Video by Elizabeth Chidlow
A professor in the Department of English may face termination or loss of tenure after a university investigation found him to have sexually assaulted six current and former graduate students.
Investigator Jessica Cook of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) found that six graduate students’ accounts of non-consensual sexual conduct, quid pro quo sexual harassment and sexual harassment by hostile conduct by Andrew Escobedo were all at least partially substantiated by a preponderance of the evidence and were corroborated by witnesses’ accounts. Now that it has been finalized, the ECRC’s report has been made public record.
The first two students came forward in March 2016 and reported they were assaulted in December 2015. Three other students later came forward with allegations of similar offenses in 2003, 2004 and 2005, while another student reported later in 2016 that she had been involved in an incident “several years” earlier in which she said Escobedo made “physical sexual advances” at an English department function at a local restaurant.
According to the ECRC report, graffiti accusing Escobedo of being a predator and urging students to come forward was found written on the walls of the first floor bathroom in Ellis Hall.
About two weeks later, on March 24, 2016, the first two student reports against Escobedo were filed.
Escobedo was placed on administrative leave in March 2016 when the investigation began. Now that the ECRC’s report, called the Memorandum of Findings (MOF), has been finalized, the administration must decide whether Escobedo should be allowed to return to his faculty position with restrictions, if at all.
On Jan. 3, a group of graduate students wrote a letter to the English department requesting Escobedo’s termination and ending his tenure, as well as university training about sexual assault, civil rights and harassment. A discussion between tenured English department faculty members, led by Department of History Chairperson Katherine Jellison on Feb. 7, showed mixed feelings among faculty members, according to a letter from Jellison to Robert Frank, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
While all involved in the discussion agreed that Escobedo has a dependency on alcohol, and that this played a large part in his behavior, opinions on how to proceed with the situation differed: some felt that Escobedo should be allowed to return to his position if he is able to control his alcohol dependency, while others disagreed.
On Feb. 14, based on the discussion led by Jellison, Frank wrote a letter to Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit recommending Escobedo’s termination and loss of tenure.
“A serious breach of student trust has occurred, and it is difficult to imagine how we will be able to confidently assure our students that they can be free of concerns about sexual harassment with Prof. Escobedo on our faculty,” Frank wrote.
In a Jan. 31 letter to the English department obtained from the university, Escobedo explained why he does not believe his job should be terminated.
“I certainly deserve disciplinary action,” Escobedo wrote. “I am ready to accept such action. Yet I did not do everything the allegations charge, and the ECRC Memorandum of Findings ignores or sidelines crucial pieces of counter-evidence in reaching its conclusions, even under a ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard.”
In lieu of termination, Escobedo suggested a year of unpaid suspension, a temporary or permanent ban on teaching graduate students, agreement to continue treatment for alcohol dependency and/or only being able to teach online until the graduate students in question leave the university.
Among other complaints about the MOF, Escobedo wrote that he never abused his authority and the behavior of the students in question suggests they were never coerced into staying at the scene where the alleged harassment occurred.
A group of students who requested to remain anonymous painted the graffiti wall Wednesday morning, showing their opposition to Escobedo by spray-painting the message “If Ohio is our home away from home, why are rapists safe here?”
Because the university’s process of determining disciplinary action is still underway, Escobedo declined to comment on the situation.