On Oct. 11, University of Central Arkansas student Michael Sawyer posted to his personal Facebook alleging sexual misconduct by former Harding education professor Ken Stamatis. Sawyer said in his post that he was Stamatis’ intern in the Harding Literacy Lab this summer. He outlined several allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred throughout the internship.
According to his post, Sawyer reported the incidents to Harding administration, who then began investigating. Stamatis resigned during the early stages of the investigation, and Sawyer expressed in his post his disappointment in Stamatis’ resignation rather than termination.
“I would hope that you (Harding) at least take it from the standpoint of your own handbooks,” Sawyer said in the post. “He has gone against countless regulations, which I think most would definitely see as grounds for termination, instead of an opportunity for a resignation. Receiving the email that he ‘submitted his resignation,’ was quite figuratively a slap in the face. I waited a full week to hear that the man who sexually harassed me was given the option to resign instead of being terminated.”
Harding issued a campus statement to its students and faculty on Oct. 19 concerning the Facebook post.
“When this report came to the University in July 2017, we began an investigation in accordance with the faculty handbook,” the statement said. “In all matters of reported faculty misconduct, evidence is gathered by University officials. The findings must then be presented to the president before a faculty member can be terminated.”
On Oct. 24, campus organization HU Brave hosted a panel discussion titled, “Truth vs. Myth: An Honest Talk About Sexual Assault.” Dean of Students Zach Neal, a featured guest on the panel, clarified that the university cannot terminate an employee in the midst of an investigation.
“You try to gain the best understanding what environment was created and how it affects not just one individual but multiple people within that system,” Neal said. “In that, you continue to ask questions.”
Vice president for University Communications and Enrollment Jana Rucker said that Harding follows all necessary procedures when it comes to investigations.
“To say that we’re trying to cover up something would be totally contrary to what Harding is and what Christians are,” Rucker said. “We do have legal procedures. We do have legal counsel.”
Rucker also said that regarding employment and privacy, there are certain matters that are confidential until legal action is taken.
“Our number one responsibility is to protect the campus community and to provide a safe environment and when concerns are brought to us, to take care of those,” Rucker said. “When things like these come up, we want to do the right thing.”
At this time, Rucker said that Harding cannot press charges and all legal issues are left up to the party bringing forth the allegations. Rucker and Neal urged students to never hesitate to come forward with information regarding this case or any other of this nature.