Engineering Professor Dimitris Achlioptas Resigns

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Illustration by Ryan Tran

*A pseudonym is used to protect the source’s identity.

Dimitris Achlioptas resigned from his position as UC Santa Cruz computer science and engineering professor in December 2019.

Achlioptas’ resignation came in the wake of two investigations into Faculty Code of Conduct (FCC) and Title IX policy violations. Investigations concluded in May and July 2019, respectively.

“I can’t say what changed,” said complainant Skyler Bennett.* “I wish he had done this earlier so that I didn’t have to spend a year of my life trying to be heard and be believed.”

The university opened an FCC investigation into Achlioptas’ behavior on Feb. 6, 2019 with Bennett and Alex Muhammad,* two former graduate students who worked under Achlioptas’ advisement, as co-complainants. The Title IX office opened a separate investigation with Bennett as the sole complainant the same day. 

As City on a Hill Press (CHP) previously reported, Muhammad’s and Bennett’s FCC investigation concluded on May 31. UCSC’s Committee on Charges issued a report on July 8, finding probable cause that Achlioptas engaged in research misconduct, verbally abusive and coercive behavior toward students and harassing and discriminatory behavior toward students.

Bennett received the report and notice of outcome for his Title IX investigation on July 17. He did not disclose the results of the investigation to CHP, but said he was relieved by the outcome.

Muhammad’s and Bennett’s attorney, Latika Malkani, said she received notice in January 2020 from a UCSC representative that Achlioptas resigned in December. Both complainants say they have not received any direct notification of Achlioptas’ resignation from UCSC administration.

“It’s an in-progress personnel matter and having characterized it as that I am not at liberty to share anything,” said interim Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor (CP/EVC) Lori Kletzer.

Achlioptas declined to comment for this story.

Illustration by Ryan Tran

Throughout the reporting and investigation processes, both complainants grew frustrated with what they understand to be a convoluted and imprecise university protocol for handling complaints.

“Dimitris resigning, while it’s important, doesn’t change the root causes of why this was such an arduous and painful and drawn out process,” Muhammad said.

Hearing Dates Came and Went

After both investigations concluded, the Committee on Privilege and Tenure (CPT) scheduled hearing dates for Jan. 24 and 27 and Feb. 3, 7 and 10 of this year. The role of the CPT is to make a disciplinary recommendation to the chancellor.

Muhammad, Bennett and their attorney, Latika Malkani, told CHP the university never gave them more information about the hearing after the initial notification. 

As Jan. 24 approached, Bennett grew anxious because he hadn’t heard anything from the university. He had expected to be prepped by UCSC’s external counsel ahead of the first hearing date, since both he and Muhammad had been asked to testify. 

Bennett received a text from Malkani on Jan. 10 saying Achlioptas resigned. Neither Bennett, Malkani nor Muhammad knew what the resignation meant for the status of the hearing. Without any word from the university, they operated under the assumption that the hearing had been cancelled. 

“I do not believe they are proceeding as originally scheduled,” Malkani said.

When CHP asked why the university never notified the complainants about changes in the CPT hearing process, interim CP/EVC Lori Kletzer said she didn’t know the complainants hadn’t been informed.

“You have now informed me that they have said they were not informed. That’s not something that I was informed of,” Kletzer said. “I’m not confirming that they weren’t notified, what I’m hearing from you is the first that I have heard that. And again, they are freer to comment than we are, so my answer is really I don’t have an answer.”

Both complainants want to make sure Achlioptas’ resignation doesn’t sweep systemic flaws under the rug. They’ve emphasized there are still conversations to be had about how the reporting process can be revised with complainants in mind. Neither is content to accept that the process they experienced is the process others will have to go through.

“The fact that UCSC has us participate in the process and then largely kept us in the dark as developments occurred indicates how little they valued our participation,” Muhammad said, “and it is indicative of them seeing us as tools and not people.”