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OU journalism faculty member sues university for discrimination following sexual harrassment investigations

Clarification appended.

Ohio University journalism faculty member Yusuf Kalyango — who was investigated by the university in 2018 for sexual harassment — filed a lawsuit Sept. 11, alleging the university discriminated against him during its investigation because of his race, national origin and gender.

Kalyango, who is a tenured professor and was the director of the Institute for International Journalism, alleges in a lawsuit submitted to the Ohio Southern District Court that the university subjected him to unfounded investigations, failed to follow its own policies, breached confidentiality and proceeded with a de-tenuring process, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango claims if he had been white, American-born or a woman, he would not have been treated this way. Kalyango is a Black man of Ugandan descent and a U.S. citizen.

He is still a university employee, working on research. His teaching and advising duties were suspended. Jatin Srivastava is how the director of the Institute for International Journalism.

Kalyango, who demanded a trial by jury in the lawsuit, filed the suit because OU “purposefully deprived” him of equal contract and procedural rights as well as job protections and opportunities, and OU unlawfully discriminated against Kalyango because of his race, according to the lawsuit.

OU has received and is reviewing the litigation, Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said. The university will reserve comment until it files a formal response in court.

Kalyango requested in the lawsuit the court "(eradicate) the effects of past and present unlawful employment practices.” Kalyango also requests that the court orders the university to carry out policies and practices that provide equal opportunities for all employees, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango claims in the lawsuit he has suffered, and continues to suffer, “extreme emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety, depression and loss of esteem and reputation as well as the loss of income, benefits, and productive ability.”

Kalyango claims he is entitled to compensation for “all economic loss, past and future lost wages, past and future benefits, non-economic compensatory damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also orders the university to reinstate him as a full tenured professor and “make him whole by providing appropriate back pay with prejudgment interests,” according to the lawsuit. Kalyango also ordered the court to require OU to compensate him with more than $75,000 and the costs of this action, including attorney fees, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango remains on paid administrative leave, which is a “state of limbo,” because he does not have the ability to continue to develop himself and his career due to the “unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory conduct” of OU, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango joined the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism’s faculty in the fall of 2008 to teach several undergraduate and graduate classes, including foreign correspondence.

As of August 2018, Kalyango is the only tenured Black full professor in the journalism school, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango was found through an Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, or ECRC, investigation to have sexually harassed a graduate student by quid pro quo and hostile work environment, according to a previous Post report.

The Post does not name people who report sexual harassment or assault unless they give permission.

In early 2017, a female graduate student began working as Kalyango’s assistant on a project.

The graduate student traveled with Kalyango to South Africa in June 2017 for the project. Kalyango and the student were invited to a side-trip in Rwanda to attend a gorilla trekking activity. The student accepted the invitation and participated in the trip, according to the lawsuit.

Kalyango states in the lawsuit the student was staying in Butare, Rwanda, while he was staying in Kigali, Rwanda, which is about six hours away.

While on the trip, the student was required to prepare a comprehensive financial report on the expenditures for the group on the South Africa trip. The lawsuit says the student “submitted a grossly inadequate and erroneous report … which failed to properly itemize, inventory or reconcile the receipts and expenditures for the trip.”

Kalyango told the student her work was subpar, but he did not terminate her position nor indicate that her employment was in jeopardy, according to the lawsuit. After returning to OU in June 2017, the student started working for another project headed by Kalyango.

After Kalyagno told the student that her work was not up to par, she filed a complaint to Sara Trower, then-director of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance and Title IX coordinator at OU. The lawsuit states the student “gave false and misleading information regarding her employment interaction with Dr. Kalyagno.” 

The main example the lawsuit states is that the student “falsely claimed Dr. Kalyango suggested they might need to share a room based on scheduling and availability, for the first night during the Rwanda Trip.”

Kalyango claims Trower or employees within OU’s Human Resource Department encouraged the student to quit her position “to create an alleged policy violation against Dr. Kalyango,” according to the lawsuit. 

He also claims the student said to friends that she learned from Trower and others in her department that she could create a claim against Kalyango if she claimed she was terminated or if she resigned from her position, suggesting that such action was retaliatory based on her alleged refusal to share a room in Rwanda, according to the lawsuit.

In 2019, the student filed a lawsuit against Kalyango and OU. The case was terminated, as she was awarded $90,000 by OU, June 2.

Trower provided incorrect information to the student about her rights and the process that could be followed, Kalyango alleges in the lawsuit. Trower and other employees allegedly encouraged the student to resign from her position working with Kalyango in the Africa program.

The student then presented a Title IX complaint to the University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance Panel, according to the lawsuit.

“At that point, Ohio University initiated a severely flawed and discriminatory investigation by investigator, George Anaya,” Kalyango alleges in the lawsuit.

The investigation began in July 2017 and ended Aug. 24, 2018. Under state and federal law and OU’s policies, the student’s complaint should have been investigated and resolved within 90 days, according to the lawsuit.

Following the investigation, Dean of the Scripps College of Communications Scott Titsworth sent Kalyango a letter, suspending him from teaching and reassigning him to other work for the school.

Kalyango alleged that this was a professionally harmful action that was “grossly premature” and severe, as Kalyango and his family were physically banned from campus, where his sons were enrolled in activities and summer camps.

The lawsuit alleges that Titsworth’s actions were based on Kalyango’s race and national origin.

Kalyango alleges Anaya disregarded statements of several key witnesses, including two female senior OU professors who validated Kalyago.

Kalyango further alleges Anaya “prepared his report with a discriminatory animus, based upon Dr. Kalyango’s race and national origin, depicting Rwanda in particular, and Africa in general … as a dangerous place and region.”

After the release of the findings, then-journalism school Director Robert Stewart told Kalyango that he could not represent OU at academic conferences and in global engagements, according to the lawsuit. Kalyango stated that decision was inconsistent and created a double standard, similar to what he claims regarding Titsworth’s suspension memo.

During the investigation, Kalyango was not placed on administrative leave and continued to teach and hold other responsibilities at OU. 

Kalyango alleges this verifies that if the student was telling the truth, his employment as an instructor was still not an issue of safety.

The lawsuit also alleges that Kalyango complained to Stewart in 2017 about the chair of the graduate admissions committee, Michael Sweeney, who Kalyango believed was favoring U.S. students over minority international students in the admission process.

"I will happily and completely respond to these allegations at the proper time," Sweeney said in an email.

Kalyango was the only Black faculty member of the journalism graduate committee from September 2011 until March 2018, according to the lawsuit.

Stewart “discriminated and retaliated against Dr. Kalyango, negating customary de-tenuring norms,” the lawsuit alleges. 

The Title IX office launched investigations into Stewart and Titsworth for discriminating against race and national origin and retaliation investigation.

Kalyango claims there are at least three white professors who were accused of far more egregious conduct. One of them was recommended for a reprimand and training. There were at least two former minority professors who have been terminated, de-tenured or forced out of their employment with the university for “conduct similar to or less egregious to the conduct of the American-born, caucasian peers,” the lawsuit alleges.

In September 2018, Anaya had another memorandum of findings about a different white professor, who was charged with “much more severe conduct.” The ECRC and the university “carefully protected the identity of this accused white male professor,” the lawsuit states. That helped protect that professor’s identity and reputation, Kalyango claims in the lawsuit.

On Oct. 8, 2018, Kalyango filed a formal complaint to the ECRC, requesting the investigation of Sweeney for allegedly violating OU policies by engaging in public comments and a negative smear campaign.

Kalyango claimed the university normally provides legal representation for employees who are sued in their capacity as employees, but OU “with discriminatory and retaliatory intent, based upon his race, national origin, and gender, refused to provide legal representation to Dr. Kalyango.”

Kalyango also alleges that Anaya and Sweeney revived a 2011 complaint against him in retaliation for Kalyango naming Anaya, among others, as defendants in a separate lawsuit last March and for voting against a doctorate candidate preferred by Sweeney, according to the lawsuit. 

The May 30, 2019, memorandum submitted by Anaya reopened the investigation of 2011 accusations of sexual harassment by hostile environment against Kalyango. Kalyango claims that Anaya and Sweeney tracked down the former student involved in the matter, who had since graduated and moved out of state, to persuade her to “recant or recast her recollections of six years earlier,” according to the lawsuit.

The woman originally denied claims of sexual misconduct by Kalyango when approached by both Institutional Equity and the Center for International Studies, according to the memorandum. When asked by Anaya, she said the claims were true, according to a previous Post report.

The conclusions of the May 30, 2019, memorandum were received by the University Professional Ethics Committee — created in August 2018 in the midst of the investigation into Kalyango — and in November 2019, the committee issued a report “rubber-stamping” Anaya’s conclusion that found Kalyango’s behavior in 2011 “severe enough to create an intimidating, hostile and offensive educational and work environment,” according to the lawsuit. 

Kalyango claims the reopening of the investigation was retaliatory and that Anaya “imposed 2019 standards upon the (2011) determination” to conclude that Kalyango had violated OU’s sexual harassment policy in 2011. Kalyango claims Anaya used this conclusion as support for his later conclusion that Kalyango was responsible for violating the sexual harassment policy while on the 2017 Rwanda trip, according to the lawsuit.



Clarification appended: A previous version of this article made it sound like Kalyango was still the director of the Institute for International Journalism. The article also now includes the amount of money the student was awarded from OU to terminate the lawsuit. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

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