Professor under investigation for sexual misconduct, again

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Courtesy of Washington House GOP.

Courtesy of Washington House GOP.

Courtesy of Washington House GOP.

Eric Rosane, News Editor

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Political science professor and state Rep. Matt Manweller was barred on Dec. 11 from teaching at CWU or contacting students, pending the results of a new investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

According to Chief of Staff Linda Schactler, this investigation, the third since 2012, involves new allegations and complaints against the professor. Manweller has also been placed on paid administrative leave, according to a letter sent to Manweller by Tim Englund, dean of the College of the Sciences.

Manweller, 48, has categorically denied the claims. “No, of course not. I have never made a sexual advance to a student,” Manweller said. “I think that this is a witch hunt… I plan on standing up to the mob.”

He also said that he didn’t know anything about the new investigation because CWU wouldn’t tell him. Manweller began working at CWU in 2003.

Schactler said that not much could be said about the investigation because a contract for the investigation was just signed in late December.

“We’re investigating cases of inappropriate conduct. There’s no additional information, except the investigation will be thorough, objective and fair,” Schactler said.

“I think that this is a witch hunt… I plan on standing up to the mob.” -Matt Manweller, political science professor

In both investigations from 2012 and 2013, which looked at allegations from 2006 to 2009, investigators found evidence suggesting Manweller violated CWU’s sexual harassment policies, although they didn’t conclude the allegations were substantiated. Manweller did not face punishment by CWU after the 2012 investigation. After the 2013 investigation, he was forced to undergo sexual harassment training and denied his application for full professorship.

After he contested that decision, Manweller was promoted to full professor, received back pay and attorney’s fees.

Manweller claims that there were inconsistencies in the investigator’s second report that questions its authenticity and objectivity. He said that the investigator didn’t include an interview in which the student rescinded her allegations.

The new investigation was announced three days after the Seattle Times published information from the 2012 and 2013 investigations, which detailed claims by at least three students that Manweller made unwanted advances, sexual propositions and inappropriate discussions of sexual acts from 2006 to 2009. Seattle Times Reporter Mike Baker said that he requested files from CWU in September after he heard rumors of Manweller’s past.

In the same story by the Times, at least two female lobbyists who have interacted with Manweller in Olympia stated that Manweller made comments on their appearances. The lobbyists also described a network of women who caution interns against spending time with Manweller.

In both the 2012 and 2013 investigations, the investigator concluded there were students who “appear credible and provided testimonial evidence” that suggested that Manweller had violated sexual harassment policies.

The Observer originally reported on the 2012 investigation after the Daily Record and Yakima Herald Republic made requests to make the investigation public. Manweller, a Republican, sued to stop the release of the report, claiming CWU wanted to wreck his first run for Legislator. Local Superior Court Judge Scott R. Sparks originally agreed with Manweller’s request to bar the release, but later ruled that the public had a right to know about the investigation before the election, which Manweller won.

The claims were not originally investigated because no students were willing to file a written sexual harassment claim against Manweller, according to Executive Director of HR Staci Sleigh-Layman. One student said she didn’t file a claim because she and her boyfriend were banking on Manweller’s letter of recommendation for law school, according to the first investigation.

CWU has since rolled back this policy. The administration is now required to look into any claims of sexual misconduct, verbal or written, according to Sleigh-Layman.

Allegations from the Reports

According to the 2012 report in July 2006, Manweller allegedly made unwanted advances on a female political science major during summer quarter.

The course was an independent study and required students to write a paper on internet censorship in China. Throughout the quarter, students would schedule weekly meetings with Manweller to discuss progress on the class and paper.

During this meeting in July, Manweller allegedly closed the door of his office, pulled his chair close to the student and said that he was attracted to her and that there was “sexual energy between them that was undeniable,” according to the investigation report.

The report also said that the student said he then propositioned they get a hotel room, so that they could be discreet.

The student then stated that the professor moved his chair closer to her again, put her hand on her knee and leaned in to kiss her on the lips.

This student said she never wrote a claim out of fear of retaliation, she never turned in her final paper and told the investigator she refused to register for any other classes taught by Manweller.

According to the second investigation, that same summer of 2006, Manweller allegedly invited a female student out for drinks at the Starlight Lounge. The student, who was already uncomfortable because she said Manweller had been asking her to go out for drinks since July, said yes and brought a friend with her. She claimed that while at the bar, he proposed a threesome. She said they declined.

He also allegedly asked her if she had a boyfriend, if she used birth control and how often she had sex. The students said that these comments made them uncomfortable.

Although the women were encouraged to file a written complaint by CWU personnel, neither of them did.

“In my judgement, based on the documents reviewed and interviews conducted, evidence exists to suggest [Manweller] engaged in conduct with or towards [a student] that violated CWU’s 2006 Sexual Harassment Policy,” the investigator concluded.

Changes in CWU’s Investigation Policy

Sleigh-Layman has worked for human resources for over 32 years and has investigated internal discrimination complaints for 25 years. She said that the culture surrounding sexual harassment allegations has changed immensely since 2006, especially in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the #MeToo movement.  

“The response to an anonymous complaint, the legal expectations at that time was different than what it is today,” Sleigh-Layman said.

Sleigh-Layman and other faculty were made aware of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Manweller in 2006 and 2009. She encouraged all students to file formal complaints.

“While I don’t think that it [the Manweller complaints] was the major driver of change, I do think it was probably part of that whole move that was happening at the same time,” Sleigh-Layman said.

Sleigh-Layman said that there are plenty of resources for students who might have been sexually harassed.

When it comes to training staff who have broken the sexual harassment policy, Sleigh-Layman said that they don’t have a set method to instruct faculty. She said that it all depends on how they violated the policy. Mandatory sexual harassment prevention training is required every three years.

Manweller said that he will seek re-election next fall, despite calls for his resignation from legislators and citizens. He was stripped of his ranking member position on the House Labor and Workplace committee and resigned as assistant floor leader, according to published reports. He said that if this recent investigation comes out around that time, he will not file an injunction in court.

“Go to ratemyprofessor.com and see what the students say of me,” Manweller said. “Let them make the judgement.”

——-

Read more from the 2012 and 2013 investigation here.

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Professor under investigation for sexual misconduct, again