Students began speaking out Saturday against Ohio University’s Faculty Senate recommendation to reinstate OU journalism professor Yusuf Kalyango’s tenure after he was found to have sexually harassed two students.
In December 2020, a Faculty Senate committee recommended that Kalyango should not have his tenure revoked and be fully reinstated as a professor. The reason behind the decision came from the conclusion that the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, or ECRC, investigation did not ensure adequate due process for Kalyango.
Michael Fradin, attorney for the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit against Kalyango, is disappointed in the decision from the Faculty Senate committee.
“It’s a nonsensical, counterproductive, confusing and bizarre misdirection away from the university’s substantive and repeated institutional failures,” Fradin said.
Kalyango did not respond to a request for a comment.
Following the news of the Faculty Senate committee’s decision, members of the Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program, or ASAP, spray-painted one of the walls near Richland Avenue outside of Bentley Hall. On the wall, they painted “BELIEVE SURVIVORS” and included the Twitter handle and contact information for the Survivor Advocacy Program.
“As a student who is also a survivor, it is incredibly disturbing to see staff members at this university defending sexual predators who are confirmed to have been predators,” Olivia Gemarro, a senior studying English and sociology-criminology, said. “Now it just seems like this is definitely going to impact (the Scripps College of Communication’s) image in a negative way, and if they don't care about survivors, they should at least care about that.”
Other members of ASAP believe the decision is belittling to survivors.
“As a survivor at Ohio University, for my situation specifically, one of the hardest things was this feeling of invalidation and the decision that the faculty of Ohio University decided on just is a huge slap in the face to the survivors,” Taylor Whittington, a junior studying biology and psychology, said. “I can't even imagine it on a university scale, the fact that they're able to completely invalidate these survivors and just completely invalidate everything that they worked so hard to try to get some sort of consolation for what happened, and it just all got thrown out the window.”
Mackenzie Harris, a junior studying journalism, finds the decision disheartening.
“I think, as students, it's really important that we believe survivors, advocate for them and support them and hold the university accountable to do the same,” Harris said. “And as a journalism major, it's really disturbing and really disappointing to see this happen in a program that I love so much.”
Students from the Women’s Panhellenic Association, or WPA, worked with members of Student Senate to create a petition calling for OU to fire Kalyango.
“I actually just started that yesterday morning around 10 a.m. ... I worked with Liz from the Student Senate; she's (the) treasurer,” Maggie Old, a junior studying visual communication and the president of WPA, said. “We came to the decision that this petition would be the best way (to get the community’s voice heard), and I think it's a great place where people can learn about it and also take action at the same time. So, like, when you read about something and you're immediately disappointed, outraged, you can immediately take action and kind of sign that petition.”
Old also found the Faculty Senate committee decision upsetting and disappointing.
“It is really disappointing to see that even the Title IX office found him guilty of these sexual harassment charges, and then it was a five to one vote, just to be like, ‘Yep, just give him his permanent position back, give him his tenure back, and everything will be fine,’” Old said.
Just like ASAP and the Survivor Advocacy Program, WPA stands with and supports survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
“WPA stands with survivors so that everyone kind of knows that these are women empowering women,” Old said. “I think it's really important to show even in cases like this that even if it's not a Panhellenic woman, even if she's not directly affiliated with a sorority, that the women in the sorority still stand beside them and will advocate for them and everything.”
In addition to signing and sharing the petition, Old encourages people to email the OU Board of Trustees and Stacey Bennett, OU’s general counsel, to give them student feedback on the situation.
In response, OU issued a statement Monday stating the Kalyango case is ongoing and named the Trustees as the final decision maker.
“The Yusuf Kalyango matter is ongoing, and the University is not currently able to comment on the details of the proceedings due to provisions within the faculty handbook,” according to the statement. “However, it is important for the University community to understand that the recommendation of the Faculty Senate committee is only one step in a multi-step process and does not necessarily define the final outcome of any detenuring review.”
Maddy McFadden, a senior studying English-creative writing, encourages individuals who need support to reach out to SAP.
“Obviously, this is really difficult news, but if you're a survivor or co-survivor here on campus, know you're not alone, and people care about you and are listening to you and want to fight for you,” McFadden said. “And if you need to talk to anyone at all or need support, contact the Survivor Advocacy Program here on campus.”