U of C faculty member departs after sexual misconduct investigation

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The University of Chicago says a faculty member has left the school after an investigation found he or she had violated the school’s policy on sexual misconduct. | File photo

A University of Chicago faculty member has left the school after an investigation concluded they had violated the school’s policy on harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct.

The investigation started after allegations of “inappropriate behavior during a private party, which followed an off-campus meeting organized by a University department,” according to a statement issued by the university.

Though the statement did not identify the faculty member, the statement was released to the Sun-Times on Wednesday in response to questions about Jason Lieb, a molecular biologist at the university. Lieb resigned last month after the university recommended he be fired for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy, The New York Times is reporting. According to the Times, Lieb allegedly made unwelcome sexual advances to female students at a party for the human genetics department.

According to the Times, this is not the first time an investigation has been launched regarding Lieb’s conduct. Lieb also worked at University of North Carolina for 13 years, during which time he was under investigation for a complaint of unwanted contact. UNC was unable to find evidence to support the allegation, according to the Times.

The university told the Sun-Times it would not release the name of the faculty member “to protect those who participated in the investigation,” but added that “the findings, conclusions and recommendations will be part of the faculty member’s employment record at the University.”

It also noted that before that person was hired, they told the university “about a prior allegation involving unwanted contact” at another institution. After the university looked into the matter, “the institution of that prior allegation did not find that the individual had violated policies on sexual misconduct. As a precaution despite this assurance, the University required the individual to undergo training before starting at the University,” according to the statement issued Wednesday.

The Times story includes a statement issued by the university’s assistant provost, Sarah Wake, following the complaints voiced by faculty and students who attended the retreat:

“In light of the severity and pervasiveness of Professor Lieb’s conduct, and the broad, negative impact the conduct has had on the educational and work environment of students, faculty and staff, I recommend that the university terminate Professor Lieb’s academic appointment.”

The Chicago Maroon, the university’s student newspaper, published a series on sexual assault allegations at the University in 2013. Former editor-in-chief Joy Crane, who wrote the series, says she’s “not surprised at all” about the allegations surrounding Lieb’s resignation. According to Crane, this is not the first time she’s heard about inappropriate sexual behavior by professors; she believes there has been a “degradation of trust in the ability of the administration to pursue grievances” by faculty and students.

University of Chicago senior Hannah Shea said the Times story was the first she’d heard of Lieb’s departure. “The University must have kept the whole thing under wraps,” Shea said, noting that though the Times referred to students approving of how the incident was handled, “no one was talking about it.”

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