The taxpayer-funded University of Kentucky has punished a journalism professor for sexual misconduct because, the professors says, he publicly sang “California Girls” by The Beach Boys.
The University of Kentucky’s Title IX coordinator — Patty Bender, according to the public school’s website — ruled that Ryan’s crooning of “California Girls” was sexual misconduct because the song includes “language of a sexual nature,” Ryan writes.
The occasion which caused Ryan to belt out the 1965 Beach Boys song was the closing ceremony of an education program in China co-sponsored by the University of Kentucky and China’s Jilin University. Ryan had taught a class for the program called “Storytelling: Exploring China’s Art and Culture.”
During the closing ceremony, Ryan says, he sang his own version of “California Girls” to portray “the many differences in Chinese and American culture.” One of the lines, for example, was: “Well Shanghai girls are hip; I really dig those styles they wear.” (There were also riffs on the Wizard of Oz and a Sting song.)
It’s not clear from Ryan’s account who complained about his performance of “California Girls.” The person wasn’t a student, he says. Also, he writes, no victims of any sexual misconduct have been identified to him.
The unidentified accusers — faculty members, apparently — say Ryan had some kind of unacceptable relationship with two students on the China trip in addition to singing “California Girls.”
Ryan strenuously denies any charge of improper relationships.
“In my more than 30 years of college teaching, I have never faced a complaint of sexual misconduct from a student,” he says.
Bender, the Title IX coordinator, embarked on a three-month investigation.
Ryan says he sought to obtain some level of due process.
“I sent an email asking to know what exactly were the complaints against me. My message was turned into an open records request by UK’s legal office. A few days later I received a two-page letter denying my request.”
“When I inquired about my due process rights, I was told by the provost that I didn’t have any,” Ryan explains.
The administrator told him: “There is no constitutional right to represent the University of Kentucky abroad. Nor is there a constitutional right to teach a particular class. Accordingly, the University has no obligation to provide you with due process.”
The University of Kentucky provost has the law utterly wrong, according to public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
“A state university is required by the Constitution to provide a person with his due process rights, in the form of a wide variety of procedural protections in an evidentiary hearing, before he can be deprived of property, or, in addition, what the courts have called a ‘liberty interest,'” Banzhaf said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller.
“Both the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment provide that no person shall be ‘deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law'” and “even small amounts of money, or inexpensive personal items, constitute ‘property,'” Banzhaf says. “I hope Ryan sues the bastards.”
The University of Kentucky vehemently rejects many of Ryan’s central claims.
“Here are the facts,” school spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller. “Professor 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 Professor Ryan.”
“Our Title IX office investigated the complaints at length, interviewed Professor Ryan as part of the investigation, and the faculty who accompanied him,” Blanton continued. “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.”
On Monday morning, Blanton told TheDC, the University of Kentucky “offered to release all the records in this case, if Professor Ryan would agree to waive any privacy rights or concerns. He declined.”
Ryan claims that, throughout the sexual misconduct investigation against him, the administration avoided him. He says he learned of his punishment in a letter.
Ryan’s punishment is that the University of Kentucky has stripped him of a notable academic award worth several thousand dollars. He is also now prohibited from obtaining school funds for international travel. He also had to submit to training sessions.
“I was convicted without trial of inappropriate behavior, which never occurred, with two women students. They wanted to defend me, but they were never interviewed by university officials,” Ryan says.
Ryan, a project director at the University of Kentucky’s First Amendment Center, observes that the public school “has a dean in a college with a First Amendment Center who doesn’t understand the right to free expression.”
A separate news story in the Lexington Herald-Leader on sexual harassment and discrimination complaints at the University of Kentucky documents the work of the school’s Title IX bureaucracy.
The story notes that most sexual harassment cases begin after a school employee or faculty member makes an accusation because they perceive or experience harassment.
School spokesman Blanton assured the local newspaper that administrators hand down sexual misconduct punishments only “after very comprehensive investigations.”
Investigations are “taken very seriously,” Blanton swore.
The Herald-Leader obtained a letter written by Bender, the Title IX coordinator, about the “California Girls”-related charges against Ryan, which appear to have originated in 2015.
“More than a preponderance of the evidence reveals that Mr. Ryan acted inappropriately in violation of the discrimination and harassment policy prohibiting inappropriate touching and language of a sexual nature,” Bender said the letter. “Making it especially egregious is the fact that he was with students at a university where he was a representative of the University of Kentucky, and he fails to acknowledge any responsibility.”