A ProPublica investigation claims to have uncovered previously unreported allegations of sexual misconduct at the University of Illinois' flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign. The investigation makes it seem like these Title IX violations had been covered up by the school. However, because the allegations involve sexual harassment but not sexual assault, the Department of Education chose not to disclose them alongside its investigations of sexual assault on campus.
News of the pending investigation led to serious repercussions for some of the professors it targeted, raising some serious questions about how long they would have to pay for still-unproven conduct.
ProPublica Releases Sexual Harassment Investigations in Illinois
The investigation by ProPublica found that seven professors at the University of Illinois had been accused of sexual harassment, but their cases had slid under the radar. The headline of the story claimed that there were “few consequences” for the professors, but the rest of the piece painted another picture. For example:
- One professor was accused of making “lewd comments” and trying to create situations where he'd be alone with certain students. The allegations came in 2014. In 2015, he agreed to resign when his contract expired in August 2016.
- A female professor was accused of stalking a male colleague. She disputed the findings but agreed to retire 10 months later.
- A college administrator was accused by 8 female students in March and April 2017 of making “inappropriate comments” and of “uncomfortable physical behavior.” He was put on paid leave in April and resigned in August before the investigation was completed.
- Another professor was cleared twice of accusations that he violated the school's sexual misconduct policy but was placed on paid leave, anyway.
The ProPublica investigation insinuates that many of the professors should not have received any of their salaries while the Title IX investigations were ongoing, suggesting that they should have been fired or held accountable before they were proven guilty.
News of the Investigation Causes More Repercussions for Professors
The article's insinuation that the professors were not penalized at all for their alleged actions also overlooks the fact that many of them confronted problems as news of ProPublica's investigation spread. For example:
- The college administrator had gotten a job at another college after a year off but was fired a year later when details emerged of his resignation from the University of Illinois.
- The professor accused of making lewd comments got a job teaching at another college. When ProPublica requested documents from that college for its investigation, the college let him go.
Joseph D. Lento: Title IX Defense and Advising
The idea that these professors have faced “few consequences” for their alleged actions is directly contradicted by most of the story. Some of them were never even found in violation of their school's sexual misconduct policies, but still had to look for new jobs. Those that moved elsewhere – something easier said than done, in this academic climate – only saw their jobs taken away from them by the past conduct they may never have committed.