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University Professor Fired for Sexual Misconduct with Student 10 Years Earlier

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

Earlier this month, as the Seattle Times reports, a University of Washington professor was fired and lost his tenure as a result of an internal investigation concluding that the professor had “inappropriate sexual contact” with a 17-year-old student back in 2009.

According to the report, the professor was serving at the time as the interim director of the Robinson Center for Young Scholars, an early entrance program allowing high school students to enroll in UW as undergraduates as early as the ninth grade. The professor allegedly initiated sexual contact at least twice with one of the early entrants, a 17-year-old girl, after the two began communicating online and via text. (Text messages corroborated the allegations.) The victim did not report the incident to the school until early 2019, stating that she did not “feel forced” at the time but came to realize later that the professor “should have had different professional boundaries.” The professor denied that he had initiated the contact, but university officials concluded that the evidence contradicted his claim. The school finalized its investigation in October and finalized the decision to fire the professor in early December after an appeals process was completed.

A Lesson in School Sexual Misconduct Cases

This news story highlights several important takeaways when discussing allegations of professor-student sexual misconduct:

  • There is no “statute of limitations” for sexual misconduct in the context of school discipline. Ten years had elapsed since this alleged incident had occurred—eleven by the time discipline was actually rendered. The former student had been long gone from the university by the time she decided to report the incident, and it still cost the professor his job more than ten years later.
  • Emails and texts do not disappear. While we might assume evidence of wrongdoing dissipates with time, the history of communication between the professor and the student painted a clear picture to the inquiry board a decade later—and by accounts, it was the online communications that proved to be the deciding factor.
  • Investigations may take time. In this case, the school's investigation lasted more than a year and a half, and even after they had reached their decision, it took more than a month for the appeals process to run its course before the professor was ultimately fired. This can actually work to benefit the falsely accused because it allows them more time to develop a defense strategy.

Attorney-Advisor in Professor-Student Sexual Misconduct Allegations

For a professor or teacher, being accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student is an incredibly serious matter indeed—and as the above story shows us, even an event that supposedly happened a long time ago can come back to damage a person's career years after the fact. If a former student accuses you of inappropriate conduct, failing to take it seriously is the worst mistake you can make. Having an attorney-advisor to help you through the complicated and challenging investigation process can go a long way toward saving your career and your ultimate exoneration. If you are a professor facing sexual misconduct charges, Joseph D. Lento can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.

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