Friday, February 28, 2014

Investigation Reveals UConn's Inadequate Response to Professor's Misconduct

The University of Connecticut was the subject of an independent investigation that concluded this week with the release of a report that detailed findings of sexual misconduct by a professor and the university's mishandling of the situation. 

The report, commissioned by the state attorney general and compiled by a private law firm, set forth "strong, credible evidence" that Robert F. Miller, a faculty member who used to chair the music department, engaged in numerous incidents of misconduct.  In addition to generally having poor boundaries with students (taking them on trips, drinking with them, being naked with one of them in a hot tub, and giving massages to them), there were also incidents involving inappropriate touching of other young boys, such as a colleague's then-13-year-old son, campers at a camp where he had volunteered, and students at a Virginia middle school were Miller worked in the 1960s.  

The report also describes how university officials, in particular, the former Dean of the School of Fine Arts, ignored rumors that have persisted since as early as 2003 about Miller's misconduct with campers and his inappropriate relationship with students.  In 2006, that same Dean also received an email from one of the former middle school students accusing Miller of sexual abuse.  Yet, according to the report, "no one took appropriate action to ensure the safety of minors on campus or University students."  Later, in 2007, University officials discussed some allegations of Miller's misconduct, but did not follow up with any action to protect students and ensure their safety.  It wasn't until last February that Miller's Dean reported concerns about Miller to the university's Title IX Coordinator, triggering a process that resulted in Miller's suspension and ban from campus. 

It does not appear that UConn is facing any legal action arising from this matter, and no students have come forward as victims.  However, in another matter, the university's policies for protecting students from sexual assault are the subject of an OCR investigation and a Title IX lawsuit.