The Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno voted a unanimous “yes” on a recent resolution to ask the university for a termination of Yanyao Jiang, an accused mechanical engineering professor, along with a laundry list of other demands in regards to the recent Feifei Fan allegations.
S.R. 91 A Resolution in Support of Feifei Fan
The resolution was brought to the Nov. 8 ASUN senate table by Diana Landazuri, a senator for the College of Business, Jefrin Jojan, a senator for the College of Engineering and Evan Robinson, the advocacy director for the ASUN. Before the presentation and discussion of the resolution began, many public commenters came to the meeting urging the table to support and pass the resolution.
Todd Ruecker, the president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance and director of core writing in the English department, started off the public comment by telling the table he was thankful for ASUN’s leadership on Title IX.
“I along with many faculty stand with you one-hundred percent on that issue,” Ruecker said.
Jamie Cox, a student at the university, told an anecdote of a friend that was assaulted in their dorm and refused to report it to the Title IX office because they believed “nothing would happen if they did.”
“I ask, how do we stop this, if not through Title IX,” Cox said.
Zach Hooker, an environmental engineering student at the university, spoke at the table again at this meeting and encouraged the ASUN to pass this resolution.
“I want to emphasize that I am back because I want to show that we still care deeply about how UNR mishandles harassment and students safety and that this is not something that is going to fade away overtime,” Hooker said. “I demand justice for Feifei Fan and I demand tangible reform for the Title IX office because the way that UNR has been operating has left so many scars on so many students and faculty.”
Eva Elliot urges ASUN to pass the resolution for every student at the university and to allow the campus organization “Stand With Feifei” to choose a new auditor for the Title IX department.
“It is crucial that we all feel safe in every classroom and I do not feel safe on this campus with professors [allegedly] implicated in Feifei Fan’s case continuing to be protected and supported by the university,” Elliot said.
Many other students did not have anecdotes but came to give public comments to simply issue their support for the resolution and their support with Fan.
“Reading Fan’s complaint was graphic and disturbing. The grossest part was [the Nevada System of Higher Education’s] negligence in all of this. Her complaint revealed a system that [allegedly] continuously silences victims and protects perpetrators,” Fiorina Chau, a student in the College of Engineering said. “Sexual misconduct is not a new issue at UNR … Sandoval’s and Title IX’s response to this situation has done little to instill that confidence and trust I had in the university.”
Chau adds that there have been no significant changes in Title IX in the past, but this resolution is a step in the right direction and will help senators represent their students.
“Students have protested, made public comment, talked to Title IX, talked to Sandoval and made a petition. Why do we have to do so much to call for justice?” Chau asked. “Senators, if this resolution isn’t passed, then what do we do? What’s the protocol now?”
Arthur-James Okwuosa – the student director of the ASUN department of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility – told the table that he fully supports this resolution.
“It is a thoughtful piece with the emotion and passion from the Stand With Feifei campaign backing it,” Okwuosa said “That calls for, in my opinion, necessary actions to correct the wrongdoings that have occurred … The department of IDEA will stand with anyone, especially if they’re standing alone.”
As the resolution was fast-tracked, Robinson and Landazuri gave a quick presentation on the piece, first giving a timeline and a full background of the Fan v. NSHE Board of Regents, on behalf of the University of Nevada, Reno case according to the complaint and court documents.
The presentation also issued the alleged information regarding Terri Patraw’s case which was detailed in the book “One Thousand Showers: A University Immersed in a Culture of Retaliation and an Avalanche of Lies” on her firing in 2007.
Questions about removing the auditor of TNG were also brought up because of alleged fraud in a lawsuit that was explored by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Robinson also mentioned that Jiang admitted in his declaration to the court under oath that he had a consensual relationship with Fan which allegedly violates the 1,912 consensual relationships policy which states:
“The University of Nevada, Reno policy prohibits romantic or sexual relations in circumstances in which one of the individuals is in a position of direct professional power over the other. Definition of a professional power relationship: a faculty member or supervisor will always be treated as having such direct power if the student is in an educational experience in which the faculty member has authority to assign grades, or the supervisor has any input into the evaluation of the employee’s work performance, promotion or tenure …”
The Nevada Sagebrush obtained the declaration of Jiang during his private suit with Fan to which the summary describes that he did declare they had a “consensual sexual relationship.”
“Dr. Fan and I had a years-long, on-off consensual sexual relationship, which began late 2006 and ended 2019,” Jiang said, according to the summary section in the court document. “Between 2017 and 2019, I tried on multiple occasions to end the relationship once and for all. But Dr. Fan refused, threatening to tell my wife, Wei Wu, about the affair if I insisted on breaking up with her.”
Robinson and Landazuri also stated their six demands that the resolution includes:
- Terminating the mechanical engineering professor Yanyao Jiang and all other university faculty or staff members who are investigated and found guilty of “morally reprehensible wrongdoing related to sexual harassment, assault and discrimination”
- Terminating the partnership between the EO/TIX office and TNG Consulting
- Providing all international students Title IX trainings so they are aware of their rights under Title IX and distribute information about Title IX’s non-discrimination policy information to students and faculty
- Reallocating funding from TNG/ATIXA to fund a different outside auditor of the Office of EO/TIX by a firm chosen by the Stand With Feifei student organization
- Committing to respond to Title IX complaints within 72 hours
- Releasing Title IX data to the public and all EO/TIX case files to complainants by Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, or the beginning of the spring semester
A discussion was then enacted to discuss the piece before voting.
Tori Beulac, a senator for the College of Science, asked for more details on the importance of an auditor. Landazuri said auditors are outside entities that are supposed to hold the Title IX department accountable and make sure they are transparent. The students believe they should help choose in this process of picking an auditor.
Robinson and Landazuri told the table that for now this resolution increases pressure and since the resolution is being sent to many people, it encourages them to all have to look through and consider it.
Other senators also asked about specifics regarding the resolution’s demands, the USA Today article, and background information of the allegations Fan claims in her complaint against NSHE.
However, once the resolution was voted on and allegedly passed, Antony Kuhl, a senator for the College of Engineering, contested that they were supposed to go into a period of table discussion before the resolution was passed.
A five minute recess was then enacted to evaluate.
Aween Ali, senator for the College of Engineering, motioned to reverse back to the discussion before passing it again for unanimous consent.
Jojan dissented to the motion and Kuhl, Jojan and Joel Martin, senator for the College of Liberal Arts, began to talk over one another without being called on, causing Fayza Salah, speaker of the senate to ask them to restore order and wait to be called on.
Ali then moved to reconsider the previous question without unanimous consent and the floor was reopened for discussion.
Emma Dotty, senator for the College of Science, told the table that students feel anger and betrayal.
“The student body is watching us. What will they see tonight?” Dotty said.
Kuhl disagreed that an auditor should be chosen only by the Stand With Feifei Organization. He wanted an amendment to give the authority of a chosen auditor to the senate with consultation with the organization, but that doing this would ensure their students were properly represented.
Beulac then told Kuhl “There’s nothing stopping anyone at this body from being involved with Stand With Feifei … If you want to get so involved in the choosing of an auditor for Title IX, then do it, there’s no barrier stopping you.”
Taylor Limbacher, senator for the School of Social Work, agrees with Beulac saying that the ASUN senate body doesn’t have to be the only body representing students, and they can voice their own concerns and represent themselves in Stand With Feifei.
Kuhl added that the ASUN meetings are more open to the students and are recorded on public record, but Stand With Feifei is not.
“We’ve already been chosen by our students to represent them. Our students didn’t get to choose who represents them in the Stand With Feifei campaign,” Kuhl said. “I feel like there’s a greater sense of community here and representation in this body to handle that matter.”
Landazuri said she disagreed because Stand With Feifei mobilized the efforts to do this and said they should “trust the experts” unless other ASUN senators “think they know more” about choosing an independent auditor. She also adds that handing off something like this to ASUN will just delay the work.
Martin said it was not their job as students to select an outside auditor and said they can suggest a different auditing company.
Kelsea Frobes, senator for the School of Journalism, told Martin that it is their job because the university has “failed” at doing what they were supposed to. Ali agrees, saying the whole purpose of Stand With Feifei was because there is a lack of trust already even if they do have a committee already put in place to choose an auditor. Dotty suggests that the Stand With Feifei pick an auditor and then present their chosen auditor to the senate body so it’s all out in the open.
“I’m just going to say it again: It isn’t our job to pick an auditor,” Martin said. “It will be a cold day in hell when [the university] lets that happen … That’s just not how it works.”
He said he would’ve liked to see the resolution split up in multiple pieces with a specific demand in each, one specifically about auditors. Kuhl said he concurs with Martin that a student voice may be involved but it will not fall to just the students to make the choice since it’s “out of [their] reach as a student body.”
Dotty then asked if neither the senate nor the Stand With Feifei group would pick an auditor, who would choose it.
“It’s not my judgment call to make. I’m a student representative, I’m not a part of [the Nevada System of Higher Education’s] Board of Regents to decide that,” Kuhl answered.
Frobes said the senate is not the place to choose the auditor since the ASUN is employed by NSHE, making it a conflict of interest.
Leaf Acklin, senator of the College of Liberal Arts, suggested a committee be made to choose an auditor including representatives from Stand With Feifei, NSHE, the ASUN senate and all applicable here.
Adam Ahmed, senator for the College of Science, encouraged changing the wording, because students may not get much of a say. However, he says they should tell the university to pick an auditor that doesn’t have lawsuits against them and make that a rule.
Kuhl moved to amend the “Be it resolved” demand clause 4 to now say “Reallocate funding from TNG/ATIXA to fund a different outside auditor of the office of EO/TIX by a firm chosen by a committee consisting of student voices.” instead of “the students of the Stand With Feifei Campaign.”
The vote deemed three yays, twelve nays and six abstentions. The people who abstained wanted to discuss the amendment more.
Landazuri said anyone can join Stand With Feifei and have a say already as a committee. She said it delays the ultimate goal and that if the university already couldn’t be held accountable, emphasizing they shouldn’t trust them to pick an auditor.
Acklin said there needs to be different voices at the table and checks and balances. Ali said she understands this but wonders why Title IX has taken this long to pick a new, better auditor and change things in the office.
Salah adds that making a special committee would go on public record and “bridge the gap” between the ASUN senate and Stand With Feifei.
Landazuri then reminds the table that Zeva Edmonson, the director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX, still has to approve the auditor, but Stand With Feifei is just choosing it and sending it to her.
Ahmed presented the amendment, “Reallocate funding from TNG/ATIXA to fund a different outside auditor of the office of EO/TIX by a firm in good legal standing without a history of underhanding business practices or allegations of such chosen with consideration from the Stand With Feifei group and the student body.”
The amendment was passed with 11 ayes and 9 nays and one abstention.
Martin then proposed the amendment to have the resolution say “Professor Jiang [allegedly] exploited Dr. Fan and other foreign students by forcing them to perform labor such as yard work, childcare, and driving him to the airport” since this was not found true in a court of law and was a mistake in the production of the resolution. The amendment passed unanimously.
He then moved to strike, “A President and University that normalizes a culture of maintaining abusers in power, and shielding them from consequences, should not be deciding Title IX and civil rights case outcomes and sanctions.”
“With Dr. Jiang, who hasn’t been found guilty … he has admitted to having a consensual relationship with a student who was 23 when he was 50 and his own judge [allegedly] said it was morally reprehensible,” Landazuri said.
Acklin proposes extending the deadline for releasing non-confidential Title IX information from Jan. to Aug., but Landazuri said being understaffed is not an excuse and they’ve had the time to do this, but haven’t and Jojan agrees, saying they shouldn’t give them more time for this.
Kuhl then motioned to the previous question for unanimous consent to bring the discussion to a close, which was approved. The resolution was then passed unanimously with these amendments.
Robinson said he was proud of the piece being passed, but he was disappointed in those who wanted to take the power of the students.
Budget deficit public comments
Kevin Ervin, a retired faculty member in the College of Science’s chemistry department, gave the table some background on the budget deficit.
According to Ervin, he said many have heard the legislature underfunded cost of living adjustments for Nevada System of Higher Education employees.
“From the legislators’ perspective, though, they provide 100 percent of the COLAs for the state-funded portion of our budgets,” Ervin wrote. “Since the state has been funding about 61 percent of UNR’s instructional budget, that’s the fraction they funded, matching how they fund other state agencies with non-state revenue.”
However, other revenue to pay classroom instructors and support personnel is student fees and tuition and in order to get the legislature to fund more of the student burden, he encouraged students to vote in 2024 and show up at the 2025 session to assure that this is something they will do.
“UNR has been relying on projected growth in student enrollment to make up the difference, but with enrollment now flat at best, the options are limited,” Ervin wrote.
Todd Ruecker, the president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, also came to the table to give comments about the budget deficit.
“Unfortunately UNR’s been hit hardest by the legislature’s decision to underfund the COLA’s this year taking a ten million dollar hit to our budget this year and that’s going to be compounded with another ten million next year,” Ruecker said. “As a result, in addition to over a hundred positions being frozen and unfilled across the university, we have sustained five percent campus-wide hits to our budget this year.”
Ruecker said he has heard up to 13 percent on top of the five percent which would be widespread layoffs.
“The five percent rate our colleges cut are [letters of appointment faculty], or adjunct or part-time faculty pay, by 30 percent. At the new rate, a part-time faculty member teaching a full load of four classes a semester can expect to make about twenty-seven thousand dollars a year,” he said.
Ruecker said he had multiple people tell him they cannot afford to teach at the university at the lower rate. As part of the budget cuts, their department expects to lose three graduate instructor teaching assistant positions at the end of the year and at least two-term faculty positions. As a result of these cuts, Ruecker said he’ll be able to staff roughly 25 or 10 percent fewer sections next year.
“Ultimately, I anticipate that students may face longer course waitlists and delayed ability to complete graduation requirements,” Ruecker said.
He said this could mean bigger classes meaning less individual student to professor learning and potential classes being moved online, which can cause strains with the online learning restraints. Ruecker also shared issues the political science department is facing, including similar class and staff restraints.
He encouraged considering endorsing a balanced option for this budget vote when voicing their thoughts to the NSHE’s Board of Regents, who are supposed to be voting on the fiscal year 2025’s budget cuts on Dec. 1.
Jeon Jean, a professor in the College of Business, also submitted a public comment on the budget deficit. She uses an analogy about the inflation matters in grocery stores, how companies are filling boxes less and charging more to keep customers from getting scared by the inflation of prices.
“Sadly this is happening now and it will also happen on campus if the NSHE does not allow each university to charge student fees,” Jean wrote. “There would be few advisors, few instructors, eventually you may have to wait another semester or two to finish your degree.”
Jean said the state legislature and Joe Lombardo, the governor of Nevada, passed the COLA to state employees because base pay has not increased in more than ten years and prices have grown higher.
“This was an inevitable decision without proper planning, since many state employees quit their jobs,” Jean said. “Everything happened at the last minute and without any planning last summer.”
The College of Business laid off all of their department’s LOAs, which Jean describes as “practitioners who hold a full-time job as a business owner or manager but teaches students to serve the community.” The LOAs also bring their own experience and lessons to the classrooms.
“Without your support for increasing student fees to pay for the upcoming COLA, the quality of your educational experience will be reduced,” Jean said. “How? I do not have an answer for that. But I know that it is not going to be the same.”
Jean added students may have to pay more for additional semesters because students won’t be able to meet graduation requirements in time, and they may not be able to talk to advisers because the university may not be able to afford to keep them on.
“Please support an increase in student fees. Do not let colleges cut corners to diminish your educational experience,” Jean said. “After all, there are hidden costs.”
Other ASUN occurrences
S.R. 91 A Binding Resolution to Censure Senator Raygoza was postponed to the Nov. 15 meeting due to Alyah Raygoza, a senator for the College of Public Health, being absent for the Nov. 8 meeting.
Keaton Fox was also nominated and sworn into the office of Policy Director for the Department of Government Affairs of the ASUN.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.