U of I chancellor Apologizes for Kesan Harassment Controversy; Vows to Improve Process.
Per Julie Wurth of News-Gazette, the University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones apologized at an annual faculty meeting Monday for how the Jay Kesan sexual harassment controversy played out while promising to work with students and faculty on improving the process of sexual harassment cases. Last week this blog looked at Wurth’s story on the Illinois student bar calling for the resignation of Kesan and improvement in the process of sexual harassment cases. While the investigation into Kesan’s behavior found him at fault for many of the things his victims alleged, he wasn’t fired because to the investigators and university his behavior wasn’t deemed pervasive enough. Wurth notes that Kesan is a tenured professor and there isn’t much precedent in the schools history for firing tenured professors. Jones on Monday seemed to be trying to grant the students and faculty wishes for a better process on these cases. From Wurth, “At the annual meeting with the faculty, the chancellor didn’t mention tenured law Professor Jay Kesan by name but said he was saddened and angered that students and faculty members felt “uncomfortable, hurt and intimidated” by the behavior of a professor.” However, it’s important to note that Kesan is still teaching so that part of the student bars request has gone unheard as of today. Jones opening remarks, per Wurth, were “I am sorry that individuals had their lives disrupted and found their educational and professional experiences here impacted by unacceptable and inexcusable behavior.” He followed that by stating “It is unacceptable and alarming for me to know that members of our community do not feel empowered to report incidents or have reason to believe that their concerns of such a serious nature would not be addressed. We must do better, and we will do better.” He talked further about eliminating unnecessary delays in investigations and aiming to be more transparent. As Wurth mentions, this speech comes in the wake of the 17 deans of the school sending a letter to Jones asking for less delays, better consideration of the victims rights, and to expand the sanctions available to the school for inappropriate behavior. Jones mentioned that these kind of issues have been long standing problems for the University, which is part of why they revamped the way the cases were investigated over the summer in an attempt to provide more oversight to them. But clearly there are still issues that need to be resolved. The rest of the article provides further coverage on Jones finishing remarks where he talked about having the courage to get through this together. This speech seems a step in the right direction for improving how these cases are handled, but Kesan’s name didn’t deserve to be shielded during the speech. If he’s still teaching, I think Jones owes the student and faculty that much to call the professor out by name rather than innuendo.