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U.S. professor accused of sexual misconduct finds new employment in China

Lawrence Mitchell, a former dean at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Law School, left the school in 2014 amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. According to the Cleveland Scene, and various Chinese social media accounts, he is now teaching at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SHUFE) in China.

In 2016, according to the Cleveland Scene, Mitchell changed his name to Ezra Wasserman Mitchell, which is the name on a faculty page of the SHUFE School of Law. That page has a résumé of his qualifications and teaching experience at various U.S.-based academic institutions, including George Washington University and CWRU. What’s missing is his documented history of inappropriate sexual relationships with students and staff.

According to a 2014 investigative article in the Cleveland Scene, during his tenure at CWRU, Mitchell treated the school as his “personal pickup playground,” where he propositioned students for threesomes, and aggressively made out with college-age women in grocery stores and his school office.

Some of Mitchell’s former students told the Cleveland Scene that the professor had never attempted to hide his predatory behavior. Even before the official start of their first year at school, Mitchell appeared at various night events during the orientation week, inviting students to threesomes and making lewd suggestions.

“During the first weeks of school, everybody was talking about how the dean was out, drinking various things, doing various stuff,” a student told the Cleveland Scene. “Maybe you’ve heard this, but one person even has a picture of him making out with this girl. There was this first-year orientation event and the dean just shows up with this young chick; he doesn’t even have a pretense, he’s smashed and he’s making out with her.”

Some students reported Mitchell’s sexual misconduct to some faculty and a picture of him having sex with a young woman was widely shared on Facebook in 2011. But the professor managed to maintain his job until he became the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit in late 2013, which led to his ousting one year later.

Following his departure, Lawrence Mitchell changed his name to Ezra Wasserman Mitchell and began a new career in China. A since-deleted article on the SHUFE law school’s website (read a cached version here) suggests that Mitchell accepted a job offer as a full-time professor majoring in corporate law and international financial law from SHUFE in 2014.

“Having Professor Mitchell joining SHUFE will exert a positive impact on the school’s internationalization,” the article writes. “Professor Mitchell expressed his gratitude for the school’s kind invitation, saying that he was fond of the work environment here and vowed to fulfill his job and live up to the expectations from the university.”

While Mitchell’s current employer has been turning a blind eye to his past, a group of SHUFE students are trying to attract attention to the case. According to the February article published by the Cleveland Scene, copies of a brochure created by a group of SHUFE students, which includes detailed descriptions of Mitchell’s scandals at CWRU, have been distributed at the school.

In an email interview with the Cleveland-based news outlet, one student involved in the campaign to raise awareness about Mitchell told Scene that they were inspired by the #MeToo movement and some recent cases at Chinese academic institutes where professors were removed from their positions facing allegations of sexual misconduct. The ultimate goal, according to the student, is to strip Mitchell of his post at SHUFE because he “is extremely dangerous to female students.”

Sexual misconduct on college campuses in China

Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.