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UC Santa Cruz settles sexual assault case for $1.5 million

On Tuesday, the University of California, Santa Cruz agreed to pay $1.5 million to a former student who alleged a professor raped her in 2015 and school officials — who were aware of his history — did nothing to stop him.

In one of the largest Title IX settlements in US history, Luz Portillo claimed Hector Perla Jr., an assistant Latin American studies professor, and another student went wine-tasting on June 13, 2015, to celebrate upcoming graduation.

In a complaint obtained by Buzzfeed, Portillo said Perla encouraged “her to consume large quantities or wine, causing her to become severely intoxicated and lose her memory.” From there, the three went to Portillo’s home where they consumed more wine and the two employees “engaged in non-consensual sex acts with Portillo, who was severely intoxicated to the point she was not fully conscious.”

Portillo said she woke up and knew she had been raped. She missed graduation, spending the day in the hospital. Portillo, then 21, reported it to campus officials who handle Title IX violations along with police.

“Sexual assault has been a very common theme in higher education, and it should not be happening,” Portillo, now 24, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “If me coming forward helps any other victim, that’s the best thing I could have done.”

The settlement does not include an admission of negligence on UCSC’s part, according to The Mercury News.

“When our preliminary investigation warranted action, we immediately removed the faculty member from campus, prohibited all contact with students, and placed the individual on leave pending the outcome of the Title IX investigation,” UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal said in Tuesday’s statement.

The Chancellor claimed the university investigated Portillo’s accusations as soon as she came forward. The investigation ended on June 1, 2016, with Perla’s resignation.

However, the former student had a different take.

“This happened to me on June 13 (2015), and the professor wasn’t removed until August,” she told The Chronicle. “It was not immediate at all — and there was always some reason why it was delayed.”

In a January interview with Buzzfeed, Portillo also claimed it was no secret the professor took students out to drink — even moving class to a bar on one occasion. Portillo also said Perla allegedly dated other students.

“No amount of money will make her whole,” John Kristensen, who represented Portillo, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“No apology will come close to being considered sufficient. Ms. Portillo, a promising future lawyer, was scarred for life because UCSC failed to comply with its own regulations and other rules governing higher education entities. This case is emblematic of the crisis of sexual assault on female students at our nation’s institutions of higher learning.”