Title Wave: Learning Commons tutors detail allegations against supervisor

Supervisor no longer employed at CWU as of January


Students protested Title IX misconduct outside the Learning Commons. Photo by Brevin Ross.

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

Accusations of discrimination based on disability, gender identity, religion and sex were investigated last summer as part of a Title IX case filed against former University Writing Center (UWC) coordinator Jared Odd.

Odd remained in a supervisory position at the Learning Commons throughout the investigation, according to the report, however he has since ceased working for the university. In an email to The Observer Lead Editor, Odd said his employment was “terminated” on Jan. 3. Official Sources at CWU would not comment about the reasons or conditions for Odd’s departure. 

Last November, students held a protest outside Brooks Library alleging that the case was mishandled (see “Learning Commons organized protest against Title IX violations on Nov. 1.”)

Four complainants and 19 witnesses were interviewed as part of Odd’s investigation, which resulted in a 33-page report finding the Respondent [Odd] “responsible for discriminatory behavior, on the basis of sex and gender identity,” but determined he was “not responsible” for discrimination “on the basis of religion and disability.”

The Observer was given a copy of the report in December by one of the witnesses in the case. This witness was one of six sources (a mix of complainants and witnesses) who gave exclusive interviews to The Observer about their experience working in the Learning Commons. The document provided recommendations for how Odd and his supervisor could address the behaviors of concern going forward.

The Observer also reached out twice to Odd and Director of Learning Commons Julia James for comment, first in November and again last week. After the most recent request, The Observer was informed that the report should be sent by Jan. 24.

In an email to The Observer Lead Editor on Jan. 17, Odd stated: “I am writing to inform you that CWU Public Affairs no longer has my permission to comment on my behalf regarding this case or anything pertaining to it.” This was the first response The Observer received from Odd since initially reaching out in November.

In November, Vice President of Public Relations Andrew Morse responded to The Observer with a statement in regards to multiple Title IX protests that read, in part: “We [CWU] … take complaints of gender-based violence—or any other forms of harassment, violence, and discrimination—seriously, and are following established university policy to investigate allegations in accordance with federal law and regulation.”

All sources on this story requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic and fear of retaliation. The Observer labeled sources by number in sequence according to a timeline of when they were interviewed.

In an interview last November, Source #1 said: “I don’t think they handled this in a correct way. I think that he [Odd] should have been suspended honestly once all of this came out and all of us came forward about this, so that he could not cause further harm during the situation, which he did.”

Source #1 claimed that after bringing up concerns about Odd to his supervisor Julia James and mentioning a potential HR report, Odd “started sitting with us to, I believe, try to ensure that we were not talking about anything that he didn’t like, specifically his bad behavior. He would say things to direct the conversation away, or he would just interrupt the conversation with a completely different topic point.”

Source #3 said they hope bringing this case to the press will prohibit the administration from sweeping it under the rug as they feel has happened in the past.

“There were a couple incidents last year where he got reported, and all his higher ups tried to hide and cover for him and basically pretend it never happened,” Source #3 said. “I think by having all this publicity and all the protests, it basically makes that option impossible.”

Source #4 said they hope for the Learning Commons to be a safe space for those who go there and don’t feel this has been achieved.

“We want students to feel like it’s a safe space where people can come to, and I think having these experiences and knowing tutors who have had these experiences in the Learning Commons can make it hard to tell students that they are safe here and that they will have positive experiences,” Source #4.

Investigative report

Case 12574 began in June 2022 and is titled “Employee Discrimination Complaint and Resolution Investigative Report.” It summarizes the evidence and conclusions of the investigation into Odd’s alleged violation of “Nondiscrimination Policies and Programs Pertaining to Students.” 

Complainants made four primary allegations in Case 12574 about behaviors dating back as far as 2019. 

One was that Odd demonstrated “differential treatment of the student tutors in the Writing Center based on sex… [and] based on the gender binary as well as sex and gender stereotypes.”

Another complaint alleged that Odd “disclosed transphobic, genderist and negative perceptions of using gender pronouns outside of the gender binary… by indicating that they/them pronouns were grammatically incorrect and were an agenda being forced on the Respondent [Odd] that should not be used in the Writing Center.”

A third allegation was that Odd “disclosed ableist and negative perceptions of having disabilities, including autism and ADHD, by indicating that autism should be cured… and that they wanted to prevent their children from getting ADHD…, which caused tutors that have those disabilities to be impacted differently and/or treated less favorably.”

A fourth allegation suggested Odd “demonstrated differential treatment of the student tutors… based on their religion, specifically demonstrating favoritism toward tutors that identify as Christian… [T]he complainants allege that the Respondent inappropriately spreads their religious ideology as a supervisor in the workplace… as well as demonstrated differential treatment toward student tutors based on their religious beliefs that created a silencing, toxic, and stressful environment.”

Sex and gender discrimination complaints

Source #1 said they started working as a tutor at the UWC from 2019 – 2021. They said they eventually quit due to Odd’s behavior.

Several sources detailed various instances of perceived sexism at the Learning Commons that were disruptive for their work environment.

Source #1 detailed an instance where male tutors from the University Math Center were drawing a graph on the white board and “the graph basically explained that the crazier a woman is the hotter that she is.” Source #1 claimed to have asked the two math tutors to erase the graph, because they saw it as inappropriate and felt it could offend people. 

“They refused to do so,” Source #1 alleged. “They thought it was just having a fun time, just guys. I got up, went over to Jared’s office, pointed out his window toward where this is happening, explained it and he didn’t seem to think it was an issue. They were laughing and having a good time being real loud, and apparently, that was not an issue. But us talking, women talking in the center … if we were talking too loud, it was gossip or it was too cliquey.”

Another tutor in the UWC, Source #6, said they felt offended when academic conversations among women tutors were referred to as “catty” or “cliquey.”

The Observer spoke to two other tutors who worked in the Writing Center, Source #3 and Source #4, who both said they also felt there was unequal treatment between the Writing Center and Math Center.

“The math tutors were left largely unsupervised while the writing tutors were under pretty much constant supervision,” Source #4 said. 

A tutor who has worked at the Writing Center and Math Center at various points, Source #5, said they also noticed some differences in treatment between female and male tutors.

“The Math Center was pretty much allowed to talk, while the Writing Center was expected to sit quietly,” Source #5 said.

According to the report, the Respondent [Odd] said he wasn’t aware that “gossip is a sex stereotype related to women,” and claimed his concerns about gossip were related to past experiences and “the damage gossip can do in the workplace.”

A separate instance of sexism alleged by Source #1 involved a male tutor being potentially forced into an unwanted harmful situation.

“He [Odd] told a male tutor in a staff meeting that he was responsible for stopping and confronting violent students up to and including active shooters, because he has a larger stature,” Source #1 said. “He [the tutor] looks, I guess, traditionally intimidating. That’s obviously not something you want to put on any student. That student does not like confrontation whatsoever.”

A witness in the case currently working as a tutor in the UWC, Source #2, said working with Odd wasn’t always negative but they wish the environment was different.

“I’ve been working with him for a while now and so it’s definitely hard, because it hasn’t all been bad,” Source #2 said. “It’s a job that I really, really appreciate … but it’s just upsetting that this job that’s so close to what I love and what I want to do, that it has to be in an environment where I’m made uncomfortable, or where I don’t feel listened to, or that I don’t feel like I’m able to fully be myself.”

Source #2 said they felt they had to hide parts of their gender and sexual identity as well as their disabilities while working at the Learning Commons. 

“I have a transgender sibling,” Source #2 said. “He [Odd] would talk about the idea of they/them pronouns being an agenda. [Odd] said that we should not use they/them pronouns … and that we should just assume based on the student’s name and their appearance, rather than using they/them as a default or asking what pronouns they use.”

Source #1 shared a similar experience: “[Odd] directly told a nonbinary tutor he would not use their pronouns back in 2019, and he would not let tutors wear pronoun pins in the center, because he didn’t like their political implications.”

Source #4 detailed the same incident during which a group of office assistants in the Learning Commons wanted to create pronoun pins. 

“Last year, our name tags never had pronouns on them,” Source #4 said. “He kind of discouraged me from making them.”

Source #4 said Odd expressed concern that people would feel pressured to wear the pronoun pins, which may make them feel left out or uncomfortable.

Source #3 reiterated that there was some concerning discourse regarding gender non-conforming people in their workplace.

“He [Odd] was not afraid to just argue with an openly nonbinary tutor in front of a big group about the usage of they/them pronouns,” Source #3 said. 

Disability discrimination complaints

Odd was also accused of discriminatory behavior against those with disabilities, specifically ADHD and autism. One source claimed they were demoted two weeks after disclosing to Odd that they had autism, and they believe the demotion was due to their diagnosis.

According to the report, a complainant alleged that Odd told them vaccines cause autism and that autism should be cured. 

Source #2 said: “There were times where Jared said things not knowing that the things he was saying applied directly to me. There was one point in time where he mentioned that he wouldn’t want his kids to have ADHD. He said that in front of myself and two other tutors who all have ADHD. Just knowing that he sees it in a negative light, that he wouldn’t want his children to have it, that he sees it as purely a bad thing was just disheartening to hear because it’s … not something you choose to have.”

Source #3 also shared an experience where they felt certain mental disabilities were not supported in the Learning Commons.

“I was working on a handout and I told him I had ADHD and I wanted to make it accessible for people with learning disabilities, format wise,” Source #3 said. “Then when I looked back at it later, he’d gone in and completely changed the formatting.”

According to the report, the Respondent said he has a disability himself and “does not think it is wrong for people to think that disabilities are unwanted.” He also claimed that he does not believe those with disabilities are “less than in any way.” 

Source #1 said: “A lot of neurodivergent people, we already have barriers to education, and I think that he [Odd] is just creating more social barriers, more structural barriers for neurodivergent people to seek help when they’re the ones who maybe need it the most, who need to come into the tutoring center and get extra help or need something explained again in a way that they understand. It’s just so harmful to tell somebody that they need to be cured … maybe they don’t want to be cured.” 

Religion discrimination complaints

The final allegation focused on the Respondent showing preferential treatment toward tutors who shared the same religion as him. Claimants alleged that he inappropriately spoke about religious ideology, such as God, Heaven, Hell and damnation, at work meetings.

Source #1 detailed a staff meeting where Odd spoke about a student he overheard outside the Learning Commons using expletive language in a dismissive way toward others. Source #1 claimed Odd asked his staff what this student’s phrase meant, which caused confusion among tutors.

“He started talking about how ‘fuck’ meant you were damning someone to hell,” Source #1 said. “He started talking about heaven and hell in a very religious context and about how there’s no bad people … It was very confusing why this was happening in our work meeting. It didn’t seem like training at all.”

Source #3 corroborated this story based on their own experience and claimed he “talks like a youth pastor.” 

“He’ll bring up theology in staff meetings when it’s not work related,” Source #3 said.

According to Source #6, “He [Odd] would talk about the specific Mormons that he thought were really good examples, and he wanted us to use some Mormon principles in our tutoring.”

Source #1 said they told Odd this messaging had to stop because it had nothing to do with “writing pedagogy.”

Source #1 continued: “He [Odd] told me that it is his job as a Writing Center Coordinator to make students and student employees more politically centrist, because he believes that colleges push liberal ideologies onto students.”

Findings & recommendations

The report recommended that the Respondent [Odd] “develop consistent expectations” on how to ask students “how they identify or would like to be called,” to avoid requiring employees to “engage in sex and gender stereotyping” by assuming the gender of those who come into the Learning Commons.

The Respondent was also recommended to create clear expectations for displaying and using pronouns in email signatures, on pins, buttons or nametags, or on the website. The report continued, stating that the Respondent should “aim to use the correct pronouns for students and employees to the best of their ability.” 

According to the report, “as the Respondent [Odd] has been notified of this harm [caused to neurodivergent people] the Respondent and their supervisor must find effective ways of considering this in future discussions with student employees as well as considering how to best present norms or ideals that are held in society as these beliefs can have a differential impact on those with personal experience related to historically marginalized and misrepresented social identities.”

The report recommended that the Respondent find methods to ensure he has “respectful relationships with all their student employees.” 

The report recommended that the tutor whose pay and position was reduced after disclosing they had autism have their pay be restored to that of a Lead Tutor again. 

A recommendation was made for the Respondent to “develop clear and consistent expectations in the Learning Commons around providing and ideally documenting performance feedback to supervisees,” as well as “clear expectations of the lead tutor role(s).” 

The Respondent was informed that he could attend and provide training centered around working with neurodiverse students or those with disabilities. 

The report recommended that the Respondent be given the opportunity to “examine unconscious bias and sex and gender stereotypes,” as well as find ways to change “their approach to working with and supervising students and employees to eliminate bias and discrimination toward those parties.” The report recommended that the Learning Commons clarify issues like “noise, student privacy and FERPA implementation.”