Social Work dean resigns after lawsuit, T-shirt controversy
After long history of conflict, returns to research and teaching
Published: Monday, September 21, 2009
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
After finding himself in the center of two university controversies last academic year, the dean of the College of Social Work has resigned from his position.
William Meezan was sued by an Ohio State professor for discrimination and was later accused of inappropriate behavior by the university when he spoke at a student orientation while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "rub my nuts."
But Meezan, who began his tenure as dean in July 2005, insists physical and personal issues were the cause of his resignation, not his long-running conflict with professor Rudolph Alexander Jr. or the accusation of inappropriate conduct by the OSU Office of Human Resources.
"While [the conflict and Human Resources investigation] was an additional stressor in my work life, the dean's position is filled with many such situations. This was not a major factor in my decision," Meezan said in an e-mail.
Alexander, a professor in the College of Social Work, sued Meezan and other OSU employees for discrimination based on race. He also claimed in a February 2009 deposition that Meezan bullied minority faculty members. In May 2008, Meezan alleged that Alexander told students that Meezan was a "gay leprechaun" and had AIDS.
Alexander's lawsuit is still ongoing. In a previous e-mail to an OSU attorney, Alexander said: "In effect, it's going to take a seven-figure settlement to get me to drop this case. I will likely retire immediately, leave Ohio State and move back to Texas. At this point I'm totally disgusted. Every time I see Meezan, I want to punch him in the face. And this is putting it mildly."
In November 2008, Alexander filed another complaint with Human Resources when Meezan wore a shirt reading "rub my nuts." A subsequent report by the Office of Human Resources concluded that Meezan acted inappropriately by wearing the shirt and again when he indicated a preference for non-foreign minorities at a faculty search committee meeting.
In May, Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Alutto sent Meezan a memo saying that the Human Resources report on Meezan would be considered in Meezan's upcoming salary review and re-appointment process and that a meeting would occur in "the near future."
But Meezan notified Alutto that he would be resigning on July 10, before either the review or re-appointment process took place. His resignation went into effect Aug. 31.
Following Meezan's resignation announcement, Alutto issued the following statement: "Bill Meezan is highly regarded nationally as an outstanding scholar and educator. During his tenure as dean, he improved the support of research in the College of Social Work and refocused many of its programs. It was the dean's decision to now return to the faculty to continue his research and teaching, and we have accepted his resignation as dean."
Meezan says he is looking forward to returning as a teacher.
"I am most looking forward to being able to do more writing than I have over the last four years, to working with doctoral students on their research and development, to being better able to keep up with developments in my field of interest and imparting new knowledge to students at the masters level," he said in an e-mail.
As for Alexander, he had the following to say regarding Meezan's resignation: "I was on the search committee that interviewed Meezan in 2004 and I voted for him, though I had reservations about him. He had no sole authored publications in any major social work journal and one of his colleagues at Michigan described him as a street fighter from New York. I consider my favorable vote for him to have been a serious mistake."
Meezan's accomplishments as dean include significant increases in the college's budget, faculty salaries and research funding, as well as the establishment of an honors program. He admits to some regrets though, saying, "If there is anything I would have done differently, it would have been to not have pushed for change as quickly as I did."
Tom Gregoire has been appointed to serve as the college's interim dean.