Former Cal Poly Humboldt dean of Professional Studies, John Lee was let go from his position in 2016 after two colleagues spoke out against his sexual misconduct and filed a Title IX report. Lee returned to work as a tenured professor after three months of leave in the College of Education using “retreat rights” in his contract.
Title IX is meant to protect people from sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. According to an email sent from Cal Poly Humboldt, “retreat rights” are stated in faculty members’ contracts allowing them to “retreat,” or step down to a lower position on faculty allowing them to keep a job if they are let go or choose to step down.
Since the release of the USA TODAY article on April 18, Cal Poly Humboldt University administration has not named Lee or the specific Title IX investigation findings that got him fired from his position in 2016 in emails sent to students, faculty and staff.
On April 15, three days before the USA TODAY story was released, university administration sent an email to all students, faculty and staff with information about what to do about media inquiries from reporters, what’s been done in response to Title IX complaints and resources available to all campus community members.
Cal Poly Humboldt’s weekly student-run publication, The Lumberjack released an article about a chair who is, as of writing this article, in temporary suspension and demoted to professor after speaking to a USA TODAY reporter.
“We kind of went into action once we heard about the article, which was to try to do as much sort of support for folks that was productive, and so we offered resources and materials to the College of Professional Studies and the School of Education,” said Maxwell D. Shnurer, chair of the Sexual Assualt Prevention Committee. “For moments like this in the future, and I think the fact that you know within a couple of days, the administration was like, yeah, let’s have that meeting to try to figure out what could be done there.”
Professor Rouhollah Aghasaleh, assistant professor at the School of Education and a member of SAPC at Cal Poly Humboldt, worked very closely with Lee and even considered him his mentor.
“I considered him as a person who supported me and we discussed our work,” Aghasaleh said. “We discussed our teaching. We discussed our campus, the history of campus among our colleagues, he was one of the few ones who has been around for a longer time.”
When Aghasaleh heard about the news he said, “I felt like my stomach was in my mouth. I wanted to throw up.”
Aghasaleh feels that the administration could have shared the information with SAPC about Lee’s Title IX case before the release of the article.
“We just let the trauma happen, and even after that happened there has been no communications, no well check no. No directions, no responses, no comments,” Aghasaleh said.
El Leñador reached out to President Tom Jackson and Shawna Young for a statement on April 27, but as of May 3, no comment or statement has been received.
El Leñador reached out to Grant Scott-Goforth, Communications Specialist at Cal Poly Humboldt, on April 21 through email and phone but no response has been received as of May 3.
*Correction: The person who was reported to be under temporary suspension in the Lumberjack article did not hold a dean but a chair position.