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Demonstrators gather during a rally outside of Ellis Hall on Feb. 24, 2017. The rally was held in response to Ohio University's treatment of the sexual harassment allegations against English professor Andrew Escobedo. (FILE)

English professor accused of additional sexual misconduct in suit

New details have emerged in the federal civil rights complaint against an Ohio University English professor, including allegations that implicate him in additional cases of misconduct.

Christine Adams and Susanna Hempstead, the students who filed the Title IX complaint against Professor Andrew Escobedo that initiated the University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance investigation against him, filed the initial complaint in the U.S. Southern District Court of Ohio Eastern Division on March 8. Their legal representative, Michael Fradin, says Escobedo and Ohio University and English professor Joseph McLaughlin deprived them of their constitutional right to equal access to education.

Escobedo is facing dismissal for sexual harassment. A hearing before a faculty senate committee to determine whether he will be dismissed from his position is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 1 and 2.

An Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance investigation into Escobedo’s actions found that he had engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct for over a decade that involved buying female students drinks at bars and then touching them sexually without consent. The office received six complaints, and investigators found enough evidence that Escobedo violated university policies in four of those cases.

The amended complaint, filed June 19, implicates Escobedo in sexual harassment cases that weren’t included in the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance investigation into his actions.

According to the complaint, Escobedo sexually harassed and touched an adjunct professor who was employed in the English department in July 2005. The complaint identifies the professor only as “complainant #5.”

The professor held a birthday celebration at Uptown bars, and Escobedo showed up uninvited, according to the amended complaint. He then allegedly touched the woman’s thighs multiple times without consent, and the woman’s friends witnessed the touching.

The woman said she called the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance to file a report after she had left the state of Ohio and no longer felt Escobedo had influence over her career, according to the amended complaint. The Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance does not have any record of this report.

The amended complaint further claims Escobedo began to make inappropriate sexual contact with a faculty member soon after becoming her faculty mentor. The female professor depended on him for recommendation for tenure.

When the female faculty member reported misconduct to McLaughlin, he allegedly said Escobedo’s personality was just “like that” and said intervention “would not happen.”

The faculty member has since reported Escobedo’s behavior to the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, but the university has not yet complied with Fradin’s request for those documents.

In both the initial complaint and the amended complaint, Fradin said McLaughlin was aware that Escobedo had a sexual relationship with a female student he was advising.

Therefore, Fradin argued, OU and McLaughlin had multiple opportunities to investigate and discipline Escobedo. Not doing so amounted to discrimination against Adams, Hempstead and other female students by deliberate indifference.

In the initial complaint, the students argued the university mishandled and misplaced a 2006 climate survey the English department conducted that indicated women felt unsafe. The amended complaint includes a copy of that survey that Escobedo produced.

According to the amended complaint, course evaluations indicated a faculty member was sexually harassing female students in the department in 2006. In response, the OU Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance conducted a climate survey of graduate students in the department.

Nineteen graduate students responded to the survey. Nine said they had witnessed inappropriate and sexist language or jokes. Five said they had observed “inappropriate eye contact or other body language,” and five said they observed “seductive remarks, including attempting to establish a sexual relationship.”

In response to the initial complaint, Escobedo said the results of the survey did not indicate a problem within the English department.

In the amended complaint, Fradin does not outright accuse Escobedo of concealing the results but characterizes the “losing and then re-finding” of them as “suspicious as best.” He argues that if the university had taken action in response to the results, Adams and Hempstead would have been spared harassment and emotional distress.

Escobedo must respond to the amended complaint by July 21, and McLaughlin and the university must respond by Aug. 4.


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