Professor Requests Faculty Hearing On Dismissal

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Hours before the deadline to respond, an Ohio University English professor embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal requested a faculty hearing to decide whether he will be dismissed and detenured.

Dr. Andrew Escobedo

Dr. Andrew Escobedo sent an email to OU Interim President David Descutner Monday morning “requesting a faculty hearing regarding the dismissal proceedings that you have initiated against me.”

Descutner recommended that dismissal proceedings be initiated, according to a letter sent to the professor on March 2. The letter cited Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Frank’s recommendations that Descutner consider detenuring Escobedo and firing him.

“The grounds for dismissal are that for an extended period of years you have engaged in a pattern of sexual advances directed at students whom you supervised, graded, or advised as well as at colleagues in your department,” Descutner wrote in the March letter to Escobedo, provided to WOUB by the university.

Escobedo was placed on paid administrative leave in March 2016. In December of that year,  OU’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) released a Memorandum of Findings 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, who were at the university at different times, claiming to be victims of Escobedo. The women accused him of actions ranging from “inappropriate touching” to sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual conduct and hostile workplace accusations.

Women who participated in the university investigation said they were hesitant to stop Escobedo or report his alleged actions for fear of career or educational damage.

“(She), because she was a graduate student in (Escobedo’s) class, perceived that refusing (his) advances would impact not only her grade but also her educational opportunities at Ohio University,” the memorandum stated about one alleged victim.

Benoit recommended that the interim president consider dismissal after reading accounts of faculty who did not feel comfortable allowing Escobedo back as a professor.

“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 in her letter to Descutner.

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

“I did not intentionally coerce anyone or abuse my authority,” Escobedo wrote in a letter to colleagues in early February. “The complainants’ behavior at the scene strongly suggests that they remained at the bar without coercion or, in other cases, that they did not witness what they claim.”

Escobedo now has a minimum of 60 days to prepare a defense. OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said the hearing would likely take place at the beginning of fall semester.

“Dr. Escobedo may request the hearing be held in open session; however, in absence of such a request, the meeting will be closed,” Leatherwood wrote in an email to WOUB.

On top of dismissal and detenuring, Escobedo is facing a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, filed by two alleged victims. The lawsuit also names Ohio University and Joseph McLaughlin, former chair of the English Department. The lawsuit accuses McLaughlin of being “deliberately indifferent to the (sexual harassment allegations) against Escobedo, even though the allegations were severe, widely known, and likely factual,” according to court documents.

“It is also well known within the Department that current graduate students warn incoming graduate students about Defendant Escobedo’s proclivity to make sexual advances towards students,” the lawsuit claims.

Ohio University is named as a defendant for “violations of Title IX” laws.

Michael Fradin, attorney for the women in civil rights case, declined to comment.