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[UPDATE January 21, 2023: Professor Ting Guo has been fired from UC Davis]

The UC Davis Young Scholars Program is a summer residential program that provides high school students the opportunity to work one-on-one with research faculty in state-of-the-art labs for six weeks. One of the faculty mentors that the program recently showcased on its Facebook page is Chemistry Professor Ting Guo, who has been a faculty mentor in the program for many years.

Professor Guo, who was the chairman of the UC Davis Chemistry Department from 2016-2018, has been mentoring high school students for over a decade. Already in 2010, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community by then Chancellor Linda Katehi. In January of that year, he started mentoring a high school student, who had written to him asking whether she could shadow him at work for an assignment from her AP Chemistry teacher. She had written to several professors and he was the first to reply affirmatively.

Warning: what follows contains descriptions of violence, sexual assault, and other traumatic events. You can read a summary by skipping to “The end“.

In 2018, the high school student from 2010 who had shadowed Professor Guo for an AP Chemistry assignment, and was by then at UC Santa Barbara, contacted a USCB Police Department detective to report that she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by Professor Guo in 2010. This is detailed in a lawsuit (CV2020-1704) filed by the student against Professor Guo and the Board of Regents of the University of California, Davis. The filing describes an alleged incident on August 7, 2010, where the high school student (now the plaintiff) presented Professor Guo with some gifts (per her cultural custom) and offered to help him carry them home. At his house he allegedly offered her beer (which she declined because she was underage), and they apparently talked about Star Wars and his complete collection of the movies. Below is an excerpt from her statement to the UCSB police that is reproduced in the filing:

The plaintiff alleges that a few months later, by September 2010, she had been sexually assaulted three times:

The details are painful and poignant. After the second assault he allegedly offered her $60: “She refused and felt disrespected. But then he said to give it to her mom.” And as is often the case when massive power differentials are at play, the victim “carried on like normal- like nothing strange had happened because she did not want to face it or deal with it or process it. The plaintiff didn’t want to believe that Professor Guo was that kind of person.”

I was heartbroken reading the following passage describing the plaintiff’s frame of mind after the first sexual assault:

The plaintiff was also scared:

The allegation that “he had spanked her in the past” is elaborated on in the filing:

According to the filing, the report that was filed with police at UCSB followed therapy sessions and a meeting with a CARE counselor at UCSB. It included not only a statement by the victim, but text messages with friends about the events when they happened. The UCSB police forwarded the report to police at UC Davis, who spoke to Professor Guo. He denied anything had happened.

Turning a blind eye

You might think, that UC Davis, which became aware of the allegations in 2018 when the UCSB police report was forwarded to the UC Davis police, and which certainly reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit filed in 2020, would at least protect high school students by not allowing Professor Guo to interact with them until the truth, or falsehood, of the allegations against him could be established. At universities, investigations of allegations against a professor can take a long time, and it is understandable that a university would afford professors a presumption of innocence until determination of guilt or innocence is complete (although to be clear, the timescale of investigations is frequently not reasonable at all). In any case, the possibility of guilt in a case where serious allegations of violence and sexual assault are alleged, demand protection of students in the interim. Protection, at a minimum, would entail not allowing Professor Guo to mentor high school students and refuse him the privilege of serving as a mentor in the Young Scholars Program. This would be a limitation, but not one that is very restrictive for a professor. Of course, one would hope that UC Davis would also protect undergraduate students, graduate students and postdocs, but again, at least, one would hope, UC Davis would protect high school students. However, UC Davis allowed Professor Guo to continue mentoring high school students up until 2021, as the Facebook post shown at the top of this post demonstrates. In fact, Professor Guo mentored a high school student by the name of Jonathan Ma in 2019, after UC Davis knew about the allegations against Professor Guo. Below is an excerpt from an article in the the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dated July 22, 2019 about the student and his summer experience in Professor Ting Guo’s lab:

Tampering with evidence

In 2019 California changed the statute of limitations for adult survivors of sexual abuse from 3 years to 10 years. Assaults that occurred before January 1, 2019, can be held to the three-year limit. For this reason, the court sustained demurrers by Ting Guo and the Board of Regents of the University of California against the plaintiff in the CV2020-1704 lawsuit. There will be no trial to establish the truth or falsehood of the allegations.

Now suppose you were an administrator at UC Davis, and you believed that the allegations against Professor Ting Guo were FALSE. Suppose you believed that Professor Ting Guo was INNOCENT. Why would you tamper with websites simply showing that Professor Guo regularly mentored high school students via the UC Davis Youth Scholars Program? After all, you would believe him to be an INNOCENT man… so what would there be to hide? Well…it turns out that recently websites of the Youth Scholars Program were tampered with to remove all evidence of Professor Ting Guo’s involvement with the program đź‘€

For example, consider student Sean Wu who participated in the Youth Scholars Program in 2018, and was mentored by Professor Ting Guo:

This screenshot is from a November 3, 2022 cache of a Youth Scholars Program website taken at 13:23:23 GMT describing the research projects undertaken in 2018 (the link is to a copy on the Wayback machine). Today, the website looks like this:

The project by Sean Wu in Professor Ting Guo’s lab has simply been… deleted.

On another Youth Scholars Program website, the project is still listed, but the mentor has been changed from Professor Guo to Jennifer Lien, who is a postdoc in the Guo lab (she was formerly a graduate student in the lab and has been there 11 years):

Several other Youth Scholars Program high school students who worked in Professor Guo’s lab, and that had previously listed him as their mentor on the Youth Scholars Program websites, have just had their mentor retroactively changed to Jennifer Lien by edits to the website. These include Jonathan Ma (the student from 2019 who is mentioned above), and another student Susan Garcia (2017). I wonder who chose Jennifer Lien to replace Ting Guo as the mentor of the students, in some cases more than 5 years after the fact.

Susan Garcia’s project was also deleted from this website. In fact, a page dedicated to her project now returns an “Access denied” error:

This page existed previously, as evident from a Google search which shows it hosted the abstract for the work (other abstracts from that year are all available on functioning websites):

In addition, the Facebook post shown at the top of this post, was also deleted. The cover up was sloppy (the need to scrub Professor Guo’s website was seemingly overlooked [UPDATE January 21, 2023: the website has now been removed]), but whoever did this clearly wanted to hide the fact that Professor Ting Guo mentored high school students via the Youth Scholars Program.

The digital tampering that was performed is reminiscent of one of the scandals that led to Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation “under fire” in 2016, when she was being investigated for using university money to try to remove negative online search results about herself. Seriously, what is going on at UC Davis?

The end

In summary, a high school student working in UC Davis Chemistry professor Ting Guo’s lab in 2010 alleged in a police report filed in 2018 that she was sexually assaulted by him multiple times. In 2020, she filed a lawsuit against Professor Guo and The Board of Regents of the University of California, Davis. UC Davis continued to allow Professor Guo access to high school students via the Youth Scholars Program even after finding out about the serious allegations against him. Recently, websites of the Youth Scholars Program have been altered or deleted to remove any evidence showing that Professor Guo was ever a mentor in the program.

How many more such cases are there that have not see the light of day because evidence was more effectively tampered with? How many universities are wiping their records to hide evidence of their negligence in protecting students? How many more women must suffer? Will we ever see the end?

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