File Photo: NYU Tisch School of the Arts located at 721 Broadway. (Katie Peurrung for WSN)
File Photo: NYU Tisch School of the Arts located at 721 Broadway. (Katie Peurrung for WSN)

A Tisch professor disappeared during a misconduct investigation. Two semesters later, he’s scheduled to teach again.

An Office of Equal Opportunity investigation found that professor Robert Benevides’ actions toward a student in summer 2023 constituted sexual and gender-based harassment, email evidence shows. Benevides will teach two classes next semester, according to Albert.

Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual misconduct.

As Film & TV students at the Tisch School of the Arts looked over the program’s course list for the fall 2024 semester, they may have been thinking about what classes interested them most, or which ones they needed to take to graduate on time. They might not even have noticed the two courses on the list taught by Robert Benevides, the head of special effects makeup in the department who had vanished from Tisch at the beginning of fall 2023.

But for some current and former students, among them three women who filed misconduct reports against Benevides this past summer, his return to the department came as a shock. These women told WSN that when Benevides left Tisch, he was under two investigations by NYU’s Office of Equal Opportunity for his conduct toward students. In one of the university’s investigations, Benevides’ behavior toward a student was found to constitute sexual and gender-based harassment.

This article is based on the accounts of five current and former Film & TV students — all but one of whom said Benevides acted inappropriately toward them — as well as emails from the OEO, emails from the Film & TV department and more than a dozen screenshots of messages from Benevides to students. Most of the students who spoke to WSN asked to remain anonymous due to safety or privacy concerns. NYU declined to comment for this story, and Benevides did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment. 

Multiple current and former students told WSN that Benevides would message them with comments on their appearance or asking them to call or meet with him. Others said the professor asked them over to his apartment, touched them inappropriately and in one case, told them he would have sex with them.

The students said Benevides is a beloved professor in the department, and that his classes are popular and difficult to get into. Many told WSN they were concerned Benevides would return to teach students who are unaware of the misconduct reports against him.

File Photo: WSN video interview of behind-the-scenes artists from May 5, 2023.

An incident at Benevides’ office

In August 2023, Benevides asked a student to come to his office late at night, and had texted her that he was drinking alcoholic beverages, screenshots of messages obtained by WSN show. The woman, who has since graduated, said when she arrived, Benevides was drinking. He then allegedly asked the woman to speak about a personal matter — he had previously texted her that he wanted to talk about something private.

Benevides then allegedly told the woman that he watched pornography and masturbated every morning, and that he had crushes on multiple students. The woman said Benevides told her he had been having fantasies about a student he believed was interested in him, and that he had told this student he would have sex with her. Then, the woman alleged, Benevides said he would “totally do” her as well.

“I froze,” the woman said. “I couldn’t move, I was just so dissociated.” 

Benevides then allegedly told the woman his age, 56, and proceeded to ask “what’s wrong with you being a 23-year-old?” and tell her “age is nothing.” The woman said when she told Benevides she didn’t think his behavior was appropriate, he laughed and told her she was “so funny.” She told WSN that in her experience, Benevides had “a lot of anger issues,” which made her afraid to respond to what he was saying.

“I was literally scared he would just be super angry,” she said. “It’s 10 p.m. in Tisch, there’s no one there, you know.”

The woman said she panicked and began talking about her partner, after which she said Benevides’ “smile dropped immediately, and he completely lost the joy and the slowness he had.” After that, she said she was able to leave his office. The woman said Benevides texted her to thank her later that night, which WSN confirmed through screenshots of the messages.

A week later, the woman said she filed a misconduct report against Benevides with NYU. She said that she later had a Zoom meeting with sexual misconduct investigators at the university, where she told them what had happened in Benevides’ office. 

In November, she received an email from the OEO — which she provided to WSN — saying that Benevides’ behavior, as described through “testimonial evidence and documentary evidence,” constituted sexual and gender-based harassment. The email also said the case had been referred to the Office of the Provost, Tisch’s dean and Human Resources. 

“This letter will serve to notify you that we have concluded our investigation,” the email read. “Based on careful review, the OEO has determined that the evidence presented supports the finding of a violation of the University’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.”

The woman said she did not receive any further communication on the matter, but was told by one of Benevides’ fall 2023 students that one of his classes was canceled around two weeks into the semester. WSN obtained a September email from the Film & TV Office of Academic Support Services to students in Benevides’ Special Effects Make Up II course informing them the class was canceled for the semester. The email did not provide a reason for the cancellation.

“We are sorry for this last-minute cancellation and the disruption to your schedule this semester,” the email reads. “Please be in touch with your academic adviser as soon as possible for help finding an alternate course for this semester.”

The woman told WSN she later discovered that Benevides was scheduled to teach again this coming semester. She said that although she is a Tisch alumnus, she enters the school around once per week to use the facilities there, and is afraid she could run into Benevides next semester. She also said that as a result of her experience in Benevides’ office, she is now in therapy three times per week.

“The mental toll of having a professor violate your boundaries is definitely really troublesome to your mental health,” the woman said. “I still get so stressed out that I’m going to see him, and the fact that he’s going to be back is just making me even more stressed.”

Benevides is scheduled to teach two classes in fall 2024, Intro to Character Design Using Zbrush and Special Effects Makeup I, according to Albert, the platform NYU uses for course registration. WSN obtained a screenshot of a Tisch course list for next semester that shows Benevides teaching the same two courses.

Allegations of grooming

Multiple current and former students told WSN Benevides acted inappropriately toward them, with one saying he showed her pornographic images during class and others saying he made comments regarding their appearance through messages to their personal social media accounts. They told WSN Benevides would respond to selfies or other posts on their Instagram accounts, leaving comments like “slay,” or “love your eyebrows,” which screenshots shared with WSN confirmed.

Multiple students said Benevides later blocked them on Instagram and deleted his messages to them. Benevides’ Instagram, which was shared with WSN, appears to have been deleted as well. 

Tisch senior Mack Flynn said they first encountered Benevides during a summer class in 2022, and that they noticed he would give his female students a “higher priority” than other students in his classes. Flynn said Benevides became closer to them in spring 2023, and began to act as their mentor. 

“He would pick out a couple of people from every class a semester to really kind of make feel special and make feel important,” Flynn said. “He would start to ask people, at least me and some other people I know, to do work with him extracurricularly or outside of class to practice.”

Flynn said that around the time they asked Benevides for advice on their senior thesis project in early summer 2023, he followed them on Instagram. They alleged that Benevides began commenting on their social media stories, replying to selfies of them saying “you look great!” or leaving heart-eye emojis.

That same summer, Flynn said Benevides asked them over to his apartment for help with their thesis. They said they brought a friend who had also been a student of Benevides’ with them, and that upon arrival, he gave them a tour of his apartment, including his bedroom. Flynn said that Benevides made inappropriate comments while they were in his apartment, including remarks about pornography, after which he allegedly laughed and said “that’s inappropriate, we shouldn’t talk about that.”

Flynn also said that that summer, Benevides began to increase physical contact with them, allegedly giving them prolonged hugs. They said that once they shaved their hair off, Benevides began to ask for photos of their head to show his wife, which WSN verified through screenshots of text messages between Flynn and Benevides. They said Benevides began to ask for “a lot of photos” of them, and request that they spend more time together.

From the end of the summer through early fall 2023, Flynn said Benevides would ask for more hugs from them when they saw him in or outside of his office. They alleged that Benevides would put his hands “on certain places on [their] hip” and once “grabbed right toward [their] butt to the point where his hand was almost reaching down there.”

“The hugs would get increasingly inappropriate, they would become longer in duration,” Flynn said. “The way his hand moved, while he touched me — I didn’t really put together the pieces at the time, but when you’re groomed, it’s really, really hard.”

Flynn alleged that in their last interaction with Benevides, he approached them, telling them they “look so great” in the makeup they had on. They said Benevides proceeded to ruffle their hair, call them “so beautiful” and kiss the top of their head. 

“It was definitely getting increasingly more and more intense,” Flynn said. “I felt violated, and it was a really disgusting process for me to integrate all of the pieces and say, ‘oh, this happened to me.’ Granted, we did not end up engaging explicitly sexually, but I feel if he continued working there, and no one had told me what happened, that it would have gotten much worse.”

Two more misconduct complaints

In summer 2023, two other students of Benevides’ — both of whom have since graduated — also filed misconduct claims against the professor with NYU.

However, one of the students said the university never followed up with her after she filed a complaint, which revolved around messages Benevides had sent her such as one asking her to do something “cute with her hair.” The student said she had asked the OEO if she could remain anonymous in her complaint, and that she was told her name would be anonymous if her case was referred to the dean.

“It kind of felt like I was just pleading into the void, because nobody communicated back to me,” the student told WSN. “I filed that complaint, and then it seemed to just go into the ether.”

The second student, however, received multiple follow up emails from the OEO asking her to provide further evidence to university investigators. The student told WSN that Benevides once asked her to look up Hentai — a style of pornographic anime and manga — during class for a project, despite her telling him it was not related to what she was working on.

The student also alleged that Benevides showed her artificial intelligence-generated pornographic images during class, and criticized another student to her over Instagram direct messages, telling her “his concept art is the worst thing ever” and “I’m sorry but he’s a jerk.” She said she shared these experiences with OEO investigators.

After over a month of investigation, the student received an email from the OEO regarding the conclusion of her case. In that email, an OEO investigator told her there was not enough evidence to determine whether Benevides had violated university policy, and that “no further action is required by our office.”

Another Film & TV student said that they had found out about the allegations against Benevides through friends who had known the professor or filed misconduct reports against him. The student said that they and their friends who had known Benevides were “immediately frustrated, angry and disappointed” when they saw his classes on the course list for fall 2024.

“The fact that Tisch is offering classes taught by him with no disclosure of his past actions to new, unaware, vulnerable students — it is just so upsetting,” the student said. “We didn’t know how that could happen and immediately started trying to figure out what we could do, which didn’t feel like much.”

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected]

Developed for web by Manasa Gudavalli.

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