Former Ohio University Scripps faculty member Yusuf Kalyango filed a lawsuit May 24 against OU in response to a case against him in which the university found he was responsible for sexual harassment. 

In the suit, Kalyango argues he should be reinstated as a tenured professor on administrative leave at OU while the case is pending. He also claims he deserves over $1 million in damages to compensate for “back wages, future wages, loss of benefits and other economic and non-economic benefits to which he is entitled,” according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also names eight counts of university fault according to Kalyango: breach of employment contract in good faith and fair dealing, misrepresentation and conspiracy, as well as breach of administrative policies, retaliation, public policy violation, preliminary injunction and infliction of emotional distress. The claims are not the first Kalyango has filed against the university; he recently dropped a discrimination lawsuit arguing OU discriminated against him based on his race. 

The lawsuit was filed in response to a 2017 university investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment against Kalyango reported by a graduate student. The student worked as an assistant to Kalyango on a project in which they traveled to South Africa and reported that while on the trip Kalyango suggested the two may need to share a room together based on scheduling and availability, which the student rejected. 

In May 2019, Kalyango was found to have also violated OU policies that include sexual harassment by hostile environment for another student on or around March 2011, according to a previous Post report. His most recent suit against the university references the 2011 incident, but does not directly name it as a reason for the court claim. 

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

The most recent suit argues race — among other things — was a strong factor in the university’s handling and outcome of the case. Additionally, the filing claims OU violated its own policies over the course of its investigation. University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said while OU does not comment on pending litigation, “the university is deeply committed to the principles of inclusion and adheres to applicable laws and its own policies.” 

Kalyango’s suit asserts OU failed to adhere to its own policies regarding investigation and resolution of a sexual misconduct claim. The filing first points out the length of the initial investigation in 2017, which spanned approximately 13 months. According to the faculty handbook, investigations into sexual misconduct complaints should be resolved as quickly as possible. If it cannot be concluded within 90 days, OU will notify the faculty member and complainant about an extension and provide “an anticipated timeline for completion.” While the lawsuit does not indicate whether Kalyango was notified of an extension, it claims he was never given a timeline for expected completion of the investigation. 

A key component in Kalyango’s suit is the issue of racial bias and the role he believes it played in the determinations made throughout the course of the sexual harassment investigation. In particular, he accuses George Antonio Anaya, a civil rights investigator in OU’s Title IX office, of discrimination based on his race. Kalyango was the only tenured Black professor in the School of Journalism until his termination. 

Anaya began the initial investigation in 2017 and issued the findings in August 2018, which found Kalyango guilty of sexual harassment by quid pro quo. However, a Faculty Senate Hearing Committee concluded in 2020 the claims of sexual harassment lacked substantial evidence and that Kalyango was denied adequate due process. 

The contradiction between the Senate Hearing Committee and Anaya’s findings led Kalyango to believe Anaya disregarded Kalyango’s statements and evidence with a “pre-set judgemental bias, in part based upon Dr. Kalyango’s race and national origin,” according to the court claim. Faculty Senate Chair Robin Muhammad did not respond to a request for comment on the suit. 

Kalyango’s claims of racial bias also extend to Michael Sweeney, a recently retired professor of journalism history, who Kalyango claims encouraged the graduate student to file a sexual harassment claim to retaliate against him for pointing out discriminatory graduate admissions based on race. He also asserts Sweeney deliberately defamed him among peers for similar reasons. Kalyango’s suit asserts this violates his state rights and the university faculty handbook.

According to the lawsuit, Kalyango believes he was treated unfairly throughout the sexual harassment investigation and resolution by OU because of his race. He argues the decision by the OU Board of Trustees to overturn the Senate’s ruling and revoke his tenure without severance was influenced by his race. Board Chair Cary Cooper did not respond to a request for comment on this suit. 

The suit cites the treatment of caucasian male professors in similar situations as more lenient, with less severe penalties such as written reprimand and Equal Employment Opportunity training and suspension. Kalyango argues that revocation of tenure was too harsh of a penalty, which was not consistent with prior instances of sexual harassment and was a result of his race. The case cites two other instances of minority former OU faculty members receiving harsher penalties than their white counterparts.

The lawsuit claims there exists a “pattern of conduct by Ohio University to follow a pre-set judgemental bias to reach an unfair end result, thereby disregarding its own policy breaches, failures and omissions…to overrule the decision to reinstate Dr. Kalyango is patently in violation of Ohio law, public policy, an abuse of process and failure to function fairly and in good faith.”

@sophielisey

sy951319@ohio.edu