UNA: Former professor violated policies, was banned from campus

Updated: Oct. 11, 2017 at 5:50 PM CDT
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FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - The University of North Alabama is finally revealing what they did after learning of sexual abuse allegations involving a student and professor.

READ MORE: Former UNA professor accused of sexual assault

A former student identified as Jane Doe is suing the University of North Alabama over an alleged Title IX violation after an incident on a school trip involving former professor David Dickerson. The lawsuit states the school did not properly investigate the sexual assault claim.

Jane Doe claims the sexual abuse happened over a weekend trip for a International Collegiate Sales Competition in Orlando Florida.

According to federal court documents, school officials say they did not find out about the incident until a student who was not on the trip told a professor. UNA officials say they tried to interview everyone on the trip after Thanksgiving break.

Multiple staff members agreed David Dickerson a visiting associate professor at the time violated the universities student-staff relationship policy.
The university ultimately took employment action against him. UNA President Kenneth Kitts had the final say whether to fire him on the spot or pay out the rest of his contract. Court documents reveal Kitts was concerned Dickerson would demand a process hearing which would risk exposing Jane Doe.

The university paid Dickerson through the end of his contract, resulting in $50,000.

The investigation lead to an order of no contact by Dickerson to the four students on the trip then a few days later he was told his contract would not be renewed and that he was banned from campus.

Text messages in the court documents reveal Jane Doe alerted a dean about a Christmas party Dickerson was having with students a local bar. A text from the victim to a professor also stated he  also tried contacting Jane Doe on her through Linked in.

In the university's initial public statement concerning the lawsuit, the school questioned the lack of criminal charges in the case stating:

Earlier this week, a former University of North Alabama student, identified as Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit accusing a former professor of sexual assault, and accusing UNA of violations under Title IX. The University vehemently disputes the allegations in Jane Doe's lawsuit. UNA will vigorously defend against those claims in litigation.

We note the lawsuit allegations date back to 2015. Despite the passage of years, UNA is aware of no criminal charges against the professor the plaintiff accuses of sexual assault in her civil lawsuit seeking money damages from UNA. One of the privileges of our legal system is that courts are open to all citizens. Our courts are even open to those who may misuse their right to initiate litigation for the purpose of extorting money with baseless allegations calculated to damage reputations and inflame public opinion. UNA is proud our American justice system also affords civil defendants an opportunity to set the record straight at the courthouse, and the University intends to take full advantage of that opportunity, in this case.

UNA rigorously enforces its policies that prohibit sex discrimination and that ensure compliance with Title IX. UNA takes great pride in its reputation as one of the safest college campuses in the Southeast. Student safety is and has always been a top priority, and campus officials are deeply offended by unfounded accusations that suggest otherwise.

Typically, UNA does not comment on details underlying pending litigation. In this matter brought by a former student, federal privacy laws further limit the University's opportunity to disclose such information. UNA respects student confidentiality and follows the law addressing educational records, even when compliance places the University at a disadvantage in responding to meritless claims that impugn the reputation of the University and the many fine people who have worked to make UNA a leading Alabama university.

The University of North Alabama looks forward to its day in court.

A short time later the university revised the response and released this statement:

The University of North Alabama is committed to providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students. The University has a professional and well-trained staff that addresses claims of sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness.  Students impacted by sexual misconduct are provided strong resources and excellent support.

A lawsuit was filed last week against the University. The lawsuit alleges sexual assault of a student by a former faculty member and claims that the University did not respond appropriately. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Upon notice of the alleged misconduct, the University reached out to the student and conducted an investigation. The University concluded that, in the fall of 2015 the faculty member had violated University policy regarding faculty/student relationships. As a result, the faculty member was removed from the classroom and ordered to stay away from campus and to avoid contact with students.  The faculty member is no longer employed by the University.

The University responded quickly and professionally throughout this process, complying with all applicable policies and laws.  The matter was investigated thoroughly and the University acted decisively to protect our students while also protecting the student's right to privacy.

The University offers a fair, informed and compliant process that supports any student who experiences sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, or any other form of sex or gender discrimination.

The University is proud of its record in promoting campus safety and will defend its good name vigorously in this litigation.  Officials will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the integrity of the excellent programs that foster the security and well-being of all University of North Alabama students.

Dickerson worked for Metro State University in Denver after leaving UNA. WAFF 48 News alerted Metro State to the allegations in Alabama. He is no longer employed at Metro State.

READ MORE: Former UNA professor accused of sexual assault out at Denver university

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