UK’s Board of Trustees meeting in Bowling Green turned contentious over discussion of the lawsuit between the university and the Kentucky Kernel, and the handling of sexual assault cases on campus.
President Eli Capilouto told the board he supported UK’s choice to appeal the attorney general’s decision.
He again cited FERPA, HIPPA and attorney client privilege as some of the reasons for not handing documents over to the Kernel or the attorney general.
Following his speech, the board received copies of letters from two of the victims and the survivor support group on campus SPARC.
One of these letters however was not perfectly redacted and revealed the name of one of the victims. A university spokesperson was notified and asked members of the audience to return their copies.
The letters were read aloud by board chair Britt Brockman, and both victims expressed their support for the President, revealing that he took the time to meet with them personally to discuss their concerns with investigation and larger issues.
“There are other issues at play here regarding university professors who are allowed to resign without future employers finding out about sexual misconduct, or tenure revocation taking the better part of two years, in addition to the time it takes for multiple appeals,” one of the letters read.
A letter from the other victim said that she was pleased with the job Title IX did in the investigation. She agreed with Capilouto that sensitive details of the crimes should be kept private.
“We absolutely should be focused on transparency in these incidents, in the sense that those convicted of, or those ‘with enough reasonable evidence to be convicted of’ sexual harassment or assault should no longer be professors,” she wrote. “Other universities should have access to this information in order to prevent those convicted of wrongdoing from repeating their behavior elsewhere.”
After Brockman read the letters to the board, the floor opened for discussion.
Contrasting opinions discussed in a two-hour closed session of the board came to light in the afternoon congregation, during which David Hawpe, former editor-in-chief of the Courier Journal, said he was told by leadership and other members on the board that if he brought the matter to a vote, President Eli Capilouto would resign.
President Capilouto denied that he ever said he would resign if these matters were brought to a vote, and Hawpe said he would not specify who on the board told him the president’s resignation could be a consequence.
Board Chair Britt Brockman said he spoke to Hawpe and gave him his opinion.
“What I told David Hawpe is in my opinion if a vote regarding this matter came to the floor and if the vote showed a split board that I felt that the president, rather than making himself the focus of the conversation—knowing his ethics, knowing his mannerisms—that he would potentially step aside rather than have a divided board,” Brockman said.
Faculty representative Lee Blonder, and executive committee member Mark Bryant joined Hawpe in his criticism of the university’s decision to sue the Kernel and its handling of cases of sexual misconduct.
In his address to the board during open discussion, Hawpe cited a recent case of sexual assault that led a victim to sue the university because of the way they handled her sexual assault case.
He read statements from Judge Hood who said UK had bungled the case and caused harm to the victim because of the way the university handled it.
Hawpe said that in its effort to protect victims of sexual misconduct from unwanted publicity, the university is not protecting individuals that could become victims.
He compared sexual misconduct cases of university employees who have moved to other schools to the shuffling of child molesting priests that The Boston Globe uncovered.
“Our version of protecting people leaves those individuals in the dark, much as parishioners were left in the dark when offending priests were moved to new locations and their pasts were not revealed to congregations” Hawpe said. “I might add that it was only media coverage which finally prompted reform of that vast scandal.”
Hawpe said the university’s position in suing the student paper was unwise and unfair. He said secrecy in these matters only produces doubt, and that the criticism the university has received nationally is valid.
“Our decision to refuse even to let the attorney general review materials in this case in camera is wrong,” Hawpe said. “I think the federal protections that are cited as a reason to take that position are wrong and will be found so eventually.”
Hawpe also found issue with the remarks Capilouto gave to the board before discussion, namely in his dismissal of the attorney general’s office in his statement that, “We don’t ship (victims’) personal information off to a bunch of lawyers in Frankfort they have never met.”
As a faculty representative on the board, Blonder said the national attention this lawsuit has garnered has put professors at the university in a difficult position.
She said she agreed with Hawpe that the university should not have kept the documents from the attorney general’s inspection.
“I think that this has to become at some point after it plays out a teaching moment for all of us,” Blonder said. “This has been mishandled and I agree that we have multiple open records and open meetings cases pending so this is part of a larger picture that we need to examine.”
Bryant was the last member of the board to question the university’s decision, and he agreed with Hawpe as well that secrecy instead of transparency in these matters would breed suspicion.
“Our actions in this controversy give the impression that we have something to hide,” Bryant said. “The more we withhold documents the more criticism and scrutiny we attract. What do we have to hide?”
He said the university can and should redact the names and give the information to the public.
He also said the professor in question has no right to privacy, and that the university is being painted as a backwater place instead of the prestigious school the board and Capilouto have worked to build.
The board did not put the matter to a vote.
The Kernel’s attorney Tom Miller appeared in Circuit Court today, where Judge Thomas Clark set the first hearing date for Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. The judge will hear the attorney general’s request to intervene at the hearing.