Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

University of Georgia, sexual harassment and Clarence Thomas

The University of Georgia has been the site of a string of sexual harassment cases this past academic year.  The UG student newspaper has been diligent in reporting on said cases in detail.  Now the RED & BLACK reports that that the UG administration  has been dealing with the sexually harassing accused faculty in such a way as to minimize the pain for these faculty of being separated/terminated by the University of Georgia.

In at least four cases, the violator of the sexual harassment policy was not fired but instead allowed to receive the remaining money owed to them on their contract before leaving the University.

UG golf coach Todd McCorkle is set to make $100,944 in total following the day of his resignation through the end of his contract in June.

William Bender, a tenured professor in the college of education, faced sexual harassment complaints reaching as far back as two decades. He issued his resignation in September, but it does not become effective until May.

Bender is teaching online courses.

He will earn $40,448.40 between his resignation and the end of his contract.

Then there is Mark Jensen, assistant professor of genetics and epidemiology, who issued his resignation in March.

He was found in violation of the policy for sending frequent flirtatious e-mails and being “touchy” with students, documents show. Jensen will make $8,246 in the period following his resignation.

And there is Stephen M. Shellman, an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, who admitted having a problem with alcohol and resigned March 7.

He was under investigation for two incidents involving alcohol and inappropriate contact with students. Shellman will have made $8,615.54 post resignation when his contract expires April 28.

But it is the golf coach that the UG student newspapers feels that the University of Georgia has mismanaged in the sense of making McCorkle’s “departure” too pain free. The student paper reports the following as having occurred.

On May 7, 2007, McCorkle resigned from his post as women’s golf head coach, amid a sexual harassment case initiated by his players.

Allegations were made that he repeatedly directed sexual comments and jokes at players, such as making jabs about their underwear.

The golfers also said he showed them the Paris Hilton sex tape, according to documents obtained from the Office of Legal Affairs.

One unnamed player claimed, “He is randomly rubbing your back or flipping hair, or a pat on the butt — and otherwise not thinking anything about it.”

The records indicate McCorkle admitted explaining the definition of “blue balls” to his players and calling one player “sexy” on the way to an SEC Tournament banquet.

Due to these admissions, he was found in violation of the Non-Discrimination Anti-Harassment Policy.

However, Steven Shewmaker, executive director of Legal Affairs, did not recommend that McCorkle be fired.

Instead, Shewmaker proposed McCorkle undergo extensive sexual harassment training and go without pay for the month of July.

McCorkle resigned three days later ­- three days before the NCAA tournament was set to begin.

At the time, Athletic Director Damon Evans said McCorkle would be reassigned within the athletic department.

“We are appreciative of Todd’s contributions to our golf program,” Evans said in a 2007 news release after the resignation. “We look forward to continuing to work with him within our organization.”

McCorkle now has a new title, administrative specialist-managerial.

He even has an office phone number listed on the University Web site. The problem is the number routes to current women’s golf coach Kelley Hester.

Nobody in the athletic department could provide The Red & Black with even a semblance of McCorkle’s job duties.

They didn’t know…

Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton took his best stab at explaining the former coach’s new title.

“I don’t know where he is,” Felton said. “He’s not physically here anymore. Since he’s under contract, he could still be asked to perform some function within the department.”

When asked of the likelihood of McCorkle returning, Felton said, “I would not foresee him being involved in the future.”

Felton said McCorkle’s case was not out of the ordinary. He referenced former basketball coach Jim Harrick and former football coach Ray Goff, whose contracts were honored after they left.

While Harrick endured a scandal of his own, neither had a sexual harassment case swirling around their terminations.

Evans did not return phone calls, inquiring into the nature of McCorkle’s reassignment.

And Felton said he did not know how the evolution of McCorkle’s new role was determined.

“I think that probably the Athletic Association would decline to comment on matters such as this,” he said.

McCorkle still is being paid as the head women’s golf coach even though he is 360 miles from campus.

He teaches golf to the general public, as an instructor at The Golf Club at North Hampton in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

McCorkle spoke to The Red & Black Wednesday afternoon, right before conducting a clinic at the country club.

“There really is a good story there, but I’m at a point in my life where I’m content with each of us going our separate ways,” he said of his dealings with the athletic department.

McCorkle’s contract with the University expires at the end of June, when he will no longer be paid by the University.

For now, he receives paychecks from the University and North Hampton.

But now comes the zinger and what on the surface might appear to be a non sequitur.  In response to this sexual harassment outbreak at the University of Georgia a number of UG faculty are protesting the scheduling of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the commencement speaker for the upcoming June graduation.  The Associated Press reports -“Some University of Georgia faculty are concerned having U.S Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the institution’s graduation speaker sends the wrong message after a year of sexual harassment scandals on campus.”

“What a slap in the face this is to everyone who has been working to bring to light the realities of sexual harassment, and to establish appropriate methods and offices for addressing this significant problem on our campus,” Chris Cuomo, director of UGA’s Institute for Women’s Studies, told The Red & Black student newspaper.

UGA spokesman Tom Jackson said Thomas has a close relationship with the UGA School of Law and has visited campus several times to give lectures.

“We’re honored to have an associate justice of the Supreme Court bringing our commencement address,” Jackson said.

Some faculty members told The Associated Press they planned to speak on the issue during the University Council meeting Tuesday afternoon. Associate professor Janet Frick said she was using her two psychology lectures Monday to educate students about the history of Thomas’ appointment to the Supreme Court.

I trust that the protesting faculty will point out that the almost all of the UG faculty resigned from UG rather than face sexual harassment charges and such comes to represent an admission of guilt.  In contrast to these faculty, Thomas has never resigned from any position regarding sexual harassment.  When faced with a charge of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, Thomas protested the validity of her testimony and was open to being fully interrogated.

The fact that many people believe he harassed Anita Hill is not the point.  The point here is that these protesting faculty presume Thomas to be guilty.  Will these faculty make such a distinction clear to their students?  If such not be the case, then it is the concept of civil and fair discourse that is “receiving a slap in the face.”

And talking about the consequences of sexual harassment charges, I trust that these faculty protesting against Clarence Thomas appearing as the UG commencement speaker would be just as adamant in their protests if Bill Clinton was the commencement speaker.  Such should be the case since Bill was charged with sexual harassment by Paula Jones and many believe that Paula’s charges were true even given that such charges have never been proven in court.  Of course, the Paula Jones case ultimately led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, a rather severe penalty to say the least.  And as in the case of Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton protested his innocence and was “exonerated” by the US Senate just as Clarence Thomas was exonerated by the US Senate. 

Politics do make strange bedfellows or putting it in more direct terms, sexual harassment charges do create strange bedfellows.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008





April 24, 2008 - Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics |

1 Comment »

  1. Whoa. Hang on there a minute. That is an awful lot of harassing going on! Is this really the male culture or could it be the female culture. The sad fact is that most people who suffer from sexual harassment, are the ones that never report the offense. In my years as a human resource professional, I have witnessed this time and time again. Just as sad, is that a number of reported sexual harassment incidents are actually people trying to get back at a boss that they do not like or resent for some reason. Sometimes the reason is as simple as envy. I detail these situations and offer solutions in my book, Wingtips with Spurs: Lessons From the Ranch. In fact, I devote an entire chapter to these issues. Until we learn deep, moral lessons, there will be prey on both sides of the coin. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR http://www.michaellgooch.com

    Comment by Michael L. Gooch | April 28, 2008 | Reply

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