The Ohio University Board of Trustees on Friday voted unanimously to terminate the employment and revoke the tenure of journalism professor Yusuf Kalyango, who was found by the university Title IX office to have sexually harassed at least two students, rebuffing the Faculty Senate committee’s conclusion that the professor should be reinstated.
The Board of Trustees, serving as the final arbiter in determining the fate of Kalyango’s tenure, reviewed the Faculty Senate Hearing Committee’s report outlining its reconsideration of his appeal of tenure revocation after taking umbrage with the standard of evidence used by the committee, among other concerns, in its original report that ultimately sided with the professor in favor of upholding his academic status.
The committee’s reconsideration report, obtained by The Athens News, reaffirmed its original conclusions and defended in great detail the initial report’s merit.
Loss of tenure is widely viewed as the most severe punishment in academia.
The Trustees also conducted its own review of both women’s cases, examining video recordings and transcripts of the Faculty Senate committee’s hearings, leading them to overrule the committee’s verdict. The Board of Trustees in its review of the evidence found inconsistencies in Kalyango's defenses against both women's allegations.
“We are especially grateful to the two women who courageously stepped forward to share their stories and make public their painful experiences with sexual misconduct on our campus. These brave women and other people in our community took many difficult steps to bring intolerable behavior to light,” Board of Trustees Chair Janelle Coleman 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.”
Kalyango, who was suspended in 2018 by the university in consultation with the Scripps College of Communication after an investigation by the OU Office for Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, or the Title IX office, found that he sexually harassed a graduate student and who — prior to Friday — worked in a research capacity with no access to students, didn’t return a request for comment on the Trustee’s verdict.
He’s also been at the center of lawsuits in recent years related to the sexual misconduct allegations, including one he filed against the university last year alleging Scripps College leadership was racist toward him.
His Canton-based attorney Gregory A. Beck also didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
OU in a statement reaffirmed its commitment to responding to allegations to sexual misconduct.
“The decision to terminate any employee is one the University takes with great care and seriousness. The investigation and adjudication process are designed to ensure thorough consideration before a conclusion is reached,” the university said press release. “This process led to Dr. Kalyango’s termination, and this action upholds our commitment to providing a safe environment for our University community.”
“To the survivors in these stories: Ohio University recognizes your courage and the bravery you demonstrated in sharing your experience with sexual misconduct on our campus. We believe you,” the news release said.
Former students Tess Herman and Lindsay Boyle, both women whose allegations against Kalyango were substantiated by the Title IX office and further affirmed by two university professional ethics committees and the Trustees on Friday, applauded the decision to revoke Kalyango’s tenure.
“I am very relieved by the Board of Trustee’s decision to revoke Dr. Kalyango’s tenure and dismiss him. This decision will have a positive ripple effect to make our school, and schools beyond, safer and more nurturing learning environments. Let this be a warning to those considering abusing their positions,” Herman said.
She continued, “I was only one of many at our school who fought for years for justice. If you are fighting a similar battle, know that you are not alone. My hope is that future survivors will not have to face a multi year long process, rife with retaliation, in order to find justice.”
Boyle said she believed Kalyango wouldn’t have lost his tenure had the faculty committee’s original report not been leaked and scrutinized by Faculty Senate and in turn the Board of Trustees.
“Without their voices, the Board may have taken the original report at face value rather than ordering the subcommittee to revisit its work. I implore OU to evaluate and change the process that allowed a committee to privately make a recommendation that nearly overturned the hard work of the (Title IX office).”
The Board of Trustees at an emergency meeting earlier in March unanimously objected to the Faculty Senate committee’s original recommendation report, which advocated that Kalyango shouldn’t lose tenure and immediately be reinstated as a full professor, ruling he was not ensured adequate due process by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the Scripps College.
The Board of Trustees’ concerns with the original report included the standard of evidence used, the committee’s failure to permit the university’s representative to cross-examine Kalyango, and the group’s failure to explicitly outline the grounds on which its findings were made. Many of those concerns were reiterated Friday. Members of Faculty Senate were also concerned with the evidentiary standard used by the committee.
The group was ordered by the Trustees as part of a unanimously approved resolution to file by March 30 a reconsideration of its findings, which contained defenses for each criticism of the initial report levied by the Board of Trustees.
The reconsideration report was ultimately submitted three days after the deadline. The reason for its tardiness isn’t clear, as both Muhammad, who presided over the committee, and the Trustees declined to comment, though Muhammad said the Board was notified the document was arriving late and didn’t object. The Trustees at the time didn’t return a request for comment on the veracity of Muhammad’s claim.
The Faculty Senate hearing committee was originally tasked in December 2020 with reviewing Kalyango’s appeal of tenure revocation through evidence and testimonies from both women who alleged the professor harassed them and from faculty members, culminating its findings within the initial report.
With the original report, the committee’s six members, including Drs. Mark Franz, Sheryl House, Charles Lowery, Lauren McMills, Vladimir Marchenkov and Yehong Shao-Lucas, voted 5-1 in favor of Kalyango’s appeal. Muhammad, as chair, would only cast a vote in the event of a stalemate.
After the document was leaked to the media in February and made public, Faculty Senate voted to withdraw the report from the Board of Trustees’ consideration, arguing it was improperly conceived and violated university policy.
According to the faculty handbook, the Board of Trustees are only required to consider the final document sent by Faculty Senate when determining tenure revocation of a faculty member, but the body pledged at the time to review all relevant evidence in the yearslong case.
Sydney Dawes contributed reporting.