The dean of the Scripps College of Communication and the former director of the journalism school were both cleared by the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance of allegations of racial discrimination, according to documents obtained by The Athens NEWS.
The documents, dated Aug. 23, state that the ECRC found that allegations of racial discrimination filed by former journalism professor Yusuf Kalyango against Scripps College Dean Scott Titsworth and former journalism school Director Bob Stewart were “unsubstantiated.”
The ECRC's responsibilities are not limited to Title IX discrimination issues; the office investigates any complaints involving discrimination based on "race, color, religion, age, ethnicity, national origin, national ancestry, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, military service or veteran status, mental or physical disability, or genetic information," according to the university's equal opportunity policy.
Kalyango filed complaints against both men with the ECRC sometime between April and May 2020, prompting the investigation. Kalyango, a Black man and journalism professor, was suspended by the university in 2018 after a Title IX investigation found that he sexually harassed a graduate student. Kalyango also filed a federal lawsuit, since withdrawn, alleging that both men treated him unfairly and retaliated against him because of his race during the administrative de-tenuring process, which resulted in his termination.
In April 2021, the Ohio University Board of Trustees revoked his tenure and terminated his employment with the university.
According to the documents, the ECRC's investigations found that both Stewart and Titsworth provided “legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reasons” for their actions during the course of the Title IX investigation into the allegations against Kalyango.
The ECRC uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning the evidence is sufficient for a finding that it is “more likely than not” that a particular fact is true.
When asked for comment, Ohio University Spokesperson Carly Leatherwood declined, saying the reports “really speak for themselves.”
Former J-School Director Bob Stewart
In his complaint against Stewart, Kalyango alleged that the former director manipulated the school against Kalyango and "began a campaign of severe segregation” and discrimination against him. They also allege Stewart denied due process and obfuscated the steps he was taking.
Stewart, the documents show, had blanket response to the allegations: “There is no evidence of denial of due process rights presented by Kalyango,” Stewart said in the report.
In early February 2020, Kalyango sent Stewart a letter seeking clarification on the de-tenuring process in a personal conference, as the faculty handbook stipulates. The meeting took place later that month; in the meeting, Kalyango maintained his innocence, stated he felt de-tenuring was unwarranted and said he wanted Stewart to form a select committee of faculty to investigate. Stewart said “he did not want to risk having his faculty members in the school meet all together to discuss Kalyango’s matter because it would cause some friction among faculty.” Stewart said he would need to think about his course of action, and agreed to call Kalyango when he had decided.
Later in February, Stewart informed Kalyango that he could not form a select committee because he was not allowed to exclude faculty from the process.
Kalyango also argued that Stewart had not been clear about the process he was following and had a “draconian process of holding secret private meetings.” According to records obtained by Kalyango, Stewart met with 9 out of the school's 14 tenured faculty members. But Kalyango provided no information to support his allegation that Stewart had purposely “omitted consulting with many faculty members,” according to the report; the evidence indicated that all full-time faculty were invited to meet with Stewart.
Kalyango asserted that Stewart met privately with faculty during the extended 2020 spring break to avoid “conflict within the school,” which investigators concluded would be “itself a motivation other than discrimination or retaliation against” Kalyango.
Kalyango also asserted Stewart favored input from professors who were discriminatory to Kalyango based on his race. Stewart denies this.
“There is no evidence of racial bias presented by Kalyango,” Stewart said in his defense in the document. "Simply stating that there is bias does not make it so.”
The investigation found the allegations unsubstantiated.
“The preponderance of the evidence does not support that (Stewart’s) actions, whether or not they were in keeping with the procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook, were pretext for Stewart to discriminate against Kalyango based on his protected status or were taken to retaliate against Kalyango in response to a protected disclosure,” the findings state.
Dean Scott Titsworth
According to the documents, Kalyango alleged that Titsworth had unlawfully pressured him into taking a voluntary separation agreement, stripped him of funding and resources and attempted to undermine the investigation proceedings by filing a memo with Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs.
Titsworth denied any allegations of racial discrimination, the documents show, and said his “recommendations were undertaken with the honest belief that 'Kalyango had twice violated university policy by engaging in sexually harassing behaviors with students under his purview as a faculty member and administrator,'” and that “de-tenuring was the appropriate recourse for those violations.”
The allegations against Titsworth stem from a months-long fight over a meeting schedule at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Kalyango claimed that he was pressured throughout 2020 to attend a virtual de-tenuring consultation with Titsworth and Stewart. The documents show that Kalyango declined meeting invitations via Microsoft Teams four times in March and April.
Kalyango said he did not attend the meetings because of schedule conflicts with childcare that the Titsworth and Stewart were aware of, and that since he had an outstanding public records request with the university he would not be in “an informed position to have a meaningful consultative meeting.”
According to the ECRC documents, discussion around a meeting time came to a head in April 2020, when Titsworth emailed Kalyango to say that he would proceed to recommending de-tenuring if Kalyango did not meet with him and Stewart on April 13, 2020. In Kalyango's view, this statement seemed to “invoke an ultimatum.”
Kalyango attempted multiple times to negotiate for an in-person meeting, arguing Titsworth and Stewart “biased the process by insisting on a phone meeting.” Titsworth said that Gov. Mike DeWine's lockdown order made an in-person meeting impossible.
ECRC investigators dismissed Kalyango’s claim the virtual meetings were biased against him. “Under the circumstances at the time and for the foreseeable future, holding a remote meeting via Teams was the solution available to university employees,”investigator analysis states.
Kalyango believes Titsworth and Stewart were attempting to pressure him to consider a voluntary separation and retirement program (a "faculty buyout") and that he was not treated in the same way a white male colleague would have been in a similar situation.
The investigation found no evidence Titsworth had pressured Kalyango into taking a buyout, and that his actions were not racially motivated.
To support his claims, Kalyango pointed to the treatment of untenured Ohio University Scripps College Professors Nicholas Steinbauer and Kyle Snyder, both of whom were investigated by the university for sexual misconduct. The ECRC investigation noted that Titsworth was not involved in either case and Snyder resigned before any findings could be made.
The investigation of Titsworth’s conduct found all allegations to be unsubstantiated.
Stewart declined to comment on the story. Titsworth could not be reached for comment by publication time.