Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) faculty today responded to a report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an organization whose members consist of professors and other academic personnel employed by colleges and universities in the United States. The AAUP is not an accrediting agency nor does it have any oversight over colleges and universities.
“This report, which concerns the termination of seven faculty members by B-CU in 2009, contains many errors and false assertions and presents a one-sided view of the manner in which the university handled the matters in question,” said Pamela G. Browne, Esq., General Counsel.
At the same time, the university released the findings of a study on sexual harassment on campus, which led to the termination of four faculty members on such grounds. Four of the seven faculty members were dismissed based on allegations of sexual harassment after the university hired a consultant to conduct a thorough investigation. The AAUP alleges that the four professors were denied their due process rights. That is not true. In fact, B-CU presented the AAUP with a thorough report which contained documentation showing that, prior to the present administration, three of the four professors had student complaints filed against them for sexual misconduct. The university found also files documenting administrative hearings involving two of the professors. The hearings were conducted by the previous administration in late 1999 and 2000 and concluded the professors had engaged in acts of sexual harassment against students. The professors were issued letters of reprimand which warned them of termination if this behavior continued. The four professors subsequently filed claims against B-CU with the EEOC, and all four claims were dismissed.
The university commissioned a report, by renowned civil rights attorney David Honig, to give an impartial review the terminations and to issue a report of his findings concerning the claim of “lack of due process” brought by the AAUP. “Bethune-Cookman University’s handling of the incidents involving the four professors needed to be expedited for reasons of student health and safety. Once President Reed learned of the allegations, she set in motion a process that was rapid, appropriate, and ethical. It afforded the four professors the process they were due,” ,” Honig’s report concluded. Additionally, the university’s actions were in compliance with federal mandates that require taking “swift and remedial action” to correct situations involving allegations of sexual harassment.
“The university is publicly releasing the consultant’s report, as well as Mr. Honig’s report, in an attempt to maintain the confidence of students, faculty, staff and the public in the university and, two, to encourage other schools to publicly address this issue. We did not have to release both reports – and some other institutions might have swept this under the rug,” Browne said. “But we have learned a lot in dealing with this situation, and one of the things that we have learned is that sexual harassment is more widespread than many realize, and that victims often are reluctant to come forward. We want to encourage students, faculty and university administrators to take a stand. Also, we hope that faculty, community and women’s organizations that are committed to providing a safe campus environment join us in this cause.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, also applauded Bethune-Cookman University for its swift action to support the education of students who are entrusted to an institution that is supposed to be safe and nurturing.
Browne noted that the four professors were suspended after a review of substantial and credible evidence of sexual misconduct, including:
- An independent consultant hired to gain input from faculty during the search for a new vice president for academic affairs in early 2009 heard from many faculty members that there was a serious problem of sexual misconduct involving four professors in a particular school at the university.
- In May 2009, a distraught student, accompanied by a faculty member, went to the office of Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed and gave a detailed account of sexual misconduct by one of the four professors.
- A visiting professor told the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs that the four professors showed him nude photographs of students with whom they had engaged in sex.
Further investigation revealed prior complaints and administrative hearings, under the previous administration, relative to one or more of the four professors.
As for the other three faculty members, two were terminated for financial reasons and one because he did not have the proper credentials, Browne said.
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