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2 U of M professors return from suspensions for violating sexual harassment policy

2 U of M professors return from suspensions for violating sexual harassment policy Photo: KSTP/File

Updated: September 10, 2019 04:47 PM

Two professors at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs have returned to teaching at the school after they were found to have violated university policies prohibiting sexual harassment.

Letters from the dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Laura Bloomberg, in October and December of 2018 to Jason Cao and James Ron notify the professors of their suspensions.

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The letters state that Ron was to be suspended without pay from Jan. 1 to May 31, while Cao was to be suspended without pay from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. They also state that upon the end of their suspensions, the professors will have to prepare a professional development plan about expanding awareness and understanding of sexual harassment, and will be assigned a two or three member faculty mentor team to meet with regularly over the next two years.

A response from an attorney representing Ron in April stated Ron and Bloomberg negotiated an agreement regarding his discipline, and otherwise, Ron would have appealed the findings of the EEOA report that found him responsible for violating the sexual harassment policy. His attorney said they believe Ron would have been vindicated and called the sanctions he faced "improper."

However, a Gender, Sex & Public Policy Humphrey Event Series Facebook group said Friday that it's "disturbed" by the news the two faculty members returned to their teaching positions.

"We feel that the students deserve notice of and transparency around incidents such as these in order to make informed choices about courses and professors, and to be able to effectively voice their opinions to the administration," the page said in part in Friday's post.

It also states there was a listening session with the dean Friday afternoon.

It's unclear exactly what the professors did to violate the policy.

Bloomberg issued the following statement Tuesday: 

"At the Humphrey School, we have clear expectations of what is or is not appropriate conduct, this includes what is outlined in the University's sexual harassment policy. 

"In both of these situations, we took immediate action in response to the University's investigations and both faculty members received significant discipline, including suspension without pay.  

"At all times, we work to ensure a respectful and safe school community for all faculty, staff and students."
 

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