A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Wednesday accused an unidentified art professor at the school of inappropriate conduct while she was a freshman in a public Facebook post making its way around the social media site.
Caycee Bean, a student and athlete at the school since 2014, said she reported an incident last semester to the university and was dissatisfied with UW-L’s response.
“I’m sharing this because I am extremely disappointed with UW-L’s process. This professor took a slap on the wrist and gets to walk around like he is untouchable,” Bean wrote on Facebook.
She declined to be interviewed, saying she was acting on the advice of her lawyer. The post had 860 shares by noon Thursday.
The university released a statement Thursday afternoon, stressing its commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive learning environment for all of its students and responding to all complaints promptly, and stating that the investigation did not determine university policies were violated.
“The University is aware that public statements have been made regarding an investigation of a faculty member. As an institution, we acknowledge the university should have been more prompt in communicating the result of this investigation to the student and regret the negative impact this had on the student,” said a university spokesperson.
Chancellor Joe Gow has directed the investigative team to re-open the case and to seek a review of the matter by the UW System attorneys, the statement said, citing new information.
According to Bean, the professor, whom she did not identify citing legal reasons, gave her an override into his senior level classes, and offered to give her private drawing lessons.
“When it came time for my ‘lesson’ he took me into a small paper room and locked the door behind him. I was immediately uncomfortable but didn’t really understand what was happening,” she said.
Bean said the professor asked her to pose for him and take off her sweater.
“He made comments about my body and then took his hand and began to lift up my shirt. I stopped him. I felt like I was in a bad dream and was so uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do,” Bean said.
According to her post, someone then began to jiggle the door, and they waited a few minutes before opening the door and left.
“A classmate was standing by the door and watched me walk out of a locked paper room with our professor,” she wrote. “I was so embarrassed. I quit taking art classes and tried to forget that it happened.”
Watching the professor walk through the halls with other freshmen girls left her sick to her stomach and she filed a report with the university. UW-L officials promised to keep her in the loop, then failed to contact her, she said. She followed up this week.
In response, she received an email acknowledging that a miscommunication led the university to fail to follow up with her. Bean posted the email on her Facebook page, redacting the name of the official who sent it to her.
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In the email, the official thanked Bean for sharing her concerns and says the school reviewed the matter and “communicated expectations to the faculty member in question.”
“For the duration of your academic career at UW-L, he has been instructed not to contact you,” read the email, adding that any other concerns or questions can be directed to the Dean of the College for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.
“When the complaint was received, an investigative team comprised of trained university officials promptly followed up with the student and exercised due diligence to identify and reach out to other potential witnesses. Investigators, along with the dean of the college, also met with the faculty member to share the allegations and hear the faculty member’s response,” according to the university statement.
The university did not find that the professor violated school policy.
“While there was not a determination that our policies were violated in this case, we nevertheless took action to protect the student from retaliation or other disruptions to academic opportunities during the investigation. These measures will continue for the remainder of the student’s time at UW-L. The university has also taken action to ensure that the faculty member and the department are engaged in ongoing efforts to maintain safe and appropriate instructor-student interactions,” according to the statement.
UW-L has an 11-page harassment policy on its website, which includes prohibiting sexual harassment, defined as “the inappropriate introduction of sexual activities or comments into the work or learning situation.”
Harassment is handled by the Equity and Affirmative Action office. The policy allows that office to take interim measures on a case-by-case basis while a complaint is pending, including no-contact orders between the complainant and respondent.
It also calls for both the complainant and respondent “to be simultaneously informed in writing of: the outcome/resolution of the complaint; the rationale for the outcome; any changes made to the outcome/resolution before it comes final; when the outcome/resolution becomes final; and any available appeal procedures.”
Bean, who said she is meeting with Gow to discuss the issue, is asking anyone with similar experiences with an art professor at UW-L to reach out to her on Facebook.
“This needs to be brought to light so we can put an end to it,” Bean said.
The university also urged anyone with any knowledge of misconduct to report the behavior.
“We ask and encourage anyone who feels they have witnessed or experienced misconduct to report it. Confidential support is also available,” according to the statement.
For more information visit www.uwlax.edu/violence-prevention/learn-more/sexual-assault/.
Jourdan Vian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.