The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Thursday upheld the firing of toxicology professor Morrie Craig for violating OSU policies against bullying and sexual harassment.
Craig's attorney said his client would appeal the decision in court.
Craig, a tenured professor who has worked at the university for 40 years, was dismissed by President Ed Ray last fall after a faculty committee determined he had bullied two students who worked in his lab, sexually harassed one of them and sexually harassed a fellow faculty member.
Insisting he has done nothing wrong, Craig went to court to try and keep his job.
In December, Benton County Circuit Judge Matthew Donohue ordered OSU to halt the termination proceedings while he reviewed the case.
Last month, however, the judge ruled he lacked jurisdiction because Craig had not yet exhausted all other options, including an appeal to the OSU board.
Meeting by telephone on Thursday, the board took just over an hour to determine that the decision to fire Craig was just and was supported by substantial evidence. The vote was unanimous.
About 20 people gathered in an OSU meeting room to listen in on the discussion, including Craig and the mother of one of his student accusers.
Craig's attorney, Dan Armstrong of Corvallis, argued his client had been treated unfairly because he was not allowed to see all the evidence against him (some of which was redacted) and because the university's general counsel advised the faculty committee behind closed doors when it was deciding his fate, effectively acting as "a lawyer in the jury room."
Armstrong also claimed that witnesses in Craig's two-day faculty hearing testified they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Craig and noted that the two women Craig is accused of sexually harassing never used the words "sex" or "sexual" in their extensive interviews with OSU's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.
"Please read the testimony," Armstrong urged the trustees. "I know it takes time, but please do it. Dr. Craig's livelihood is at stake, and he asks that you do it."
Senior Vice Provost Susan Capalbo told the board that Craig had been warned about his "inappropriate conduct" but continued to engage in a pattern of unacceptable behavior.
"Tenure is about protecting academic freedom. It is not a shield for misconduct," she said.
“When we see patterns of abuse and misbehavior … we must take action.”
Mike Porter of the Portland law firm Miller Nash, representing the university, argued that Craig had received a fair hearing from the faculty committee, that there was nothing unusual or inappropriate about OSU's general counsel advising the committee and that no evidence had been hidden.
"The evidence you have," he told the trustees, "is the same evidence the committee had and the evidence that was used in the hearing."
Oregon State University has never publicly disclosed the names of Craig’s accusers or the details of the allegations that were made against him. The university filed more than 1,000 pages of documents in the earlier court proceeding, but virtually all of those records have been kept from the public as well.
A few details emerged during the course of Thursday’s board hearing as Porter summarized the accusations against Craig.
In the case of a female undergraduate who claimed Craig bullied and sexually harassed her, Porter said the professor sent her numerous text messages, pressured her to come to his car that was parked outside her residence and used his position to pressure her into performing personal tasks such as doing his tax returns.
Porter said Craig questioned the young woman about her dating life, took her to dinner at upscale restaurants, touched her thigh and rested his head on her shoulder.
A male graduate research assistant who worked for Craig, Porter said, was pressured to work long hours and perform inappropriate tasks such as organizing Craig’s personal photo collection and troubleshooting his home computer system. He said Craig took steps to keep the student from completing his degree program so he would continue to work in Craig’s campus lab.
Finally, Porter said, Crag sexually harassed a female faculty member through a pattern of attention and interaction with no work-related reason, such as sitting outside her office. In addition, Porter said, he made comments about her body, calling her “zipper-belly” after a surgical procedure, touched her inappropriately and attempted to touch her belly.
After the hearing, Armstrong said he was not surprised by the outcome and said his client would file a new appeal in Benton County Circuit Court.
“This is what we expected, and this is why the people have given the courts power to review such decisions,” he said.