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Report: Professor created toxic environment

William Meezan resigned as the dean of the College of Social Work during the summer and said last month that his decision had little to do with his bitter dispute with a fellow faculty member.

However, earlier this year Ohio State’s Office of Human Resources disciplined that faculty member after Meezan filed a complaint that professor Rudolph Alexander had harassed him and created a hostile work environment.

Human Resources investigated the case and concluded in January that Alexander’s actions were “inappropriate, non-collegial and unprofessional.” The report said that his behavior “had the cumulative effect of creating a toxic environment for Dean Meezan.” The office ordered Alexander to stop the behavior.

The original complaint was sent to Provost Joseph Alutto and Vice President of Human Resources Larry Lewellen in March 2008. In it, Meezan claimed that Alexander harassed him because he’s gay.

Meezan complained that Alexander called him a gay leprechaun in front of students and told other faculty members that he has AIDS. In fact, during the Human Resources investigation, Meezan said he is HIV-positive. However, he has said repeatedly that he does not have AIDS.

During the investigation, Meezan said he did not want others to know about his health because he was afraid people would discriminate against him if they knew.

Part of the reason the report was not issued until January was Meezan’s poor health. In November 2008, Meezan was unable to attend a meeting with Human Resources and Alexander because he was “critically ill in Pennsylvania,” the report said.

Meezan would not comment for this story, but his attorney Dianne Einstein said Thursday that even though Alexander was disciplined, the investigation was unsatisfactory.

Meezan “was disappointed because there were really no serious consequences,” Einstein said. “It basically constituted a slap on the wrist, and as a result, [Alexander] continued to harass Mr. Meezan.”

In an e-mail to The Lantern Sunday, Alexander wrote that he is the real victim of discrimination.

“Meezan’s allegation and Human Resources’ conclusion were totally unjustified and unwarranted. It also was evidence of racial double standard at Ohio State University,” he wrote. “When I reported to the Provost Office in 2006 that Meezan had engaged in conduct that created a hostile work environment for faculty and staff, absolutely nothing was done.”

Alexander said in the e-mail that Meezan’s complaint was tainted from the very start because Alutto and Lewellan don’t treat him fairly.

“Both Joe Alutto and Larry Lewellen have threatened me in a failed attempt to silence me about racial discrimination in the College of Social Work and to protect Meezan,” Alexander wrote. “I have a state lawsuit, too, because Larry Lewellen ordered the destruction of public records in 2006 to prevent me from proving racial discrimination in the College of Social Work by Meezan. If I prevail in this destruction claim, Ohio State will be required to pay forfeiture to me of over three million dollars in addition to attorney fees.”

Amy Murray, assistant director of media relations, said in an e-mail Saturday, “The university believes that we have moved beyond this issue and responsibly addressed the matter after a thorough investigation.”

The Human Resources report on the investigation stated that Meezan said he didn’t know how Alexander became aware that Meezan was HIV-positive. But he speculates it might have been from a former colleague who he had a falling out with. The report said Alexander was unable to cite who told him, but he did recall hearing about the dean going to faculty members and crying in their offices about how many people have died from AIDS.

Meezan told Human Resources that although he couldn’t recall doing that, he couldn’t deny it either. But he contended that doing so is not the same as telling people he has AIDS.

The report said Alexander denied using the term “gay leprechaun” and that he only brought Meezan’s health status to the attention of then-Vice Provost Carole Anderson because Meezan would “yell in people’s faces.” In an e-mail to Anderson, Alexander said, “Some people are afraid that [Meezan] might accidently head butt them or scratch their faces.” Alexander was unable to recall which faculty members told him that.

The report said that Meezan told then-professor Tom Gregoire, now the interim dean, where he kept alcohol and gloves in case he should require on-site medical attention.

The report said that Meezan wasn’t the only one who complained about Alexander’s classroom behavior. In November 2007, at least eight students complained to professor Jacquelyn Monroe about Alexander.

They cited a time when he put up a slide during class of all faculty’s names, salaries, races and genders. The student also reported Alexander calling Meezan a racist and specifically using the term “gay leprechaun.”

After a meeting with Monroe, Alexander admitted he might have gone a bit overboard with some of his comments. He told her he wouldn’t talk about the lawsuit he has against the university in class any longer, the report said.

When he spoke with Anderson, Alexander again agreed not to talk about the lawsuit. He was told to bring any future workplace issues to Anderson instead, the report said. But Alexander stated he had a professional disagreement with Anderson regarding his right to discuss other aspects of his disagreements with Meezan. Anderson said she felt Alexander’s comments were purely motivated by his personal feelings against Meezan, the report said.

In August, Meezan resigned as dean and now serves as a professor within the college. He previously told The Lantern that his decision was related to personal health issues and that while his conflict with Alexander was an added stress, it wasn’t a major factor in his decision.

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