Two ETSU employees out of work after sexual harassment investigation

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Two East Tennessee State University Campus Recreation employees are out of work linked to a sexual harassment investigation involving complaints made by student workers.

Stan Webb, Source: ETSU

Former Center for Physical Activity Equipment Room Supervisor Stan Webb resigned last week following the investigation, making it clear his resignation was not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, according to his resignation letter.

“Sexual harassment is a behavior that is not tolerated,” ETSU spokesperson Joe Smith said. “It’s considered unacceptable.”

ETSU fired Webb’s supervisor, former CPA Associate Director for Facilities and Aquatics Jonathan Sasser, earlier in the month for failing to report “a serious Title IX violation that was brought to him by student staff members.” The investigation found the inappropriate conduct continued as a result of that reporting failure.

Jonathan Sasser

“A supervisor is expected to not sit on that allegation and to move it up the chain, so something can be done with that,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, that did not happen initially in this case, but that is the expectation of any supervisor to do that.”

“Is that disappointing when they don’t?” we asked.

“It is disappointing when that happens. Yes,” Smith said.

The university’s investigation concluded Webb inappropriately touched six female student employees, which included “hand holding, massaging of shoulders and/or hugs,” according to internal documents. In addition, investigators also discovered Webb used comments of a sexual nature around six female student workers “that could be considered harassing in nature,” making some feel so uncomfortable, they actually came up with a code to alert male graduate assistants when they needed help, according to records.

ETSU records show just two months after we uncovered the sexual harassment case of former ETSU music professor Dr. David Champouillon and raised questions about the university’s handling of prior complaints in that case, two student workers met with Sasser about their sexual harassment concerns, at which time he reportedly promised to talk with Webb. However, it wasn’t until late June that the women took it upon themselves to report the complaints directly to university administrators, according to ETSU records.

Sasser told an ETSU investigator he addressed the women’s concerns with Webb in April and urged him to not make people “uncomfortable or awkward,” but did not report the complaint, because he felt it was “hearsay,” according to public records. In addition, he reportedly said he received no allegation of “hands-on” inappropriate behavior.

During Webb’s interview with investigators, records show he categorically denied allegations of inappropriate comments or touching and said he would never do anything to jeopardize his job at ETSU.

“In regard to inappropriate touching or sexual innuendos, Webb said that he might have touched the students (male and female) on the shoulder lightly so as not to scare anyone,” ETSU records said. “He mentioned his physical size and stated that he did not want to scare someone by coming up unannounced from behind. He also commented that he reads palms, so he occasionally held students’ palms to perform an informal reading.”

As a result of the investigation, ETSU is starting new employee training at the CPA, which includes proper reporting of discrimination and harassment complaints.

“Should parents or students be concerned?” we asked considering the recent sexual harassment cases.

“I think they need to know this can happen anywhere, but they should know we have a policy in place that addresses that,” Smith said.

Webb, through his attorney, declined comment for this story. Meanwhile, Sasser told us, “Thank you for reaching out to me but I have no comment.”

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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