Case Western dean takes leave of absence amid sex scandal

Case Western Reserve University School of Law is grappling with a sex scandal, after a former assistant dean filed a lawsuit against the school and Dean Lawrence Mitchell, alleging that Mitchell retaliated against him for reporting inappropriate sexual conduct, and the university failed to do anything about it.

A second source, a former research assistant for Mitchell, has also alleged that the dean made inappropriate sexual advances, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Mitchell announced Nov. 6 that he would take a temporary leave of absence. 

“The recent initiation of litigation against the university and me, however, has proven to be a distraction to all of us,” Mitchell wrote in an email to the law school community. "In order to allow us to continue the work we have begun without further disruption, I have asked the university to permit me to take a temporary leave of absence.”

The law school is conducting an independent review of the allegations, and plans to name an acting dean soon.

Professor Raymond Ku, who is still a tenured professor at the law school, alleges that Mitchell retaliated against him after he reported a 2011 incident where Mitchell had potentially engaged in sexual harassment of law school faculty and staff. At the time, Ku held the position of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

In his complaint, Ku alleges that in August 2011, he personally observed Mitchell caress a female staff member. Additionally, he claims he became aware of other allegations by other females at the institution regarding inappropriate comments made by Mitchell to several law professors and another staff member. Ku reported the incident to university administrators.

After he reported the incident, Ku claims Mitchell retaliated against him by threatening to fire him. Ku also claims Mitchell ended all in-person communication with him, stripped him of his substantive responsibilities as associate dean, constructively discharged him from the position of associate dean, worked to discredit him among his faculty colleagues, refused to consider him for an endowed chair, and discontinued his co-directorship of the Center for Law, Technology & the Arts.

"Professor Ku paid a high price for doing what was both required and right — standing up for victims at great personal risk and reporting to senior university officials Dean Mitchell's potential harassment," said Subodh Chandra, Ku's lead counsel in a press release. "But retaliation is illegal and a law school dean should know he is not above the law. The only question now is whether Case [Western University] will continue to blindly back Dean Mitchell despite these circumstances, or whether it will live up to its own policies and ideals for the sake of its students, staff and faculty."

Daniel Dubé, who came to Case Western with Mitchell from George Washington University, wrote a letter to university officials stating that Mitchell had a sexual relationship with a student and was retaliating against him because he knew about it. Dubé was 

Special Assistant to the Dean, a fully salaried position where he focused on curricular innovation, he said. 

Dubé said he was speaking publicly because it is “a matter of social responsibility.”

According to Ku’s lawsuit, Dubé's letter to university administrators states, "My close knowledge of Dean Mitchell's past and potential behavior causes me to have great concern for the integrity and reputation of the Case Western Reserve University Law School and for the safety of the students and the staff. I have come to fear for my personal safety."

According to the complaint, Dubé said Mitchell would talk about his sex life and ask about Dubé's sex life. After a student and staff party at the dean's home, Mitchell tried to engage Dubé and his date in a "threesome," the Plain Dealer reported.

Ku alleges that Dubé was reassigned after he reported an alleged sexual relationship between Mitchell and a student, and was later laid off.

The University denies the retaliation and said it will thoroughly review the suit.

"This situation is categorically not an instance of retaliation. Professor Ku continues to hold a full-time, tenured faculty position at the School of Law," Case Western University said in a statement. "The lawsuit itself includes inaccuracies, as well as an inflammatory flier that has been found to be materially false. The university will have additional comment upon more thorough review of the suit and opposing counsel's press release."

Ku has been a tenured Case Western University faculty member since 2003. In 2010, he served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the law school. Mitchell has been Case Western University’s dean since 2011. He was previously a professor at George Washington University School of Law.

Ku's lawsuit also alleges that the school knew Mitchell had had an affair with a law student while a professor at George Washington University, that he divorced his then-wife to marry the student, and that he has since divorced the former student.

 

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