Op-Ed

Professor’s story about sexual misconduct complaint off-key

Jay Blanton
Jay Blanton

University of Kentucky professor Buck Ryan in a recent piece in the Herald-Leader is manipulating the facts.

Unfortunately, what he is saying is not based in reality.

Here are the facts:

Ryan traveled in 2015 to China with other faculty. These faculty members complained — and had deep concerns — about his conduct. Two universities that partner with UK — Shanghai and Jilin — also have complained about Ryan. Our Title IX office investigated the complaints at length and interviewed Ryan as part of the investigation, as well as the faculty who accompanied him.

The faculty were unanimous in their complaints and their concerns, in which a preponderance of evidence concluded that he engaged in “inappropriate touching” and “language of a sexual nature.”

And that’s from the un-redacted portions of the letter.

The letter has redactions as part of our responsibility to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the victim.

Ryan, however, has refused to take responsibility for his conduct. At the time of his trip, he reportedly laughed off the concerns of his colleagues, saying “we aren’t at UK.” After a comprehensive investigation, sanctions were recommended. His dean agreed.

Finally, in the last of a series of distortions, Ryan claims that he is entitled to a hearing before the university decides it won’t pay for his foreign travel on behalf of the institution. There is, however, no inherent right — for anyone — to represent the university abroad, especially when doing so can place students and the university at risk.

To be sure, the university must provide a hearing when it seeks to revoke tenure. However, in another unrelated case, a federal court recently ruled that no hearing was necessary to remove a department chair, which also involved allegations of misconduct.

If the university can remove a department chair without a hearing to ensure an appropriate and safe academic environment, surely a dean can decide that a professor will no longer teach a class or travel on the university’s dime.

But there is a simple way to clear the air and let the facts rule the day.

If Ryan will simply waive his own personal privacy rights, the university will be happy to release the entire investigative file as well as his repeated e-mails to university officials. The university would redact certain portions of the files that would compromise the privacy rights of students. But every record that Ryan claims should be in the open would be.

He won’t do that, though. In truth, those records would reveal compelling evidence of misconduct brought into the open by the concerns and complaints of his own colleagues.

Those are the facts, as discordant as they may seem to Ryan.

And that’s the issue — not a song.

Jay Blanton is executive director for public relations and marketing at the University of Kentucky.

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