StandwithFeifei sent this Op-Ed to be posted on The Nevada Sagebrush.
We, Stand with Feifei, are a student group highlighting Mechanical Engineering Professor Dr. Feifei Fan’s legal case against the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) that alleges human trafficking, sexual assault, forced labor, and institutional liability in protecting perpetrators. Which includes but is not limited to her alleged rapist Professor Yanyao Jiang. Moreover, on October 17th, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) President Brian Sandoval gave his State of the University Address in which he commented on our protests against Title IX noncompliance and alleged corruption of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX. Leaders of our group are vastly dissatisfied with Sandoval’s remarks and UNR’s inadequate response. We wish to make clear our demands and inform the general public and student body of the severity of our concerns.
Dr. Feifei Fan’s case shed light on an alleged widespread network of corruption implicating several professors in the Mechanical Engineering department at UNR, Title IX office staff, Sandoval himself, and NSHE at large. The cruelty alleged in her case alongside overwhelming evidence (such as a purported 2006 Reno Justice Court confession by Jiang) made it frustrating to understand NSHE’s total disregard and dismissal. Even in the wake of letters sent by the Nevada Faculty Alliance raising concerns about Title IX and our protests- nothing of substance has been done. To the contrary, Sandoval’s “State of the University” address, which is supposed to be available to the public, was not even viewable due to a series of broken live links. Praising UNR, he called it a “bastion of democracy” without answering the alleged lack of safety, rule of law, and democracy that we were protesting in the first place. His response has been lackluster and serves to confuse the public by sidestepping real concerns. Sandoval stated that “the department made enhancements to include more investigators and staff in the department, obtained an outside entity to evaluate and make recommendations on their office, and plan to remove any barriers to reporting and responsiveness to case files.” Let us be clear that none of this is reassuring because UNR has allegedly engaged in corruption within its Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX for over a decade, and this has allegedly persisted across directors and investigators. Acknowledging “barriers to reporting” is also inadequate because Feifei Fan and many others did report, and allege their cases were deliberately mishandled after that. Additionally, this “outside entity” that Sandoval attempts to reassure us with is TNG Consulting/ATIXA according to UNR’s Title IX Director Zeva Edmondson. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, TNG consulting settled a lawsuit alleging financial fraud and firing an employee in retaliation for reporting. The same article also explains that ATIXA is simply a subsidiary of TNG which is known for working for liability reduction, not compliance. We have no reason to believe that this outside firm will reform Title IX at UNR or “help” with the supposed backlog when it has already allegedly mishandled victims’ cases including at UNR. Students at the Oct 13 protest had asked Sandovol for an outside audit, TNG Consulting is insufficient and opposite to our demands.
Sandoval repeatedly failed in his responses to students at the protest claiming that he did not remember his time as judge over a case similar to Dr. Feifei Fan’s where he ruled in favor of NSHE (Galliard v. NSHE), denied knowing Dr. Feifei Fan’s case or of the allegations regarding the Mechanical Engineering department, but maintained that the welfare and safety of everyone on campus is his “most important priority.” We ask, that if safety is such a priority, why did Sandoval hire Andrew Clinger in July 2023 for Vice President of Administration and Finance despite multiple sexual harassment allegations against him during his time as Reno City Manager in 2016?
Additionally, Sandoval continues to frame these problems as issues of transparency, staffing, funding, and organization, when victims such as Dr. Feifei Fan and many others are alleging active corruption and deliberate indifference, not just the withholding of complainants’ files and response delays. This messaging is deceptive, belittling, and dismissive, reducing the problem to ordinary clerical errors and bureaucracy while UNR avoids the much more serious allegations of alleged corruption, legal misconduct, and criminal retaliation against victims and whistleblowers. Yes, victims want faster response times and transparency of files, which is their legal right and UNR cannot justify the withholding of said files to victims nor can they justify withholding data from the public on the suspiciously vague grounds of “confidentiality” as it is just one of six universities to withhold Title IX Sexual Misconduct Data.
We believe the problem is one of purposeful misconduct, not bureaucratic overload. We stress the urgency of the matter and we cannot wait to give Sandoval a “chance” to fix the situation. UNR leadership has been perpetuating an unsafe environment since the early 2000s at least, allegedly using the same anti-enforcement techniques and strategies as described in Terri Petraw’s book “1000 Showers” which was published in 2013. Patraw explains how UNR has a long history of derailing, undermining, and retaliating against victims and whistleblowers who have attempted to shed light on the widespread alleged corruption throughout UNR’s administration, legal counsel, accountability mechanisms, and departments. UNR has had plenty of time to fix its system, and engage in compliance with Title IX and other civil rights laws, with every scandal being met with similar calls to “wait” and offers of “reform.” If Sandoval did not fix this as Attorney General, Governor, or Judge, and allegedly contributed to the opposite such as by ruling against the victim in cases against NSHE, then why should we trust him to fix this now?
Lastly, our group is particularly disgusted that we have been cast as confused, uneducated, and misunderstanding of Title IX law, such as in the articles “Explaining Title IX After Protest Broke Out at UNR’s Groundbreaking Ceremony” and “What is Title IX?” We also resent being portrayed by Sandoval in his letters and messaging, and Director Zeva Edmondson in her public appearances, as essentially disgruntled about UNR complying with federal law. We are justifiably upset because we believe UNR is not complying with federal law. Based on “1,000 Showers,” court files, documents, and the testimonials of many alleged victims and whistleblowers, we suspect Dr.Feifei Fan’s allegedly illegally mishandled case is not the exception, but the rule.
Our group plans to continue working with students to bring more awareness to Dr. Feifei’s case and the apparent broader problem of an unsafe campus, and an untrustworthy taxpayer-funded system. We will not rest until there is legitimate action behind Sandavol’s words. Currently, our group has heard empty promises, and sometimes outright lies. We have no reason to believe that the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX is a safe and trustworthy resource for students and faculty. We are demanding proper investigations, outside and independent audits, and dismissals of those found guilty of misconduct. We hope the public will Stand with Feifei and everyone who sought help from UNR only to be institutionally betrayed. We have had enough of waiting.
The above statement was made by the StandwithFeifei Organization. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Nevada Sagebrush or its staff. For any questions regarding the statement please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction 6:14 p.m., Oct. 31: “Sandoval repeatedly [failed]…”