Phi Theta Kappa's Board on Harassment Allegations

April 10, 2015

The governing board for Phi Theta Kappa, a community college honor society, on Thursday released a written statement responding to allegations from two students about Rod Risley, the group's director. Inside Higher Ed recently reported on the controversy.

The two women, who are former student leaders for the group, said they experienced sexual harassment, intimidation, inappropriate touching and unprofessional behavior by Risley. The response from the board, which is investigating those allegations, challenged what it said is "incorrect and misleading information concerning the history" of the women's complaints and how the board has handled them.

The statement said the board was not aware of any of the allegations by Toni Marek, one of the two students, before she resigned from Phi Theta Kappa. The first time board members heard about the complaints of the second student, Rachel Reeck, according to the statement, was after Marek had filed a lawsuit. A court later dismissed that lawsuit.

Regarding the ongoing investigation, the board said it was being handled by a law firm that reports to the board, not Risley. The board also has hired another law firm to conclude and verify the inquiry.

Risley has stepped down, voluntarily, during the course of the investigation, the statement said, beginning on April 14. A spokeswoman for a member of the board said Risley will continue to be paid during his leave.

The statement also pushed back on Inside Higher Ed's reporting about Risley's compensation, which was $743,000 in 2013, according to the group's most recently available tax filing. The reported amount is "misleading," the board said. His base salary is $321,000. The additional compensation includes contributions such as a performance bonus, car allowance and health insurance. The board also said Risley's compensation reflects his 38 years of work for the honor society.

However, Risley made more the previous year. The group's 2012 tax form shows a total compensation of $1,052,813 (including $293,551 in base pay, $60,000 in bonus pay and $699,262 in other compensation). He received an additional $317,322 in other compensation from the honor society or related organizations, according to the form.

                                                          -- Paul Fain

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