UC Berkeley philosophy professor sued for allegedly sexually assaulting his former student

He reportedly told his Asian-American student employee, “American imperialism? Oh boy, that sounds great, honey! Let’s go to bed and do that right now!”

John R. Searle, a philosophy professor at the University of California at Berkeley since 1959, is being sued for allegedly groping one of his former students who worked for him and firing her after she refused his advances. Joanna Ong, the now-24 year-old student, filed the lawsuit this Tuesday seeking damages for sexual harassment and assault as well as for wrongful termination and creation of a hostile work environment.

Ong, alongside Los Angeles-based law firm Kristensen Weisberg, LLP, is suing Searle and the Regents of the University of California under the claim that Searle groped Ong while she was working in his office, telling her “they were going to be lovers,” and that he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual.” Ong also claims that Searle would openly watch porn during work, force her to read aloud flirtatious emails, and make demeaning, sexist remarks. After Ong declined Searle and reported him to campus employees, no action was taken by the university against Searle. Searle cut Ong’s salary and eventually fired her in retaliation.

Ong was employed in the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, recently opened in 2016, and was paid $1,000/month as a consultant. However, her job offer also guaranteed that she would receive an additional $3,000/month to be Searle’s assistant, an offer she couldn’t refuse considering the ample pay and opportunity to work alongside one of country’s most esteemed professors.

A week into her job, Ong states, Searle locked his office door and groped Ong, making the aforementioned vulgar propositions. When Ong reported Searle to Jennifer Hudin, Director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, Hudin told Ong that she would protect her from Searle but that Searle “has had sexual relationships with his students and others in the past in exchange for academic, monetary, or other benefits.” This claim of protection flipped sides when Hudin stated she didn’t take action against Searle “out of respect and loyalty” and a need to “protect him.”

Twitter, understandably, had nothing good to say on this:


The professor stepped down from his post in March, as the university has been receiving backlash for attempting to suppress cases of sexual assault.  The University of California has attempted to address these accusations by releasing records earlier this month showing that it had fired over 100 employees across its 10 campuses for sexual misconduct between 2013 and April 2016. The suppression of claims of sexual harassment is one of the reasons Chancellor Nicholas Dirks resigned from his post this March, and why the university continues to be a hotbed for redress of the way colleges tackle sexual assault.

UC Berkeley