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UC regent's breast comments prompt proposal for tighter rules on sexual harassment

University of California regents will consider tighter rules against fellow board members who commit sexual harassment, even if the conduct occurs outside official university business.

The proposal was prompted by recent disclosures that Regent Norman J. Pattiz made remarks about the bodies and breasts of female employees and podcasters at his PodcastOne firm in Beverly Hills. One podcaster, Los Angeles comedian Heather McDonald, disclosed on her “Juicy Scoop” program last month that, when she was taping a bra commercial six months ago, Pattiz had asked if he could hold her breasts.

Pattiz apologized to McDonald and others offended by his conduct. He told The Times he had learned that remarks he intended as jokes were offensive to others and said he would not repeat such behavior. 

But Monica Lozano, chairwoman of the Board of Regents, recommended that UC policies be revised to hold regents accountable for such actions. Her proposal will be voted on next week at the regents’ meeting in San Francisco. 

“A regent’s actions, even in his or her private capacity, may be considered a failure to fulfill a regent’s duties as a member of the board and may be a basis for sanction where such actions are inconsistent with the University’s policy” on ethical conduct and sexual harassment, the proposal says.

Lozano also is recommending that all regents be required to take UC’s sexual harassment prevention training program upon appointment to the board and every other year after that.

Lozano declined to comment. She told the UCLA Daily Bruin that she condemned Pattiz’s actions and took the allegations of sexual harassment “very seriously.”  

Pattiz was unavailable for comment. He is chairman of the Courtside Entertainment Group, which produces podcasts and radio shows, and has served as a regent since 2001.

Lozano’s proposal says that regents are closely identified with UC, even in their private capacities, and could harm the university if they violate its ethical standards and sexual harassment policies. 

In the last two years, UC President Janet Napolitano and the Board of Regents have led the 10-campus system to take a strong stand against sexual harassment, adopting stricter requirements for reporting misconduct, expanded education and training and increased services for victims, among other reforms.

The university’s definition of sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual jokes or comments about a person’s body or appearance.

Several former employees and podcasters with PodcastOne told The Times last week that Pattiz had made them uncomfortable with comments about their looks. 

One woman, 23-year-old Ji Min Park, said she left the company in August after a year, in large part because of too many sexually inappropriate comments. Another former producer, Raymond Hernandez, said he witnessed Pattiz telling two podcasters that their breasts had gotten bigger during their pregnancies. 

teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
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