CWU Student Paid to Stay Silent Regarding Professor Misconduct

A former Central Washington University student who complained of a professor’s alleged sexual misconduct received a settlement that required her silence.

CWU Student Paid to Stay Silent Regarding Professor Misconduct

The student said she was given "hush money" to keep the misconduct case under wraps.

In a recent interview with The Seattle Times, a former Central Washington University student shared that university officials threatened to sue her if she made the details about her professor’s alleged sexual misconduct public.

She signed a settlement in 2015 that required her silence.

“It was hush money. It was literal hush money,” the student said, who wished to be identified by her initials, E.F.

E.F., along with another female student, made two nearly identical complaints about a renowned music teacher who had kissed them on the face and would tell them he loved them.

One of the women said the music department dropped her performance in retaliation for filing the complaint. According to records, the university gave her free tuition for a year along with other benefits, as long as she remained silent about “the contents of this settlement agreement.”

While Washington state lawmakers have limited the power of nondisclosure agreements, universities are still including such requirements when settling with students.

Most student-involved settlements obtained by The Times, however, did not include confidentiality provisions.

Senator Karen Keiser, who has worked on legislation involving workplace harassment, said she was appalled to find that public universities would use nondisclosure agreements.

“It’s just not right for a public entity to try and instate some sort of secrecy clause,” Keiser said. “It just makes my skin crawl. Something is usually amiss when you’re forcing some kind of secrecy.”

Two Allegations Against CWU Music Professor

During one-on-one sessions in the professor’s office, E.F. said she experienced inappropriate behavior from him, such as kissing her face or touching her thigh. When he would tell her he loved her, she made sure she did not reciprocate.

“I never said it back. I always made sure to never say it back,” she recalled.

In 2014, E.F. was having a conversation with her peer, M.N., about the professor’s behavior. They quickly learned that they had similar experiences.

Both women filed complaints in May 2014 which led to an internal investigation. Its conclusion was that the professor likely “did not engage in illegal sexual harassment.”

Two university officials questioned the handling of the investigation, according to internal memos. Joy Stochosky, a case manager at the time, had concerns after attending the investigator’s interview with one of the women.

Stochosky said the investigator dismissed documents such as journal entries, notes and names of other students, that E.F. handed over for the case. She also recalled the investigator talking about how she was a fan of the professor, saying she cried when seeing him perform.

The investigator, Gail Farmer, said in an interview this week that she stands by the investigation and that she acted professionally.

The Settlement Between E.F. and CWU

Under the settlement, which E.F. signed in May 2015, the student was promised “a full-tuition waiver for the 2015-2016 academic year.” M.N., who graduated in 2014, was not offered this settlement.

E.F. was also given a private audition with other music staff and the potential to receive private lessons.

She now says she is willing to speak about the case publicly because the university violated terms of the settlement and she wants the truth to be known.

Keiser said she wants to learn more about how universities are handling sexual misconduct cases and settlements with students to see if there is a need to change Washington state laws.

While most universities did not contain confidentiality provisions, The Times obtained some agreements that did.

At Western Washington University, the university reviewed Facebook messages between a student and professor, finding they engaged in consensual banter.

After an investigation, it was determined that the professor violated policies that prohibit intimate personal relationships between faculty and students.

The university settled with the student, agreeing to give the student $15,000 and mandated that the parties “agree not to speak publicly or provide comments to third parties” about the complaint or agreement.

At the University of Washington, nondisclosures seem to be common additions to a settlement as well.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte
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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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