Reader discretion advised: This story contains multiple mentions of sexual assault and abuse according to allegations in the court case document.
A University of Nevada, Reno mechanical engineering professor, Feifei Fan, recently filed a 49-page document full of allegations of “sexual slavery”, assault, abuse and misconduct.
The Nevada Sagebrush received a tip regarding this case which included the official court document.
Fan created a GoFundMe on Oct. 2 seeking donations to “exclusively” cover the legal expenses of this case. Currently, there is a total of $3,596 raised for the fundraiser out of a goal of $100,000.
“We need your support to seek justice for Feifei Fan, the victim of alleged abuse, exploitation, and systemic misconduct at the University of Nevada, Reno,” the GoFundMe says.
Fan later added to the donation description that she cannot share more information about the case at this time until things are resolved.
“My hope is that none of you will face the challenges I’ve endured. I am determined to pass on my painful lessons to empower future advocates against injustices,” Fan wrote in the donation description.
The plaintiff is a 40-year-old Chinese citizen who became a U.S. permanent resident in May 2020. From 2006 to 2008, Fan studied for her masters in science and worked as a graduate student employee in the mechanical engineering department at the University on an F-1 student visa. From 2015 to 2021, Fan worked as tenure-track assistant professor in the department. She was then on a H-1B work visa until she obtained a ten-year employment-based EB-1A visa.
The case was filed against the Board of Regents in December 2022. According to the court document, “for over a decade, the University of Nevada, Reno has knowingly permitted and ratified senior leadership in its mechanical engineering department to pervasively abuse, intimidate, deter, silence, dismiss and retaliate against foreign students and junior faculty.”
The allegations said that the University took advantage of foreign students and junior faculty because of their vulnerabilities to faculty including their legality of staying in the U.S., reliance on student stipend, schooling or employment prospects on upper leadership, little knowledge of U.S. law and lack of financial support to plead cases.
“Knowing these vulnerabilities, UNR never provided training to foreign graduate student employees in the [mechanical engineering] department on Title IX, Title VI, Title VII, and relevant policies to prevent abuse and unlawful exploitation by their advisors and supervisors,” the document said. “UNR did not provide them with a clear reporting channel. As a consequence, foreign graduate student employees were not aware of their rights and how to report.”
Foreign graduate student employees were stated to have more difficulties than their American counterparts in identifying workplace abusive and exploitative behavior because of the verbal, physical and sexual abuse byteachers and advisors in their own countries. According to the document, reporting rapes is also extremely stigmatized across east Asian cultures.
The allegations also state that faculty members left the University because of the long-term “abusive culture.”
“Through information and belief, by 2016, all tenured and tenure-track faculty who were hired by the department from 1997 to 2012 left UNR. They either abandoned their careers in academia or irrevocably derailed their career paths,” the document said.
In 2015, the department allegedly had only five already-tenured faculty members, three full professors and two associate professors who all worked in the department for 20 years or more. The five tenured professors constituted the referenced department’s senior leadership.
“UNR and the [mechanical engineering] senior leadership knowingly took advantage that tenure-track faculty would not speak up in fear of fatal damages to their careers, and thus felt immune,” the document said.
Allegedly, the University “financially benefited” through this decades-long misconduct and continued to protect its own reputation to avoid deterring student enrollment and protect the senior faculty for continuous grants.
“[UNR high-level administrators] were complicit in this failure, as a scheme, to shield UNR from legal judgment and to conceal UNR’s continuation of long-range unlawful conduct,” the court case says.
The allegations against Professor Jiang
The document also names Yanyao Jiang, a senior professor in the university’s mechanical engineering department and fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, as an alleged “serial sexual predator and violent rapist.”
Allegedly, the University knowingly permitted its senior professors to “turn a higher education workplace into a hostile environment with underground sex slavery and flagrant involuntary servitude.”
The case also alleges that Jiang used his power to exploit others in the mechanical engineering department and that he “sexually assaulted female students without their consent and threatened to sabotage students’ careers if they displeased him.”
Before Jiang came to the U.S., he taught as a lecturer at Zhejiang University of Technology in China, and allegedly dated female students. In 1989, Jiang allegedly developed a romantic relationship with a 20-year-old undergraduate student in his class and later married this student.
In 1996, the University hired Jiang as a tenure-track assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department. According to the document, the University “failed to properly train Jiang regarding its dating violence and sexual misconduct policies.”
From the beginning of his career, Jiang allegedly abused and manipulated his graduate students who relied on him for their visa renewals, stipends, schooling and employment prospects. He also allegedly made his students perform labor for personal purposes, such as driving him to the airport and performing yard work for no pay.
In 2005, Jiang allegedly met his wife’s friend, who was Fan’s undergraduate thesis advisor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China regarding student recruitment. Fan’s undergraduate thesis advisor convinced her to go to the U.S. and study under Jiang, who recruited Fan from China to the U.S. In 2006, Fan moved to the U.S. alone and enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno on an F-1 visa.
Allegedly, Jiang sexually harassed and assaulted Fan multiple times.
Fan allegedly did not know how to protect herself without harmful consequences to her stipend and job, because the University “failed to protect students and never trained foreign students on Title IX policies.”
In October 2006, Jiang allegedly summoned Fan to his office and raped her. He allegedly denied the sexual assault and threatened to expel Fan, file a police report against her, deport her and forbid her from renewing her visa.
From this point forward, Jiang allegedly assaulted and abused Fan many times — including many times in work places on campus.
In 2007, the University promoted Jiang to full professor, and Jiang allegedly infected Fan with chlamydia.
In August 2019, Fan’s alleged decade-long depression because of sexual abuse became too much for her. The document said she spoke to Jiang about reporting the sexual acts.
According to the document, Jiang furiously yelled at Fan and raised his fist at her. Miles Greiner, the then-department chair, allegedly heard Fan’s office door was heavily slammed, reporting this incident as Fan’s unprofessional behavior to human resources. Because of the potential consequences, Fan allegedly hid Jiang’s involvement of the “unprofessional behavior” and did not report the sexual acts.
In 2020, Jiang also allegedly made death threats to Fan.
On Jan. 1, 2021, Fan allegedly reported Jiang’s sexual misconduct to Petros Voulgaris, the department chair, according to the document. Fan was notified that the Title IX Office might contact her for an investigation.
In February 2021, Jiang allegedly requested a protection order against Fan after he learned of Fan’s Title IX complaint. Jiang then allegedly filed a Title IX complaint against Fan and a police report against her.
Fan was not contacted by Title IX staff, so she filed a formal complaint against Jiang directly with the Title IX Office on Jan. 29, 2021, according to the document.
The document said she submitted evidence on Jiang’s alleged sexual abuse, threats, defamation and retaliation and a list of witnesses to Title IX.
“The evidence included Jiang’s testimony under oath made in Reno Justice Court, in which Jiang confessed he exploited Fan for sex since 2006 when he was Fan’s thesis advisor and mentor, and when he had power to vote on Fan’s tenure-or-not,” the document said. “The evidence included Jiang’s text messages, in which Jiang confessed he raped Fan in his office in 2006.”
In April 2021, Fan allegedly emailed Jill Heaton, the former Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs, Dean Manos Maragakis, and Chair Petros Voulgaris to inquire whether she could meet an administrator with supervisory authority on the hostile environment issues. Heaton, Maragakis and Voulgaris allegedly denied the request for this meeting. Maragakis advised Fan to retain a counsel for communicating with UNR Counsel.
“UNR willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence that Jiang engaged in a pattern of sex slavery, sexual abuse, threats, deterrence, and retaliation,” the document said.
Under this lawsuit, the Nevada System of Higher Education is being sued for a count of forced labor; a count of trafficking with respect to forced labor; a count of sex trafficking; a count of deliberate indifference; a count of hostile environment; a count of gender discrimination; a count of retaliation; a count of national origin discrimination; a count of breach of contract; a count of negligent, grossly negligent, or reckless training, supervision and retention and a count of breach of duty to Fan, totaling at 11 counts included in this lawsuit.
“UNR allowed and facilitated Jiang to traffic Fan from China to Reno, Nevada in 2006 and from the State of Georgia to Reno, Nevada in 2015 for years-long inhuman sex slavery,” the document says in its original allegations.
Kerri Hendricks, the executive director of marketing and communications said the University is unable to comment on legal matters such as this one.
This story will be developed as more information is discovered about this lawsuit and other lawsuits involving this case.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.
Correction as of Oct. 7, 5:22 p.m. “Allegedly, [Jiang] sexually harassed and assaulted Fan multiple times.”
Correction as of Oct. 7 5:25 p.m. Removed extra word “allegations” from title to say just “alleged.”
Correction as of Oct. 9 12:22 a.m. “[The document said] she submitted evidence on Jiang’s alleged sexual abuse, threats, defamation and retaliation and a list of witnesses to Title IX.”