URBANA — The alleged victims of former University of Illinois Professor Gary Xu have reached an agreement on extending the statute of limitations and didn’t sue the university Friday.
“We reached an agreement on tolling, and so will not be filing today,” said Alison Wilkinson, an attorney with the New York-based law firm that filed the suit against Xu.
The alleged victims apparently faced a Friday deadline to sue the UI, so a tolling agreement gives them more time to negotiate a settlement while still allowing them to sue if talks break down.
“This tolling agreement simply allows the university to engage in discussions with the lawyers in the case, so we can better understand and evaluate the concerns being raised,” UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said in a statement.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week against Xu, two of Xu’s former students alleged he used his position to sexually and emotionally exploit his young female Chinese students, who depended on him for their visas.
One former undergraduate alleged she was raped and beaten multiple times by Xu from 2013 to 2015, while a former graduate student alleged she performed countless hours of work for Xu’s commercial art projects, only to receive little or no pay.
Xu has not been able to be reached for comment.
His alleged victims also faulted the UI for not moving more quickly to remove Xu, who resigned in August 2018 with a $10,000 exit payment, more than two years after he was placed on paid administrative leave.
Kaler said the UI takes these issues seriously.
“We investigate and take appropriate action whenever conduct is reported that may jeopardize or impact the safety or security of our students or others,” she said. “The current administration is reviewing and revising disciplinary processes to allow us to take quicker and more forceful action when employment misconduct is proven.”
A campus committee is reviewing procedures for handling faculty sexual misconduct and is expected to produce recommendations this fall.
In an open letter this week to the East Asian Languages and Cultures department, which Xu was the head of from 2012 to 2015, the current head of that department, Robert Tierney, said “we want to express our condemnation of abuses of power, wherever they may occur, and our full support of victims of abuse who have the courage to come forward.”
He was joined in the letter by L. Elena Delgado, the director of the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, which EALC is a part of.
“We take very seriously all the allegations, both the specific charges and the larger issues implied by them,” they wrote. “We therefore support the ongoing investigation of these issues.”
They acknowledged these issues have caused disruption in the EALC department.
“The EALC department has spent the past three years rebuilding the trust of our students and the large and diverse community we serve,” they wrote. “A first and crucial step was helping several of Xu’s former students to successfully complete their programs, under the guidance of other faculty members.”
The department also created an anonymous survey for students and an advisory committee to the head to establish “new and better channels of communication within the department to ensure that such a situation never recurs.”