Banishment of acclaimed professor sparks debate over whether #MeToo can go too far

For years, the professor told the assistant dean that she was beautiful and greeted her with hugs and a kiss on each cheek.

During their time together at UC Irvine, Francisco J. Ayala, 84, and Benedicte Shipley, 50, perceived their encounters in dramatically different ways…

Unwanted fondling or forcible kissing clearly crosses that line — but people sharply disagree about Ayala’s conduct, which included a 2015 incident in which he jokingly offered one of the women his lap as a seat at a faculty meeting (and then apologized after he learned she was offended).

Elizabeth Loftus, a UCI professor of social ecology, law and cognitive science, said she found Ayala’s hugs and cheek kisses “adorable.” Shipley, who said Ayala also on occasion rubbed his hands up and down her sides when hugging, viewed his behavior as “more than creepy.”