A Fresno City College communication instructor and president of the school’s academic senate was found to have committed an “act of sexual violence” against a professor and former colleague at nearby Fresno State University, where he taught for years until he resigned under pressure last year, documents show.
The allegations against Tom Boroujeni stayed hidden from public view, EdSource found, before surfacing in 2020, when Fresno State opened an investigation based on the federal anti-discrimination law known as Title IX, records show.
(This article originally appeared on EdSource at this link.)
That investigation determined that Boroujeni committed the sexual violence in 2015, when he was a graduate student and part-time instructor at Fresno State. The case wasn’t fully resolved until February, when the alleged victim reached a $53,300 settlement with the university after claiming it hadn’t done enough to protect her, university records show.
Boroujeni was also a part-time instructor at Fresno City College while finishing a master’s degree at Fresno State in 2015, records show.
Boroujeni, 38, of Clovis, is also known as Farrokh Eizadiboroujeni and Tom Eizadi, documents show.
City College’s parent agency, the State Center Community College District, became aware of the matter in August 2021 when the alleged victim, who also teaches there part-time, “requested a no-contact order” against Boroujeni “as a result of a sexual misconduct investigation” at Fresno State, according to an internal district document obtained by EdSource.
The district granted the order based on a report by its former general counsel, Fresno attorney Gregory Taylor, who conducted interviews and combed through Fresno State’s investigation. Taylor concluded Fresno State’s finding was “well-reasoned and supported by sufficient evidence.”
In 2023, despite the findings and stay-away order, the State Center Community College District gave Boroujeni tenure. A district spokesperson said laws governing the granting of tenure were followed.
In both Fresno State’s investigation and in interviews with EdSource, Boroujeni denied committing what Fresno State concluded was “an act of sexual violence.”
Asked if he raped the alleged victim, Boroujeni replied in a sharp tone, “No, I did not.”
Boroujeni claimed he and the alleged victim, who was a professor at Fresno State at the time, had consensual sex in her apartment in June 2015, shortly after they started dating. But the investigation found that she told Boroujeni “no” when he asked if they could have sex. He then “pinned down (her) upper region” and she “zoned out” during what followed, according to the 2021 university report.
EdSource doesn’t identify sexual-abuse victims. The alleged victim declined to be interviewed for this story.
Boroujeni appealed the findings to the California State University’s Chancellor’s Office in June 2021. The appeal was denied a month later.
EdSource sought documentation about the case from Fresno State earlier this year.
Walsh wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Boroujeni’s lawyer, Brooke Nevels, informing her the report would be released as “a matter of public interest.”
Boroujeni said his 2015 graduate-student status should have blocked the release of the investigative report to EdSource under the state’s public records act. He also was a part-time instructor at the time. But in a decision made at the CSU system’s Chancellor’s Office, the report was released over his objections.
Boroujeni complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Policy Privacy Office, claiming the release violated the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to a generic confirmation email he provided to EdSource. The response states the complaint wouldn’t be answered for at least 90 days. The department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“It was in the greater good of the public to disclose it,” Debbie Adishian-Astone, Fresno State’s vice president for administration, said of the heavily redacted 43-page document. “The public has a right to know.” EdSource obtained an unredacted copy of the report.
CSU’s Title IX history
In May 2023, Boroujeni started a two-year term as Fresno City College’s academic senate president, a position that gives him input on behalf of the faculty on academic policy and personnel matters and puts him in frequent contact with college and district leaders. “I am a politician. I am a public figure,” he told EdSource.
The revelations about Boroujeni come as Fresno State attempts to move past a CSU-sanctioned report released earlier this year that said the school had “the most high profile and incendiary Title IX issues plaguing the CSU.” That’s a reference to the scandal that took down former CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro, who resigned in 2022 after it was revealed that while serving as Fresno State’s president, he ignored years of sexual misconduct allegations against Frank Lamas, his vice president of student affairs.
When the allegations were finally investigated, Castro agreed to let Lamas resign in exchange for a $260,000 settlement, retiree benefits and a promise of a glowing letter of recommendation.
The Boroujeni case also raises questions regarding the State Center Community College District’s response after learning of Fresno State’s determination of sexual violence and how Boroujeni went on to receive tenure and become academic senate president.
The Fresno State case was not taken into account as Boroujeni became senate president at Fresno City College and achieved tenure in 2023, even after the district investigated the alleged victim’s request for a stay-away order and found that sexual violence occurred.
The president of the State Center Community College District’s board of trustees, Nasreen Johnson, declined to talk to EdSource, and Chancellor Carole Goldsmith declined to be interviewed and answered questions through a district spokesperson.
Other than the no-contact order, the district “took no other action as there were no civil or criminal findings, judgments and/or convictions surrounding (Boroujeni) at Fresno State, nor were there accusations or reports of similar misconduct” at Fresno City College, district spokesperson Jill Wagner wrote in an email to EdSource. The no-contact order requested by the alleged victim wasn’t effective until the spring of 2022, in part because the process of obtaining records from Fresno State was “slow and arduous.”
Wagner said the tenure committee assigned to Boroujeni “considered multiple factors in favor of granting tenure. Areas of concern were not identified” at the time Boroujeni was reviewed. Asked if the committee that considered Boroujeni’s tenure had access to or was aware of Taylor’s report confirming that an act of sexual violence had occurred, Wagner did not respond directly. She wrote that the district followed state law and the district’s union contract, “which prescribes what information can be included in tenure review.”
Boroujeni told Edsource that he “got tenured with the district’s knowledge of everything that had happened.”
Boroujeni resigned from Fresno State on May 9, 2022, agreeing to a demand that he never apply for, or accept employment, in the 23-campus California State University system again, according to the resignation document.
When he accepted those terms, he was being investigated for other unrelated misconduct allegations that were later found to be not substantiated, documents show.
Despite its findings about the 2015 incident, Fresno State couldn’t discipline Boroujeni — such as suspending or firing him — because he was a graduate student when the alleged act of violence occurred, Adishian-Astone, the school’s vice president for administration, said in an interview.
Boroujeni started working for Fresno State as a teaching assistant and part-time instructor in January 2015, nearly six months before the incident, records provided by the university show. But Adishian-Astone said his status at the time was as a graduate student.
The university can’t “discipline an employee for something he did as a student,” she said. But the findings still contributed to Boroujeni leaving his faculty position at Fresno State.
Boroujeni told EdSource that he agreed to resign because if he hadn’t, the act-of-sexual-violence report would have been placed in his personnel file. He said he was up for a performance review at the time and a three-member committee of communication-department academics would have had access to the report. He said he was concerned his reputation would be harmed and his contract not renewed.
“They threatened me, basically,” Boroujeni claimed. “They said, ‘If you don’t (resign), we’re going to hand this over to your department for review.’ They said, ‘It becomes part of your employment record.’”
Although the university couldn’t directly discipline Boroujeni, Adishian-Astone said placing the report in his personnel file was allowable. If Boroujeni hadn’t resigned, the university would have done that, “particularly given the egregious nature of this incident,” she said.
Information Sharing Limited
California has no mechanism for its three public higher-education systems — CSU, the University of California and the California Community Colleges — to share information about employees with sexual misconduct-allegation records.
In response to EdSource’s questions, Wagner, the State Center Community College District spokesperson, said the district is now calling on the state to require that “educational institutions have a mechanism to share information about employee misconduct, harassment and sexual violence.”
The practice of someone in higher education being employed at another college despite sexual misconduct allegations is dubbed “Pass the Harasser,” which the Chronicle of Higher Education once called “higher education’s worst kept secret.”
Boroujeni’s employment at Fresno City College after resigning from Fresno State is a variation of that, said Michigan State University professor Julie Libarkin. She tracks alleged offenders through the Academic Sexual Misconduct Database, which aggregates abuse cases based on news reports. It contains nearly 1,100 cases nationwide, which she said is just a fraction of what occurs.
Too often, she said, faculty members move to another institution after being disciplined or fired. “It’s a problem all over the country,” she said, enabled by secrecy and schools that “don’t want to have their names sullied” by publicly identifying an abuser. If an accused person quietly resigns, they’re often able to keep their records confidential, she said.
In Boroujeni’s case, he was already working as a Fresno City College instructor when Fresno State made its findings. There was no communication between the schools about the matter until the alleged victim asked for the stay-away order.
Adishian-Astone said Fresno State “would not have advised (the State Center Community College District) about this matter on our own as it was a confidential personnel matter and at that time the respondent was already an existing (district) employee. If (the district) had reached out about a reference for the hiring of a new employee, we would have advised them accordingly. Our system does not track if faculty also teach at other institutions.”
Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said the alleged victim could be “in a vulnerable position” at Fresno City College with Boroujeni serving as president of the academic senate.
Boroujeni “shouldn’t have any impact on her experience there, promotions or anything to do with her employment. If he holds this position of power over the victim who told the community college about what happened at the other institution, she could be in a vulnerable position,” she said.
The district “should have checked with the victim to see what impact that could have on her, given that she’s employed by the same institution,” Patel said.
Asked about the alleged victim, Wagner wrote in an email that the district “unequivocally supports survivors of violence.”
A Dean’s Complaint
Boroujeni told EdSource he is also facing allegations regarding his interactions with three other women at Fresno City College. They have each filed pending complaints against him, which he characterized as allegations of “gender discrimination.”
Wagner, the district spokesperson, said she could not discuss the complaints because they are personnel matters. Boroujeni said one is a Title IX investigation and the others are being treated as grievances. The women declined to discuss their complaints.
He identified one of the women as Dean Cyndie Luna of the college’s Fine, Performing and Communication Arts Division. He declined to provide details of her complaint.
Last year, Luna reprimanded Boroujeni for incidents of unprofessional conduct that she wrote were “becoming more frequent and aggressive” and “causing me grave concern as your supervisor,” according to a November 2022 letter of reprimand, which EdSource obtained from a source.
Luna also wrote that in a conversation with her, Boroujeni referred to a colleague with an apparent racial slur and, in a “menacing and threatening” tone, said he “will get” the colleague for gossiping about him.
Boroujeni told EdSource that Luna fabricated the accusations in the letter. “She makes up a lot of things,” he said. Luna declined to discuss his allegation or the letter of reprimand.
Boroujeni said other aspects of the reprimand challenge actions he’s taken as senate president, which he claims cannot be subject to a reprimand. The senate’s executive committee, which he heads, filed a lengthy response to the portion of the reprimand dealing with administrative matters. More than a year later, Boroujeni is trying to get the reprimand withdrawn.
Luna’s “using my employment as a way to mitigate a political situation,” he said, claiming that she is trying to reprimand him for positions he has taken on behalf of the faculty.
“She’s punishing me for doing my job when she’s not even my supervisor as the president of the academic senate. We don’t have supervisors,” Boroujeni asserted.
Born in Iran, Boroujeni said he lived in Greece before eventually coming to the United States and enrolling at Fresno State. In Greece, he said he started using Tom as a first name instead of Farrokh and continued using it in America. He also began shortening his last name to Boroujeni — although Eizadiboroujeni remains his legal last name, according to voter registration and other public records.
Boroujeni was ambitious about a career in academia. He began working in Fresno State’s communication department as “substitute instructional faculty,” in 2015, records show, while finishing his master’s degree, and beginning to climb the teaching ranks.
By 2020, Boroujeni was worried that a job within Fresno State’s communication department was being taken away from him, Fresno State records show.
He was the coach of the school’s nationally prominent debate team, the Barking Bulldogs. But he was losing the job, and the classes he was assigned to teach were being changed in a communication department shakeup, documents show. The publication Inside Higher Ed reported on Boroujeni losing the debate coach job in October 2020.
A few months before the Inside Higher Ed story was published, he retroactively filed a complaint stating that in 2015, when he was a graduate student, a professor lured him into a romantic relationship — the same professor he would eventually be found to have committed an act of sexual violence against.
Boroujeni claimed she sexually harassed him with “unwelcome advances.” But he began a relationship with her because “he feared rejecting (the) advances would jeopardize both his ability to graduate from Fresno State with his master’s degree and his future employment opportunities because (the professor)” taught in the communication department, the investigative report states.
Five years after the alleged harassment, he claimed “the personnel changes were made because of the termination of the relationship with” the professor. But the investigator assigned to Boroujeni’s complaint found communication department leaders had “legitimate reasons” for the personnel shakeup and that no harassment occurred.
But the harassment complaint led to revelations about a deeply held secret.
The investigator, Tiffany Little, found that the alleged victim had confided in a conversation with a close friend “in which (she) described the experience as rape,” Little’s report shows.
Little met with the alleged victim. She confirmed what she had told her friend in 2015, making “an allegation of sexual violence” against Boroujeni, Little wrote.
Boroujeni told EdSource that the alleged victim fabricated the claim as retaliation for his harassment complaint.
Boroujeni and the alleged victim were the same age — 30 — when they began dating in 2015, after he had taken one of her classes as a graduate student.
On the night of June 21, 2015, they were at her apartment. Both were married. She was in the process of divorcing. He told her he had worries about his own marriage, documents show.
Both acknowledged that during a make-out session, Boroujeni asked her if they could have sex. He claimed she said yes and that she provided a condom in a pinkish wrapper, according to documents.
But the alleged victim told Little that she didn’t consent. She first said she couldn’t remember if there was a condom, then later said she was sure she hadn’t provided one, as Boroujeni claimed, because she did not keep condoms in her apartment.
Little’s report states that when the alleged victim told her friend what happened, the friend wanted to call the police. But the alleged victim did not want to make a criminal complaint because “she did not want any of this to come out to the university because she was this young tenure track professor,” Little wrote.
In his statement, Boroujeni said he asked the alleged victim if she wanted to have sex and she replied “mhm,” which he understood as consent.
The alleged victim continued to see Boroujeni, the report states. As she did, the alleged victim described to a friend how he “disregarded (her) boundaries sexually,” Little wrote. That friend told Little that the alleged victim had told her there were times she did not want to have sex with Boroujeni, but “he pressured her until she did.”
Another person told Little that the alleged victim confided in 2017 that Boroujeni “forced me to have sex with him.”
Boroujeni refused to speak with Little, choosing instead to answer her questions in writing. Those answers, Little noted, were written “with the benefit of first having seen (the alleged victim’s) account and the details she provided and didn’t provide.”
Boroujeni said he didn’t speak to Little because “I was seriously worried about criminal exposure.”
He said he couldn’t get legal representation for an interview because of scheduling problems.
He described Little as untrained and “just somebody who works in an office in CSU who is now in charge of a very serious allegation. … How do they hire these people? They are not an attorney. (sic) They are not an investigator. (sic) They go through minimal training.”
Little, who received a law degree from the University of Illinois in 2014, is now the director of civil rights and Title IX Compliance at Northwestern University. She didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Unlike Boroujeni, the alleged victim spoke with Little.
She “didn’t have time to reflect upon, ponder, deliberate about, and compose her answers. Instead, she answered this investigator’s questions in the moment, and based only on her personal recollection. Put simply, a reasonable person could find that (her) manner of testimony supports a finding that her account was credible.”
Little wrote that Boroujeni told her “there are text messages that corroborate his account and requested that (the victim) submit these materials.” But the alleged victim told Little she had already submitted all the texts she had. There was nothing in them that matched what Boroujeni described, Little wrote.
“Told this,” Boroujeni “never submitted or described the messages” himself, Little wrote. Boroujeni told EdSource he’d deleted the messages.
“A reasonable person could find Boroujeni‘s assertion that there is evidence to corroborate his account, and his failure to produce or describe such evidence … to diminish the likelihood that his version of events can be corroborated and therefore the credibility of his account,” Little wrote.
Little concluded that she found the alleged victim had proven herself credible. Boroujeni, she wrote, “did not likely obtain consent for sexual intercourse.”
Fresno State ordered Boroujeni and the alleged victim to avoid each other on campus. He continued teaching.
The alleged victim wasn’t satisfied that the university was doing enough to protect her. She then filed a grievance and gave notice to CSU “of her plans to pursue litigation,” records show.
She reached a settlement in February. The university paid her $53,300 with a paid year off from teaching to conduct research.
In March 2022, Fresno State notified Boroujeni about a new allegation of misconduct against him. The university placed him on administrative leave. He was notified on July 25, 2022, that the complaint was not substantiated.
By then, he had resigned from Fresno State and was pursuing his career at Fresno City College.
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