Harassment `will not be tolerated' at FSU
In the wake of a law professor's suspension, the school's dean reasserts
the university's official policy.
By Gary Fineout and Leonora LaPeter
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITERS
All content © 1998 The Tallahassee
- Following the suspension of a veteran law school professor, the acting
dean of the Florida State University law school on Monday asserted that
sexual harassment would not be tolerated and urged students to come
forward with any concerns or complaints.
- Speaking to a room of nearly 50 students, faculty and law school
employees in the student lounge at B.K. Roberts Hall, Don Weidner also
said he believes members of the legal profession need to treat each other
in a way that "we spread dignity, rather than disservice and
- Weidner called the meeting at the urging of several female professors
after FSU officials last week suspended Professor Bill McHugh while they
conduct an investigation into whether he exposed himself to a student.
McHugh has denied the charge.
- McHugh, who will still earn his $86,824 salary, was barred from any
further contact with students after second-year law student Wendy Stein
filed a complaint last week saying that McHugh showed her his genitalia
while she was in his office.
- But instead of talking directly about the McHugh incident, as some
students and faculty had expected, Weidner reviewed FSU's official
- "I am not here to talk about any particular faculty member," said
Weidner. "It would be unfair to criticize any particular faculty member.
The basic policy is that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, and no
racial harassment will be tolerated."
- The question of whether FSU has tolerated such behavior has been at
the heart of the McHugh controversy. There have been numerous official and
unofficial complaints about the behavior of the 64-year-old professor, who
has taught at FSU since 1973.
- FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte reprimanded McHugh in 1997 after a
university investigation into a complaint that McHugh subjected a black
female law student to racist and sexist remarks and unfair treatment. An
investigator ruled the complaint was justified and recommended
disciplinary action against McHugh.
- Weidner on Monday also steered conversation away from any particular
incidents that students or employees wanted to discuss. He instead asked
them to formally or informally bring their concerns to law school
- Mara Levy, a first-year law student, said she was glad to see the
policy. But she noted sexual harassment is not just a problem at FSU's
College of Law.
- "Some people are sexually harassed here as they are elsewhere," said
Levy, 27. "We need a legitimate policy, but we're not totally surrounded
by (sexual harassment)."
- Only a few people spoke at Monday's forum. A law school library
employee, who refused to give her name, urged Weidner to require faculty
to adhere to a professional dress code.
- "If you feel uncomfortable because you had too much for lunch, you
need to lock your door," the library employee said. In Stein's complaint
against McHugh she said that when she first entered his office, the
professor's Bermuda shorts were unsnapped.
- Several professors said the meeting was a good first step toward
addressing a long-standing problem.
- "I think it was a helpful beginning to what I expect should be and
will be a long dialogue," said Ann McGinley, an employment discrimination
- Gary Fineout can be reached at 222-6729. His e-mail
address is email@example.com . Leonora
LaPeter can be reached at 599-2306. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Posted at 1:05 a.m. EDT Tuesday, June 16,
May not be republished without permission.
This is a page in the section entitled Why Can't Law
Schools Teach Ethics? --FSU in the Web site entitled Legal Reform through Transforming the Discipline of Law
into a Science .