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UNR faculty member launches GoFundMe, alleges decade of abuse and retaliation

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Discretion advised: This story discusses sexual assault. If you believe you may have been sexually assaulted, call the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673.


An associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno this week launched a GoFundMe campaign in what she says is a “fight for justice” against the university. 

The campaign was launched Monday by Feifei Fan, an associate professor in UNR’s mechanical engineering department. In the fundraising appeal, Fan said she is “the victim of alleged abuse, exploitation, and systemic misconduct” at the university. 

Fan added that her abuse is part of a pattern. She is calling for support to “shed light on these issues and bring about much-needed reforms.” 

Fan filed a lawsuit against Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) in December 2022 alleging more than a decade of abuse, sexual exploitation and retaliation against her and other foreign students. She pointed to five tenured faculty members in the mechanical engineering department whom she alleges “held complete authority over the department.” 

Reports to the university’s Title IX office went nowhere, she said.

“UNR has knowingly permitted its well-funded and powerful senior professors, including a serial sexual predator and violent rapist … to turn a higher education workplace into a hostile environment with underground sex slavery and flagrant involuntary servitude,” Fan’s lawsuit alleges. 

Fan’s lawsuit hosts a list of complaints against the university and senior faculty in the department, including the university’s failure to properly train faculty on discrimination, harassment and similar policies and failure to educate foreign students on their legal rights and channels for reporting complaints. 

Fan, in her list of claims, said that foreign students are reliant on stipends and endorsements from department leadership which makes them vulnerable to abuse from university faculty. 

She alleges that a now-retired senior faculty member used foreign graduate students on F-1 visas to provide free skilled labor at his private company, which, along with the university, received federal and state funding for collaborative projects. In addition to forced labor, she said the scheme involved wage and hour violations, labor trafficking, and national origin discrimination.

In another portion of the lawsuit, Fan said a tenured faculty member who served as her advisor and work supervisor during her years as a graduate student at UNR, sexually assaulted her multiple times. She alleges that he threatened her with deportation and the loss of her F-1 visa—the loss of which she said would cost her livelihood. 

Other faculty boasted of sexual relationships with students, she alleges, and demanded students perform personal errands for them.

Amid what Fan says was a culture of abuse and misconduct, she says the university profited from the research and labor of the exploited students through grant and research funding and academic prestige.

Fan said funds raised through the campaign will help cover attorney costs, court fees and filings, expert witnesses and additional investigation.

UNR officials refused to comment on ongoing litigation.

A lawsuit in August was filed by another professor who also alleged sexual harassment and lack of responsiveness by UNR administrators and the Title IX office. A lawsuit filed by another professor recently received support from the National American Association of University Professors and the Nevada Faculty Alliance. That case alleges gender discrimination.

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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