A professor of sociology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor disciplined for harassment should have been able to cross-examine her student accusers, a federal judge ruled last week, according to Mlive.com. In a lawsuit, Pamela Smock, the professor, argued that she was unfairly punished with a three-year pay freeze and denial of sabbatical, among other sanctions, after students -- whose identities were not disclosed to her -- said that she’d behaved inappropriately, such as by discussing her own sexual experiences, disclosing personal information about another student and asking a student and the student's spouse for favors. A university investigation found that while some of Smock's behavior was inappropriate, it was not enough to create a sexual hostile environment.
In response to a recent motion by Michigan to dismiss the case, U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow partially sided with Smock in saying that she should have been able to question her accusers as part of the university's disciplinary process. In so doing, he reportedly cited another recent court case regarding Michigan that found that universities must allow those accused of sexual misconduct or their attorneys to cross-examine their accusers. "Tarnow clearly indicated the university's approach to investigations for faculty members is unlawful, because they don't provide faculty members with opportunity for cross-examination of their accusers unless they are planning on firing them," David Nacht, Smock’s attorney, told Mlive.com.
Tarnow also ruled against Smock in dismissing other aspects of her suit, such as that her punishment was in retaliation for protected speech and that certain university standards were unconstitutional. Rick Fitzgerald, a university spokesperson, said, "From our perspective, this initial court ruling -- on a motion to dismiss -- was overwhelmingly in favor of the university."