Government & Politics

Emporia State prof tried to kiss student. He’s still employed there.

Plumb Hall at Emporia State University.
Plumb Hall at Emporia State University. Photo provided

A psychology professor at Emporia State University allegedly tried to kiss an international student in a storage room last spring, and when the student complained to the university, she says she was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, according to a months-long investigation by the ESU student newspaper, The Bulletin.

After the student reported the incident to her adviser, the university began an internal Title IX investigation, which found “a preponderance of evidence that Dr. (Brian) Schrader abused his authority as professor and violated ESU’s sexual harassment policy,” according to investigatory documents obtained by The Bulletin. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sexual discrimination in schools.

The student was not informed of any disciplinary actions against the professor. She was told in a letter from the provost that the professor was not to make any contact with her, according to the documents.

The student, who is not named in the articles, provided the student newspaper with more than 150 pages of correspondence with university officials and official documents related to the investigation, which “provide a rare, inside glimpse into how the university handles misconduct against faculty, and how the university might seek to keep a lid on such investigations by asking the students who file the complaints to sign non-disclosure agreements,” The Bulletin reported.

According to the Title IX investigation documents, the student alleges that in exchange for not reporting an issue of academic misconduct, the professor held onto and rubbed her hand for an extended period of time as he handed her a tissue while she was crying in his office in May 2017. She said he then escorted her to a nearby office he used as a storage room, stroked her hair and then moved in closer as if to kiss her. After she asked what he was doing, he asked her if she wanted to leave and she did, according to the document.

The student broke the non-disclosure agreement because she felt like it was more important to say that what happened was wrong.

“He may have done the same thing to other students that he did to me,” the student told The Bulletin. “When I was seeking help from police, from the school administrators, I was anticipating that they would help me, because I was sexually assaulted. I really believed that the school would help me, but...the professor came back to the school. I’m very frustrated and feel like giving up. I feel like no one is really going to stand up for me at the school.”

Schrader did not return a request for comment.

According to an email to The Star from ESU spokeswoman Gwen Larson, Schrader is still employed by the university. She was not sure if he was advising psychology students. She would not say whether Schrader has faced any disciplinary action since that information is a personnel issue.

ESU President Allison Garrett released a statement to the university Thursday saying, “We cannot divulge any details regarding this matter. The allegations were investigated, and the parties were afforded due process. As a confidential personnel matter, the decision has not been, nor will it be, disclosed.”

The university disputes the term “non-disclosure agreement” to describe a form the student was required to sign as part of the Title IX investigation.

“This is not a nondisclosure agreement,” Larson told The Star. “Nondisclosure agreements are a type of negotiated contract usually dealing with proprietary information or other privileged and confidential information.”

“The university complied with the 2011 U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights guidance requiring confidentiality and non-retaliation as part of Title IX investigations. New guidance in September 2017 removed this feature from Title IX investigations. ESU modified its procedures accordingly.”

The language to describe the document the student was required to sign is a “red herring and totally irrelevant,” said Max Kautsch, a Lawrence attorney who specializes in First Amendment and open government issues and who represented The Bulletin.

“The only way this woman was going to be able to file this complaint was to sign this document to contract away her voice in exchange for the university even lifting a finger to investigate the alleged misconduct,” Kautsch said.

Kelsey Ryan: 816-234-4852, @kelsey_ryan