Ohio University English professor Andrew Escobedo submitted his resignation to OU administration Friday afternoon, which will take effect Nov. 1, OU President Duane Nellis said in a prepared statement.
Escobedo’s resignation comes two weeks before he was scheduled for a hearing before senior members of OU Faculty Senate. That committee then would have provided a recommendation to the Board of Trustees on whether or not he should be fired for sexual misconduct.
“This afternoon, Dr. Andrew Escobedo submitted his formal resignation from Ohio University, effective Nov. 1,” Nellis wrote in an email provided to The NEWS by an OU spokesperson. “…As you are aware, Ohio University initiated proceedings to terminate Dr. Escobedo’s employment following the ECRC report. As part of his resignation, he has waived his right to a Faculty Senate hearing on the matter of de-tenuring that was scheduled to begin on Sept. 1.”
That ECRC investigation found, through a preponderance-of-evidence standard, that Escobedo had sexually touched and groped two graduate students without their consent multiple times during an end-of-semester party in 2015.
Escobedo and the university, as well as the former chair of the English Department (who is also the chair of Faculty Senate), are currently named in a civil-rights lawsuit filed by those two graduate students, alleging Escobedo sexually touched them without their consent, and that the university had been “deliberately indifferent” to past signs of his sexual misconduct.
The university and Escobedo have denied those claims in separate motions on two separate occasions.
The ECRC investigation also found that Escobedo, through a preponderance-of-evidence standard, had sexually harassed those women, along with sexually harassing two other students in similar incidents in 2003 and 2005. Escobedo has been on paid administrative leave from the university since March 2016, when the university began that investigation. He will continue to earn his roughly $86,000 a year base salary until Oct. 31, even though he won’t be working, OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood confirmed over the weekend.
Two complaints against Escobedo were found to be unsubstantiated by OU in the ECRC investigation, pending the university receiving any further evidence. He also isn’t facing any criminal charges to date, so Escobedo leaving prior to being fired for his alleged sexual misconduct could mean he feels this gives him a better chance of finding a job at another university.
Escobedo in a statement provided Tuesday said he continues to maintain that the claims against him are "not fair or true."
“...the findings of the University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance office were fundamentally flawed, and (a) professor’s reputation and livelihood should not be ruined because of misrepresentations and mean-spirited accusations based on rumor and gossip," Escobedo wrote via email. "Ohio University's administration made it clear to me and my lawyers that they planned to fire me no matter what the faculty hearing determined. Thus, I believe that my resignation is in the best interest of my family and my finances at this time, and that continuing to fight what appears to be a foregone conclusion is not.”
President Nellis in his statement argued that OU has demonstrated its “commitment to protect the safety and well-being” of students, faculty and staff, in order to “provide a learning and working environment that is free from sexual misconduct; and to hold all members of our community accountable to these values.”
Nellis said he consulted with Interim OU Provost David Descutner, as well as Bob Frank, dean of the Arts and Sciences College, and others.
“Brave women and other people in our community stepped forward to bring intolerable behavior to light,” Nellis said. “The healing process I envision is not one that will dim this light but rather intensify our efforts to ensure our community is a safe place to learn and work.
“I will build upon this conversation the first week of the academic year with university, academic, faculty, administrative, student, graduate student and classified staff leadership,” Nellis added. “Our focus will be on the prevention of sexual misconduct. We all have a responsibility to be leaders and to protect one another, our students and our community.”
The statement from OU was a rare one; as a general rule, the university doesn’t comment on personnel matters like this.
“Typically, we do not comment on resignations but given the public circumstances related to the findings of an internal investigation by University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC), I feel compelled to notify the university community,” Nellis said in the statement.
MICHAEL FRADIN, the lawyer representing graduate students Christine Adams and Susanna Hempstead in the suit against OU and Escobedo in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, provided a statement Sunday on Escobedo resigning.
“It’s disappointing that the university appears to be making its decisions based not upon what’s best for the future of its female students but based upon how to best defend the allegations in the civil-rights lawsuit,” Fradin said. “It’s disappointing that, rather than addressing the past wrongs, the university has a team of lawyers strategizing on how to best obfuscate them.
“Ironically, in their second motion to dismiss, the university has stated that it is not attempting to ‘diminish plaintiffs’ experiences.’ This in my opinion is hypocrisy at its finest,” Fradin charged.
OU has filed two separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit against itself and OU Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin (who is the former chair of the English Department). The most recent motion was filed in response to an amended complaint filed by Fradin alleging that at least two other women have experienced unwanted advances from Escobedo than were initially listed in the ECRC investigation.
One of those women, a female professor in the Enligsh Department, has allegedly filed a seventh complaint against Escobedo with OU’s ECRC office; according to the suit, Escobedo allegedly tried to kiss her without her consent soon after gaining a position of authority over her. The amended complaint also alleged that McLaughlin dismissed the professor’s complaint while failing to report the incident or take any corrective action.
The university’s motion to dismiss the suit, filed Aug. 4, argues that neither McLaughlin nor OU violated the rights of Hempstead or Adams, or that either were “deliberately indifferent” to signs of Escobedo’s alleged abuses.
The university also argued that McLaughlin did respond to an allegation of Escobedo being in an “inappropriate relationship” with a student in 2006, when McLaughlin chaired the English Department (he wasn’t chair of the department in 2011, when the incident with the female professor noted above allegedly occurred).
“McLaughlin immediately confronted Escobedo about the report. Escobedo ‘adamantly denied’ the report, leaving McLaughlin with nothing to go on,” the university’s motion reads. “Nonetheless, McLaughlin contacted the ECRC who looked into the matter further, conducted a climate survey and training. McLaughlin also brought the results of the climate survey to the attention of his department’s administrative council for further discussion. Five years later, in 2011, when McLaughlin was no longer the department chair, a professor asked McLaughlin to participate in a peer ‘intervention’ after she alleged Escobedo had gotten drunk and tried to kiss her. She indicated that she had rebuffed the overture. McLaughlin declined to participate in the intervention, and the professor discussed the matter directly with Escobedo and reported the incident to the ECRC in 2016.”
In general, the university in its motion to dismiss argued that its response to Hempstead and Adams’ Title IX complaint was adequate, and that the claims against McLaughlin should be dismissed in part because he was not chair of the English Department at the time of the December 2015 incident or of the 2011 incident. The university also argued that he should be entitled to “qualified immunity.”
Escobedo also has filed a response to Hempstead and Adams’ amended complaint in a separate motion (he is defending himself with legal counsel separate from the university), denying all of the most serious claims against him.
Marsha Dutton, OU professor emerita of Medieval Literature in the English Department, said in a comment Sunday morning that she was grateful to him for taking the "difficult step of resigning," which she said made it possible for those affected by his actions to "move forward."
Dutton had also been a witness in the university's ECRC investigation, having reported Escobedo's alleged sexual relationship with a student in 2006 to McLaughlin, according to Adams and Hempsteads' amended complaint against the university.
"The past year and a half has been a wrenching time for so many people," Dutton said. "For the students who had the courage to report what they had experienced, for all faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the English department, which has experienced nearly irreparable damage; for the university and all those who have been actively involved in carrying out the investigation and deliberating toward a just solution; and of course above all for Dr. Escobedo and his family.
"He and I were hired into the department at the same time; we have worked together well for nearly twenty years now, and I have admired him in so many ways."
She called his departure from the department "necessary," although she called his leaving a "painful loss to so many people in ways both intellectual and personal."