints and supported each other through this difficult process.”
Latham insists former colleagues and graduate students at Riverside are “invested in a false narrative of this case, because they refuse to believe that they were misled by the two complainants.”