Report sheds new light on professor suicides - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Report sheds new light on professor suicides

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by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Two University of Iowa professors commit suicide in less than three months. Now, a report released Monday hopes to help colleges across the country avoid a similar tragedy.

Last summer, the University of Iowa placed Arthur Miller on administrative leave amid accusations he offered A's in his class in exchange for sexual favors.  On August 24th his body was found in Iowa City's Hickory Hill Park. He'd killed himself.

Then, this past November, music professor Mark Weiger killed himself. A former grad student named him in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Both Weiger and Miller's stories made headlines in Iowa. Now, their cases are gaining national attention. A popular university publication released an article Monday shedding new light on both cases. Light that could mean change not just at Iowa, but around the country.

As a music professor at Iowa, Alan Huckleberry knows faculty members can be vulnerable to allegations from their students.

"We're always faced with a situation where we're one-on-one with a student in our offices behind closed doors," said Huckleberry.

He saw the impact it had on his close friend Mark Weiger, who took his own life after one of his students accused him of sexual harassment. An article out Monday in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" details the cases of both Weiger and Miller.

"Faculty members don't kill themselves all that often and so two in one place following the same type of charges made us wonder," said Robin Wilson, who wrote the article.

"This is not the kind of publicity any university would want," said U of I Faculty Senate President Michael O'Hara. "There's no question about that."

It's publicity that has the university taking action. Sexual harassment policies have been revised and nearly five thousand staff members have gone through training.

"The more training everybody gets the better," said Huckleberry. "I think students need to be educated as well. It can't just be a one-sided thing."

Provost Wallace Loh says that's in the works. He is also pushing for disclosure of the investigations when they're over.

"The public has a right to know," said Loh. "Because it affects not just the victim, it affects society at large."

"Unfortunately I would think that our experience will be a lesson for others," said O'Hara.

Huckleberry hopes that transparency will better help faculty as well as students. And that in the future, it could prevent others from resorting to measures like the ones Miller and Weiger chose to take.

"For me personally it's a horrible tragedy that didn't have to happen on all levels," said Huckleberry.

As for a policy that would allow for disclosure following any sexual harassment investigations, Loh says many details still have to be ironed out. He says it will likely be next fall before that happens.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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