Honor Society Leader Steps Down

Longtime executive director of Phi Theta Kappa retires from his position at two-year-college group following charges and a seemingly aborted investigation into inappropriate behavior.

July 14, 2015
Rod Risley

The executive director and CEO of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society announced Monday that he had retired from the community college honor group as of June 30.

Rod Risley, who led the organization for 30 years, stepped aside from his post in April for a paid leave of absence while the honor society's Board of Directors investigated allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation, inappropriate touching and unprofessional behavior made by two students. The investigation was apparently never completed.

"My decision to retire is predicated solely upon my belief that it is the right time for Phi Theta Kappa in its journey and nothing more," Risley wrote on his Facebook page, adding that after three decades he felt it was time for the organization to see new leadership.

The two students who accused Risley of inappropriate behavior said they had been told that because Risley had informed the board of his retirement, the investigation would be terminated. Rachel Reeck and Toni Marek served as student international officers for the society in the 2013-14 academic year, when they say the alleged incidents took place. They expressed disappointment with the turn of events.

"We are devastated by the fact that this investigation has been terminated," Marek said. "No one will ever know the truth and all that remains is what has been said about us. Our sincere hope is that the members, the advisers, the regional coordinators and the staff of Phi Theta Kappa will not let this stand as is. They'll ask for the results of this investigation."

Inside Higher Ed has asked Phi Theta Kappa officials for an update about the investigation. Board Chairman Everett Johnson referred questions to the honor society, but no answers were provided by last night.

"We didn't ask people to take sides," Marek said. "We asked for an independent investigation so the truth could come out and we didn't get that …. Someone could make assumptions, but we never wanted someone fired or gone just because we said so. We wanted the truth out there," Marek said.

Reeck has an open Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint of sexual harassment that she lodged in January against Risley. As of three weeks ago that complaint remained an open case, and Reeck will continue to pursue it, she said.

Both women said they were interviewed in May as part of PTK's investigation and were given transcripts of their statements following Risley's retirement, as well as notice that the investigation would cease.

​In a phone interview in March with Inside Higher Ed, Risley denied the allegations and said he was cooperating with the investigation.

In a statement released Monday, Johnson said: "We knew there would come a day when Rod would retire. The success of our organization today is in no small part due to his leadership. But our strength lies in the hearts of our students, advisers and unbelievably committed staff. We wish him the best in the next chapter of his life and we have complete confidence in the future of our society and look forward with optimism to our next chapter as well."

​Risley has a long history with the PTK organization. He was elected national president as a student in 1974 and joined the organization as an employee in 1977, as the alumni affairs director. Phi Theta Kappa, which is based in Jackson, Miss., has more than 2.5 million members and promotes scholarship and leadership among two-year-college students. International officers are student representatives and are expected to attend events and seminars.


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