Escobedo Case Referred For Detenuring Consideration

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The case against English Professor Dr. Andrew Escobedo will be sent to OU’s interim president for detenuring consideration, according to university documents.

Andrew_Escobedo-for-webIn a letter provided to WOUB by the university, Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit referred the sexual harassment claims against Escobedo to Interim President David Descutner for consideration of detenuring procedures.

“I find that Dr. Escobedo’s conduct violates the most basic relationship between faculty and student and erodes the foundation of trust upon which the academy depends,” Benoit wrote.

The OU Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance released a Memorandum of Findings in December that concluded Escobedo had “engaged in a pattern of exploiting females who are subordinate to (him) by virtue of their student status or their junior employment status,” investigator Jessica Cook wrote in the document.

ECRC investigated claims from six different individuals claiming to be victims of actions by Escobedo, ranging from “inappropriate touching” to sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual conduct and hostile workplace accusations.

Most of the women who reported complaints said they didn’t fight or report the “advances,” from Escobedo because they feared damage to their careers or educational opportunities, according to the memorandum. The incidents were reported to have happened at end-of-semester gatherings or bars in Athens.

Escobedo told ECRC investigators the investigation and the accusations in it were the result of a “social justice crusade to get him fired from his job.”

In her letter, dated Feb. 23, Benoit said she reviewed the entire record and talked with OU’s general counsel, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Robert Frank, and Escobedo himself.

The provost wrote she was also informed of the meeting of the Department of English in which they considered the ECRC’s memorandum, the letter written by Escobedo to the faculty and a letter from graduate students speaking out against Escobedo’s return to the faculty.

“A strong majority of the department faculty agreed that, given the egregiousness of Dr. Escobedo’s misconduct, he must face serious sanctions,” Benoit wrote.

Frank reported the opinion of the faculty to Benoit in a Feb. 14 letter, but also gave his recommendation on the matter.

“A serious breach of student trust has occurred, and it is difficult to imagine how we will be able to confidently assure our students that they can be free of concerns about sexual harassment with Prof. Escobedo on our faculty,” Frank wrote.

A “minority of faculty” suggested that an ethics proceeding be initiated before consideration of loss of tenure, according to Benoit.

“I reject this course,” Benoit wrote. “Given the seriousness of these allegations and the outcome of the investigation by ECRC, a full range of sanctions is necessary for consideration in this process, up and including detenuring and dismissal.”

If Descutner decides to move forward with the recommendations of Benoit and Frank, the decision would move to the OU Board of Trustees for approval.