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Monday, June 1, 2020

Professor disciplined for inappropriate conduct

By Zoe Deal

 

A Huxley College professor cleared of a sexual harassment allegation in 2016 has received punishment from the university, according to reports recently obtained by The Western Front.

Paul Stangl will be barred from teaching courses during Summer Session 2018, said Brent Carbajal, Western’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, in an email sent in July 2017. He cannot teach a field (travel) course again until Summer Session 2020.

A student alleged that Stangl sexually harassed her and her fellow teaching assistant during a class trip in June 2016, according to a report from the Equal Opportunity Office. A university investigation, launched after a student came forward weeks later in early July, found that Stangl’s behavior was not severe enough to be identified as sexual harassment, according to a report issued Oct. 5, 2016.

Infographic by Ben Olson

Western’s Equal Opportunity Office does not comment on its investigations, Director of Communications Paul Cocke said in an email.

The initial investigation confirmed that Stangl violated Section 2 of the Code of Faculty Ethics in which faculty are expected to avoid sexual harassment, intimidation and exploitation of students. Stangl also violated University Policy 1600.02, an equal opportunity and discrimination policy which prohibits sexual behavior which can be construed as inappropriate, according to the final report.

The case was reopened in March 2017 when the survivor came forward a second time, after discovering Stangl would be leading another trip in Summer 2017.

Stangl was on sabbatical for the 2016-17 school year. He declined to comment.

In June 2016, during a class trip, Stangl invited two female teaching assistants up to his hotel room following dinner, according to one survivor’s written report. Both women had flown in a day earlier than the students. At dinner, Stangl had two or three beers while the group engaged in discussion on the trip and other academic topics, according to the report.

Stangl invited the women to his hotel room after dinner, where he offered the women alcoholic beverages, according to the report.

One survivor said they were confused and surprised by this offer, but accepted wine. She said in her written report, “I was mostly just holding my glass, sipping it slowly because I wanted to keep my wits about me.”

Dr. Stangl pointed this out many times and kept refilling her drink against her wishes, according to the survivor’s written report.

The report described Stangl as “boisterous, loud and clumsy,” and suddenly emotional. Stangl began sharing intimate details about his life and grabbed the women’s hands in an attempt to pull them into a group hug, the survivor said in the report. At this time, all three were intoxicated, according to the survivor’s statement. One woman’s written report cited Stangl’s emotional state and the existing power dynamic as reasons the two women were hesitant to leave.

According to the final university report by the Equal Opportunity Office, “Such a situation calls into question whether the student can give voluntary consent due to perceived or actual negative consequences that could arise from declining. This sets up a dynamic where faculty can unintentionally or intentionally exploit students for their own advantage.”

At one point, Stangl’s foot accidentally touched the foot of the survivor, according to her report. She quickly moved away. According to the report, she wouldn’t have considered this suspicious had Stangl not joked about it afterwards and then purposely touched both women’s calves with his feet.

He also made a comment about wanting to lick their thighs and said repeatedly to the survivors, “lf I was 20 years younger, I would marry you,” according to the survivor’s written report. The women left soon after.

The next morning, the women contemplated whether to report the events. They chose to wait until the end of the trip to decide. The survivor said in her report that Stangl called them to apologize if he had, “said anything weird” the night before. The survivor declined to spend evening free time with him for the rest of the trip when invited by Stangl.

The survivor reported that Stangl’s behavior over the next 10 days was disorganized and he drank alcohol often. According to the survivor’s report, junior and seniors in the Huxley College who have studied under him consider this behavior normal for Stangl.

When Stangl learned of the allegations from the Equal Opportunity Office, he asked the survivor why she “would do this to him” and expressed concern that he would lose his job, the survivor wrote in the report.

In March 2017, the survivor came forward again to ask the university to prevent Stangl from teaching another field course. The survivor wrote in her report that she feels the university should terminate Stangl’s position to maintain the health of Western’s and Huxley’s professional learning environment.

In response, Carbajal initiated the restrictions on Stangl’s summer session teaching.

Stangl’s statement was included in the final report. He said, “I acknowledge that I invited the [women] to my room and offered alcoholic beverages. This was a terrible lapse of judgement on my part for which I am sorry. I acknowledge that I made the comment [on marriage]. I recognize that it was completely inappropriate and I am deeply apologetic.”

Stangl was forthright and compliant during the investigation, according to the Dean of Huxley College, Steve Hollenhorst. He plans to enroll in professional development courses offered at Western. These courses include, “Upholding Ethics in the Workplace” and Sexual Harassment Prevention Training.

Western Washington University has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment, Cocke said. Students, faculty or staff who feel they have been sexually harassed are urged to contact Western’s Equal Opportunity office by stopping by their office at Old Main 345 or calling them at 360-650-3307.

5 COMMENTS

    • Yeah this is obviously not a “zero tolerance policy”. The article even says he violated both faculty and university codes of conduct. And yet he is allowed to keep his job. What horrible judgement and lack of action on behalf of the university.

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