On Feb. 17, The Plainsman reported that Richard Hansen, the dean of Auburn University’s Harrison College of Pharmacy, sexually harassed a student and faced unknown consequences.
In an email sent to students, faculty and staff, the University announced Hansen resigned his position as dean. What the email didn’t say was that Hansen remains a tenured professor at the University.
This comes nearly on the heels of student protests against sexual assault last semester, with two protests being held within a week of each other in September 2021.
Following those protests, the University held an open forum seeking answers to the question: "What can we do better?"
And although bureaucracy is slow, things take time always. The answers and concerns raised by students — "How can we feel safe on Auburn's campus?" — seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Auburn's policies against sexual misconduct are designed to keep students, faculty and staff safe and punish those who violate that safety. In the case of Richard Hansen, Auburn seems to have forgotten that they would make student safety its “number one priority.”
The only clear change came the day after The Plainsman reported on Hansen’s sexual misconduct. Even then, Hansen’s punishment was in his own hands. He was not fired and only resigned as dean.
It should not have come to The Plainsman reporting on Hansen’s behavior for action to be taken.
What if the next time a tenured professor sexually harasses a student, they do not resign?
Only 5 days after the University held its town hall, the student whom Hansen sexually harassed filed a report to Auburn’s Title IX office, which launched an investigation into his behavior. The investigation concluded, and the survivor was informed in late January that Hansen would be facing a one-month suspension and “other appropriate sanctions.”
On Feb. 9, however, the office rescinded the statements, stating that it had “mistakenly provided inaccurate information regarding sanctions to be imposed on Dean Hansen.” The details of the corrective action were never shared with the survivor or to The Plainsman when asked.
Apathy is not a good look for a school that believes, per the Auburn Creed, in “honesty and truthfulness,” or for a school that believes in “[protecting] the rights of all.”
Auburn, whose rights are you protecting? Are students included in your “all?”
In another email sent to students, faculty and staff, the University stated, “The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for our students will always be the highest priority for Auburn.”
If Auburn were truly interested in creating a safe environment for its students, it should have told the victim the punishment given to Hansen for creating an environment that was "intimidating and offensive.”
Auburn, if creating a safe environment is your intention, not just your aspiration, why were Hansen's punishments, if there was any, locked behind closed doors?
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