2 UMKC professors in sex harassment suit to resign

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | 2:39 p.m. CDT; updated 7:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 12, 2008

KANSAS CITY - One year after the University of Missouri-Kansas City settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $1.1 million, two tenured professors at the center of the case have agreed to resign.

The agreement provides for psychology professors C. Keith Haddock and Walker S. Carlos Poston II 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 on Monday. The two agreed not to reapply for jobs with UMKC.

"This agreement provides the opportunity for all parties to move forward with the mission of educating students and advancing research without the distraction of a protracted proceeding before a faculty committee," Gail Hackett, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in a statement.

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.

UMKC's affirmative action officer, Grace Hernandez, conducted the second investigation after the lawsuit was settled in 2007. Dozens of students, faculty and staff members were interviewed.

In its statement Monday, UMKC said that "because of significantly conflicting testimony among the witnesses, (Hernandez) felt the evidence was inconclusive" as to whether Haddock and Poston had created a hostile work environment.

The statement did not say why the university planned to initiate tenure-revocation proceedings against the men if the evidence was inconclusive.

But one of the plaintiffs, associate psychology professor Linda S. Garavalia, said she believed their agreement to give up their tenured positions spoke volumes.

"I was a little disheartened by the statement saying the results of the investigation were inconclusive," she said. "But then, my thought was, the (university) is choosing not to make a statement that they're innocent or guilty, but its actions have already made that statement."

In an e-mail message Monday, an attorney for Haddock and Poston, Karen Glickstein, said Hernandez's investigation "failed to substantiate that any sexual harassment, exploitation, or hostile environment occurred" in the men's laboratory.

Haddock, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, and Poston, who has a doctorate in counseling psychology, work mainly in the areas of obesity epidemiology and tobacco control. The two formerly headed the Health Research Group, a laboratory at the university.

In late 2005, after the complaints about their behavior in the psychology lab, Haddock and Poston were transferred to the medical school, where they were promoted from associate professors to full professors.

Both were given raises - from $76,707 to $101,707 in Poston's case and from $75,876 to $93,376 in Haddock's case.



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