Two UMKC professors speak about resignations

Sunday, August 17, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two tenured professors accused of sexual harassment at the University of Missouri-Kansas City said they resigned to protect their families and because they couldn't afford to continue defending themselves against the university.

The university last year settled a sexual harassment lawsuit that centered around the professors for $1.1 million.

Psychology professors C. Keith Haddock and Walker S. Carlos Poston II said they deny they sexually harassed a former UMKC graduate student and a faculty member or created a hostile atmosphere in the UMKC psychology lab they ran.

"I did not resign because I was guilty of anything," Poston said. "I resigned because I was told that was the only way to get a letter that says I didn't do it."

The resignation agreement provides for the professors to be paid through the end of their contract year -- Aug. 31, 2009 -- and for them to fulfill their remaining academic obligations.

Haddock and Poston will avoid tenure-revocation and dismissal proceedings, the university said in announcing the resignations Monday. The two agreed not to reapply for jobs with UMKC.

Sexual harassment complaints filed in 2005 triggered two internal investigations, neither of which has been made public.

The complaints accused Haddock and Poston of groping, fondling and subjecting women to explicit sexual conversations in UMKC's psychology lab, where they supervised the staff.

Two women who worked at the lab -- an associate professor and a doctoral student -- eventually sued the university, alleging it failed to respond in a timely way to the complaints.

Linda Garavalia, an associate professor of psychology and one of the women who filed the lawsuit, said she was surprised to hear about the resignations.

"I thought they would fight it out," Garavalia said. "If you weren't guilty, then why not go through with it. If there was no evidence against them, then what would it cost? What would they have to defend against? I would never give up my tenure if I were innocent."

Two investigations by the UMKC affirmative action office were inconclusive.

The university's lawyers have not allowed the professors to see details of the findings from those investigations and denied open records requests.

The professors said they are tired after nearly four years under investigation.

"This investigation was not easy on anyone," Haddock said. He said his family had been threatened and his students who continued to work with him in the lab were harassed after details of the alleged sexual harassment surfaced.

He said he agreed to leave UMKC "because I thought I would have to go through another investigation. I didn't want to do that. I didn't have the financial resources to battle the university system."

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