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Ohio University's Baker Center

Ohio University’s Baker Center. Photo by Ben Peters.

Ohio University Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday night to withdraw the committee report recommending that Yusuf Kalyango keep his tenure, and ensure it’s taken out of consideration by the OU Board of Trustees, which is tasked with rendering a verdict as to whether the professor is able to keep his job.

The move raises plenty of questions about what could happen moving forward, since it’s not clear whether the Board of Trustees are required to honor the senate vote nor what evidence the body might review in its decision-making process.

The Board of Trustees, according to the faculty handbook, are only tasked with reviewing the final document sent by Faculty Senate when determining tenure revocation.

“The Trustees are committed to fulfill their duty on matters of the utmost importance to our students, faculty, and greater community. They will follow an equitable process and will review and consider the matter appropriately,” a university spokesperson said in a statement.

The resolution, introduced by Jennifer Fredette and Devika Chawla, identified what they believed to be numerous flaws under university policy in the report of the committee, which was charged in December with reviewing Kalyango’s appealing of tenure revocation through evidence and testimonies from faculty members and from women who alleged they were sexually harassed.

The senate voted on the merits of the committee report, which most had only read for the first time Monday after it was published by The Athens NEWS, with 26 members in favor of the resolution, one in opposition and 22 who abstained.

The abstentions were done to prevent conflicts of interest, since many senators either served on committees related to Kalyango’s case over the years or belong to the Scripps College of Communication where the professor works.

The sole member in opposition to the resolution was Senator Jacqueline Wolf, who was outspoken throughout the meeting about her skepticism of revoking Kalyango’s tenure.

“I really don’t want to see us go toward weakening tenure. I don’t understand how this faculty committee threatens anyone’s rights or doubts anyone. And to wipe out the rationale and the decision of an entire faculty senate committee strikes me as a very, very dangerous precedent,” she said.

The resolution was originally written under the presumption that the Board of Trustees hadn’t been given the committee report yet, calling for the senate to withhold the document.

But it was revealed by Chair Robin Muhammad that it was already in the Board’s possession, prompting a last-minute amendment by senators to instead call for the report to be taken out of the Board’s consideration.

There was worry among the senators that failing to withdraw the committee report wouldn’t allow those found to be sexually harassed by Kalyango to see justice. Many were also concerned that the committee conducted its own investigation, rather than simply reviewing previous evidence as it was tasked.

In violation of the faculty handbook, according to the resolution, the evidentiary standard used in the senate committee report was different than the one used in the OU Office for Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (Title IX office) investigations which found through a preponderance of evidence that Kalyango sexually harassed two students.

The senate committee also improperly placed the burden of evidence on the university rather than Kalyango, the resolution said.

“These facts indicate that the Faculty Senate’s specially convened committee process was fatally flawed and violated university policy,” the resolution said.

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