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Christine Adams, left, and Susanna Hempstead, center, listen to a speaker during a rally outside of Ellis Hall on Friday, February 24, 2017. The rally was held in response to the university's treatment of the sexual harassment allegations against English professor Andrew Escobedo.

English faculty send letter to students in response to Escobedo case

Forty-one English faculty members signed an email sent to students Wednesday acknowledging student concerns related to sexual harassment allegations against English Professor Andrew Escobedo.

The letter comes after students questioned Ohio University and the English department’s response to sexual harassment allegations against Escobedo. Some graduate students have said they felt silenced and treated as expendable during the process, according to a previous Post report. They said some students have faced retaliation for speaking out in favor of Escobedo’s termination and expressed concern about some faculty members openly supporting Escobedo.

Interim President David Descutner has moved to dismiss and detenure Escobedo after an investigation by an Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance investigation found that he sexually harassed and inappropriately touched female students in incidents dating back to 2003. The office received six sexual misconduct complaints against Escobedo and found enough evidence to support a violation of university policy in four of those cases.

Two of the women who filed complaints against Escobedo have also filed a federal civil rights complaint against Escobedo, OU and former English Department Chair Joe McLaughlin arguing that the harassment violated their right to equal access to education and that the university remained “deliberately indifferent” to previous complaints against Escobedo.

The Wednesday letter to students acknowledged the English department “is a difficult place for (students) right now,” and that moving forward will require hard work. It said the department is taking steps to “create an environment of trust, respect, and support.”

According to the letter, the English department is enlisting the help of outside mediation to initiate conversation between students and faculty about the situation surrounding Escobedo. The letter also stated faculty are “committed to ongoing training” from the Survivor Advocacy Program concerning Title IX processes and federal law.

Increased training was one of the demands a group of students made at a Feb. 24 rally outside Ellis Hall. Those students demanded that Escobedo be fired, that the university implement consent training courses for all students and faculty, beginning in the English department and that the university require training in “trauma-informed, victim-centered handling” of sexual violence disclosures for all faculty and staff required to report potential incidents of sexual misconduct to the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance.

Faculty members condemned harassment and sexual misconduct in the letter and said they would respect the outcome of the disciplinary process against Escobedo.

“In short, we want our community to know that we prize our students and wish to move forward in their educations,” read the last line of the letter.


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