Emporia State Provost David Cordle recommended firing Brian Schrader, a tenured psychology professor, after Human Resources and campus Police & Safety completed a Title IX investigation, as revealed during Monday’s informational meeting about sexual harassment.
President Allison Garrett declined to terminate Schrader due to the different standard of evidence that was required by the faculty committee convened to consider his case, she said during the meeting. She also said she has now requested that Faculty Senate create a task force that would review sexual misconduct policies, and that members of the group would include students and staff, in addition to faculty.
About 200 students, faculty, staff and administrators attended the meeting. According to Garrett, it was the next step in continuing the discussion about sexual harassment on ESU’s campus.
The discussions on sexual harassment were prompted by a series of stories, beginning Feb. 15 in The Bulletin, about “Jane,” an undergraduate Korean student who alleged that Schrader took her into a storage room on campus, touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her. The Bulletin has withheld Jane’s real name to protect her from the stigma associated with sexual assault. Schrader was identified because Jane’s accusation was credible, according to documents that said there was a “preponderance of evidence” that he had violated university policy on sexual misconduct.
“We have a lot of work to do as a community, we know we're not perfect and we know we need to work on training, on communication, and on policy,” Garrett said. “There is a role for everyone and every group on campus to play as we move forward in trying to fix some of these issues that we’ve identified over the last several months in connection with Title IX and sexual assault and sexual harassment issues.”
During the meeting, people brought up concerns about Schrader still being employed by ESU and the process for firing a tenured faculty member.
According to the university policy manual, when the termination of a tenured member of the faculty is under consideration, a committee made of tenured faculty members is formed to hear the case.
The committee of faculty members is determined by a random selection, according to Rob Catlett, Faculty Senate president and assistant professor of economics. Either party has the opportunity to exclude faculty members, according to Catlett. He said he was unable to disclose the faculty members that were on the committee, but did confirm that it was not entirely made up of “white men.”
“One of the aspects of this policy allows the particular faculty member to make it a closed proceeding and when the faculty member makes that election, those involved are not able to speak to it,” Garrett said.
According to Lauber, the faculty members cannot come forward or speak about the committee because it is a personnel record.
“My understanding is that you receive a recommendation from this committee about dismissal for a tenured faculty member, but the decision is yours, not theirs to make,” said Mike Morales, associate professor of physical science.
Garrett confirmed Morales’s statement and said that she made her decision based from the committee’s recommendation, as well as from studying the case.
“I went through all that information myself and also met with the committee so that I could understand their reasoning and it was a very lengthy and involved process,” Garrett said.
According to Garrett, Jane was not involved or even alerted about that process, but they used “lengthy recorded interviews with her written statements.”
Garrett said that it was “enormously frustrating” that she could not share more of the story and investigation and that she was legally unable to do so.
When asked if students would have received any information regarding this information if The Bulletin had not published Jane’s story, Garrett said they would not have.
“The policy for dismissal of a tenured faculty member gives the faculty member the right to have a closed proceeding, and this particular one would not have come to light but for that (The Bulletin’s coverage),” Garrett said.
Following the Title IX investigation that was held over the summer, Cordle recommended to Garrett that Schrader be fired.
When asked if she agreed with the findings of the Title IX investigation, Garrett said that she and the faculty committee are required by ESU policy to use a higher standard of evidence than the preponderance of evidence when dealing with cases involving the termination of tenured faculty members.
“The question before me was whether there was clear and convincing evidence that would support his dismissal, because I was at a later stage in the proceedings and so I wasn’t asked to consider that (the preponderance of evidence),” Garrett said.
Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that makes one version or the other highly probable, Garrett said.
“Here, a higher standard of proof was definitely a big piece of the picture,” Garrett said.
The faculty committee came to the decision that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Schrader violated sexual harassment policy, due to additional information found during the investigation, according to Garrett.
“Sometimes one thing that will happen during the course of an investigation, subsequent hearing, or trial, is that additional information comes out and this was the case here,” Garrett said. “I don't know how people would have come out on the preponderance of evidence if that had been the standard applied here, given the additional information that was available.”
Garrett said she agreed with the decision of the faculty committee that there was not clear and convincing evidence. The faculty committee did not provide a minority report, according to Garrett.
“What that means is they found unanimously that the university failed to meet its burden to prove that Dr. Schrader engaged in these actions,” Garrett said.
During the meeting, Garrett also discussed the need for additional sexual harassment training and said she requested that a task force be made to address sexual harassment issues and look over policies.
“One request that I have made is that our Faculty Senate lead a task force over the next several months to look at some important sets of issues,” Garrett said. “That task force would include students and staff members, not just faculty.”
The students that will be involved in the task force are expected to be through shared governance and ASG, Garrett said.
“When I gave the charge to the president of the faculty and the vice president of the Faculty (Senate), I made it clear that I expect the involvement of the other shared governance groups, so that would include not only students, I’m assuming that would come through ASG in some form, but also staff members as well,” Garrett said.
Christina Brunton, senior business administration major, said that she hoped students would be included throughout the entirety of the process.
“I hope that with the formation of this task force, whatever that means, that students will be included at the very beginning and not at the middle or the end,” Brunton said.
Students also expressed concern about Schrader serving as the undergraduate adviser for psychology students.
“As a psychology major, this is a big issue for me,” said Madison Williams, senior psychology major. “Why was Brian Schrader made the undergraduate adviser for all undergrad psych students, after everything?”
Garrett had not known of Schrader’s position as adviser until last Thursday, she said.
“It’s my understanding, as of this morning, that that particular assignment has been removed,” Cordle said.
As of Monday, Schrader is still employed by ESU, but he is no longer the undergraduate adviser for psychology students.