In mid-March, Auburn University paid over a third of one million dollars to Richard Hansen, the former dean of the Harrison College of Pharmacy who left Auburn University after The Plainsman published the findings of a Title IX investigation showing he sexually harassed a student at an off-campus bar.
Three days after he resigned from Auburn University, he received a payment of $350,000 from the school, according to Auburn’s open payroll records, which can be accessed online.
The sum paid to Hansen is more than he has ever received in a fiscal year during his time at Auburn, which began in June 2010. In the 2021 fiscal year, Hansen was paid $311,610.
So far, during the 2022 fiscal year, Hansen has received $495,730.42 in payments. On March 31, 2022, Hansen received what is likely his last normal salary payment of $11,405.51.
When The Plainsman reached out to Preston Sparks, director of University communications services, to request a comment on behalf of the University, Sparks provided this statement:
“Richard Hansen received a single payment of $350,000 on March 18," Sparks wrote. "There was a glitch in our reporting system that showed double payments for most employees in 2022. We were able to fix that today.”
The issue of the double payment — how the University’s payroll records showed two $350,000 payments to Hansen on March 18, which has since been resolved — was the focus of one of several questions raised by The Plainsman. The other questions, chief among them being why Hansen was given this money, were not addressed in Sparks’ email response.
In fall 2021, Auburn's Title IX Office found Hansen violated Auburn University’s Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment. According to the policy, if the respondent is found responsible for the accusations brought against them, the director of the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity office consults with the associate provost for faculty affairs “to determine the appropriate corrective action up to and including termination of employment.”
The student sexually harassed by Hansen was initially informed that Hansen would be suspended for one month before being told that he was facing corrective action that would not be shared. It is still unclear what, if any, corrective action Hansen faced following the investigation.
Hansen initially resigned from his role as dean one day after The Plainsman published its original story detailing the Title IX case brought against him. A little under one month later, he resigned from the faculty of the college of pharmacy and ended his employment with Auburn University.
There is little mention in the Auburn University Faculty Handbook regarding what actions are taken when a tenured faculty member resigns from their position like Hansen did. When tenured faculty are terminated for cause, which comes at the end of a lengthy process of hearings described in seven pages of the faculty handbook, they are often entitled to a terminal salary.
However, if a faculty member is dismissed as a result of misconduct, a terminal salary is not provided to them. Among the actions considered just cause for termination as a result of misconduct are “significant or repeated violations of substantive University policy, rules or regulations, other than violations of professional ethics.”
Violations of professional ethics are categorized as “just cause resulting from performance” rather than misconduct.
If a tenured faculty member is fired for just cause resulting from performance, they are paid a full year’s salary upon termination.
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Evan Mealins, senior in philosophy and economics, is the editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman.