Thousands of women are identifying themselves as victims of sexual harassment or assault following a call to action propelled by Alyssa Milano in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall over of allegations of sexual misconduct. (Oct. 17)
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A Drake University professor has been allowed to resign effective June 1 after an internal investigation last fall found that he spanked female students and had them sit on his lap, the Des Moines Register has learned.
Mahmoud Hamad, an associate professor in Drake’s political science department, is currently on a leave of absence and “has no teaching or academic responsibilities” at the university, said Sue Mattison, Drake’s provost.
Hamad, 42, has not taught at Drake since 2016 and was on a sabbatical during 2017, a university spokesman said.
Mattison declined to say whether Hamad was asked to resign. She also declined to say whether Hamad is being paid while on leave, which began when his sabbatical ended.
An investigation into Hamad’s conduct found that he “physically, sexually and verbally intimidated” female students and “did exploit the power differential that existed between him and his female students,” according to a completed report dated Nov. 8, 2017.
Hamad’s behavior violated Drake’s sexual and misconduct policy and its consensual relationships policy, according to the report. Drake never referred the case to Des Moines police.
Nickey Jafari, 24, a 2014 Drake graduate who notified university officials about Hamad’s conduct, criticized their handling of the matter.
“Allowing (Hamad) to resign is unfair to any survivors,” she said. Jafari filed a complaint about Hamad, who was her adviser, with Drake in May 2017.
“Letting him resign instead of firing him is not as clear of a statement from Drake that ‘This happened and we don’t condone or support it,’ ” said Jafari, who provided the report to the Register. “I’m disappointed.”
Hamad, reached at his Des Moines-area home, declined to comment, citing the advice of his attorney.
In the report, Hamad denied the accusations made by Jafari and other students.
#MeToo spurs resignations for sexual misconduct
Information about the Drake investigation and Hamad’s resignation comes during a wave of reviews into sexual misconduct by university faculty and officials on campuses across the country.
Since the #MeToo movement began last October, numerous professors have been fired or forced to resign over sexual misconduct accusations. The hashtag spread on social media as victims and others used it to show the prevalence of sexual assaults and harassment.
- In recent months, two professors at Columbia University in New York City resigned after accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
- At Dartmouth College, three faculty members were placed on leave pending the investigation of sexual misconduct allegations.
- The most prominent cases have been at Michigan State University, where the doctor for the school’s women’s gymnastics team and the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team abused 200 young girls and women over more than two decades.
Jafari said she decided to speak out about her treatment by Hamad after three-time Olympic gold medal winner Aly Raisman reported abuse by Larry Nassar, who is serving multiple prison sentences.
Last year, Jafari posted information about Hamad’s conduct on social media.
“I am writing this because I know what it feels like to be powerless, to feel vulnerable, and small, and absolutely petrified in that situation,” Jafari wrote.
The Register wrote about Jafari’s post and asked for a response from Drake officials.
In a Dec. 1 written statement, Drake officials wrote that the university was “aware of the claims” made by Jafari. Officials wrote that “because the process has not yet concluded, no further comment can be provided.”
Drake is a private Des Moines-based university that was founded in 1881 and has about 5,000 students. The university is internationally acclaimed for the Drake Relays, an annual track and field event being held this week that attracts world-class athletes.
Jafari, Hamad went on student trip to Egypt
Jafari, who began attending Drake in August 2010, met Hamad in the summer of 2011 when she was part of a student group that visited Egypt. Hamad led the group and was the instructor for the honors courses related to the trip.
In the fall of 2011, Hamad became one of Jafari’s academic advisers.
In the report, Jafari told investigators that Hamad asked her to sit on his lap and she complied twice. She told investigators that the professor put his arms around her and that his face was close to her neck.
Hamad also asked Jafari to call him “Dad.”
In addition, Hamad told her that he would take her to Egypt for free if she got a 4.0 grade-point average, according to the report.
“I decided to come forward because I knew I wasn’t the only one this happened to, and I didn’t want him to be able to move from school to school,” Jafari told the Register during a phone interview Thursday.
The report also stated that another Drake student had an “emotional and physical relationship” with Hamad. That student didn’t report the misconduct because she was “worried about repercussions,” the report said.
Drake won’t say why it didn’t fire Hamad
Investigators found that Jafari and others who were interviewed were “credible,” the report said. In addition, investigators found Hamad’s denials “not credible.”
The report found that Hamad violated university policies through “unwelcome advances and unwelcome verbal and physical conduct and intimidation aimed at female students because of their sex.”
Hamad made “submission to his conduct an implicit or explicit requirement for academic success, recommendations, and networking contacts,” the report said.
In a statement issued to the Register on Thursday, a Drake spokesman wrote that the university “is committed to the safety and well-being of all students, and especially those who have the courage to come forward with a complaint. We take such allegations seriously and have strong policies in place under Title IX that have been followed.
“We are confident in the outcome of the investigation that resulted from the complaint made in this case.”
Drake’s sexual and interpersonal misconduct policy states that sanctions for employees who violate the policy “could range from counseling to termination from employment.”
Drake officials declined to say why Hamad was allowed to resign rather than be fired.
Jafari, who is studying medicine, said Hamad should have been fired once the investigation was completed.
“Any university who cares about its students would have a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct,” she said. “If letting someone found guilty (of sexual misconduct) is the norm, then we need to change that standard.”
Reporter Stephen Gruber-Miller contributed to this story.
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