Sanctions. Additional training. Committee seat?

Huxley professor who sexually harassed two students approved to committee by Faculty Senate

By Hailey Murphy

As a result of sexual harassment investigation, Huxley College professor Paul Stangl is barred from teaching courses this summer, as well as teaching any field courses until summer 2020, according to a memo sent by Provost Brent Carbajal. He also received a written reminder from Huxley’s dean about Western’s policies, and volunteered to enroll in a “Upholding Ethics in the Workplace” and sexual harassment prevention training.

This investigation does not seem to have bothered the faculty senate.

Stangl was approved to serve on the Senate Library Committee on January 29, according to its minutes. Stangl also still serves on the Huxley Policy Committee. The faculty senate as a whole voted to accept Stangl onto these committees.

Allison Giffen, president of the faculty senate , as well as Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre, chair of the Senate Library Committee, both said they were unaware of the sexual harassment case prior to contact from the AS Review. Robin Matthews, chair of the Huxley Policy Committee, didn’t deny being aware of the case but declined to comment, stating in an email:

“The Policy Committee chair is not involved in the nomination, selection, or dismissal of committee members. I understand that this is a very important issue, but it would be inappropriate for me to voice my opinion as a Policy Committee chair, and similarly inappropriate for me to comment as a faculty member, given that this is a confidential personnel issue and I am not privy to the details.”

The details of the case were first reported in The Western Front in November 2017, and led to multiple forums in Huxley, one with Urban Planning faculty and students in December, and one on February 14 where Huxley students expressed concerns about a lack of policy change following the incident.

Paul Stangl.

Huxley associate professor Paul Stangl. Photo from Western’s website.

The allegations came after Stangl led a USA Learning Program trip to San Francisco in June 2016, according to the Equal Opportunity Office report. Two students, who had arrived early, went to dinner with Stangl. After the dinner, around 10 p.m., Stangl called them and invited them up to his hotel room.

Stangl was “clearly intoxicated” when they arrived, according to the student’s statement. He offered alcohol to the students, one of who was 20 years old at the time. They accepted his offer and proceeded to talk.

What followed was a number of inappropriate comments by Stangl. He continued to pour wine, despite objection. He touched the students’ calves with his feet after what appeared to be accidental foot contact. Comments were made such as “If I was 20 years younger, I would marry you,” “you’ve barely touched your drink,” and something along the lines of wanting to “lick their thighs,” the student said.

“At some point he held both of our hands, which I participated in hesitantly because to refuse or leave would have felt somewhat cruel, because he was emotional,” said the student in their report. “His opening up made us feel more obligated to stay with him, on top of the existing power dynamic, and it made me guilty about saying anything about this whole event afterward.”

The students left Stangl’s room after his comment about licking their thighs. It was about one or two in the morning.

The next day, Stangl called the student and apologized if he “said anything weird.”

The incident was reported to the Equal Opportunity Office in July 2016 and an investigation was launched. Once Stangl heard about the investigation, he called both students who were in the room that night.

The report states that Stangl sounded “clearly upset,” asked why they would “do this to him” and expressed concerns that he would lose his job.

Yet Stangl didn’t lose his job. The EOO deemed that Stangl’s actions weren’t severe enough to be considered sexual harassment, according to The Western Front.

However, the investigation found that Stangl violated the section of the Code of Faculty Ethics which expects professors to avoid sexual harassment, intimidation or exploitation of students. It also states that he violated University Policy that prohibits sexual behaviors that could be construed as inappropriate.

The student who made the initial report came forward again in March 2017, according to their statement, after hearing that Stangl would be teaching another field course that summer. The second investigation led to Stangl’s eventual punishment.

In Stangl’s written response to the event, he denied most of the allegations made by the student. He said that he didn’t pour drinks for them, that the only intentional contact was holding a student’s hand when they became emotional (and he himself didn’t become emotional) and that he made no statement about licking their thighs.

Stangl did not deny making comments about wanting to marry the student.

Also in Stangl’s statement, he explains why he called the students and had an extreme reaction to the notion of being under investigation.

“The reason for my exaggerated response derives from my experiences at Western, where over the past several years I have increasingly come to feel myself under attack,” he wrote. “…My sensitivity in this area was also heightened by the recent article in The Atlantic regarding Western students attempt to create a student organization capable of investigating, disciplining and firing faculty.”

The article in question is about the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation, a group on campus working to combat systematic oppression and white supremacy in the structure of Western.

Among other things, this group proposed creating a panel of students who would have the power to discipline or fire faculty due to oppressive behavior.

Despite being given a punishment, however, Stangl’s actions are continuing to affect students.

An anonymous students, who is both a survivor of sexual assault and a student within Huxley College, was taking Stangl’s Urban Planning class last fall quarter when The Western Front published their story on Stangl. After that point, the student only attended for tests, plus a day or two.

“[Stangl’s] presence of masculinity– that I knew was unchecked because he never really got in trouble– was really hard for me,” said the student. “To have him as a person of power, to have him as a teacher as someone who’s been affected and is a survivor, I felt threatened indirectly by him.”

The student was able to get by, but Stangl’s presence on campus affected their sense of safety and robbed the student of experiencing the course in full. She believes Stangl shouldn’t be on campus at all, particularly due to President Randhawa’s recent email to students in which he expressed zero tolerance for sexual violence.

“That’s a blatant slap in the face,” said the student, in reference to the email. “That’s so rude because that’s not true at all. That’s a lie. All the students received a bold faced lie. There is a professor in power, teaching us, that has no consequences [for his actions] and it’s not a safe learning environment.”

 

Updated 3/7 with a photo of Stangl.

 

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