A former UW Oshkosh art student is demanding a trial and a finding of unlawful sex discrimination and sexual harassment against a former UW Oshkosh assistant professor of art.
According to a criminal complaint filed Oct. 3 in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Michael Beitz violated university sexual harassment and consensual relationship policies that occurred over a period of three years with the former student.
Beitz was 13 years older than the student and married. According to Beitz, he had an open relationship with his wife and she was OK with his actions, yet he directed the student to keep their relationship a secret.
According to the complaint, the defendant, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, took no formal action against Beitz, but instead allowed him to finish out the semester teaching art after the student reported Beitz when the relationship soured.
Beitz was an employee at UWO from September 2011 until June 2015 when he resigned and pursued a teaching position at the University of Colorado Boulder.
According to CU Boulder strategic media relations Candace Smith, Beitz resigned from teaching there effective May 2019. CU Boulder stated they were unaware of the misconduct findings at UWO when they hired him.
The student was enrolled in classes taught by Beitz each semester from 2011 to 2013. She also worked as his sculpture studio assistant and as his personal assistant from March 2012 to June 2013.
According to the criminal complaint, when Beitz first began teaching in 2011, he would go to local bars with students, including the student he had relations with and her boyfriend at the time. During those outings, Beitz showed signs of being inappropriately affectionate toward her.
In February 2012 the student confided in Beitz that she was upset about a breakup with her boyfriend. Beitz invited her to his apartment, served her alcohol and had sex with her.
According to the complaint, Beitz and the student carried on a sexual relationship over the next three years, which became “unwelcome and created an intimidating, hostile and abusive employment and educational environment” for the student.
In December 2012, Beitz arranged a trip to New York City for a small group of students from his Sculpture I class, which included the student he was having relations with.
During the trip, another student found out about the relationship and confided in her mother. The mother sent an email to the chair of the art department, Gail Panske, complaining about the trip and Beitz’s inappropriate relationship with one of the students. In January 2013, another student sent Panske an email complaining about the situation.
Panske spoke with Beitz about the email from the student’s mother, but ultimately did not take any action to investigate the two complaints or refer them for investigation and instead deliberately ignored them, the criminal complaint states.
According to the complaint, in January 2013, the student was hospitalized for severe depression and anxiety caused by the relationship with Beitz. In spring 2014, she withdrew from her classes early because of severe depression, suicidal thoughts and deterioration in her physical and mental health caused by a coerced and emotionally abusive sexual relationship with Beitz.
During spring and summer of 2013, the student became involved in a serious relationship with someone else and tried to separate herself from Beitz. According to the complaint, Beitz became threatened by the student’s new relationship and directed unwanted sexual advances toward her.
In fall 2013, Beitz vandalized an important sculpture of the student’s, a plaster bust of her head she had completed in a previous sculpture class. Beitz drilled holes in the ears and into the mouth and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with the plaster bust and then ejaculated into it. Afterward, he showed the student the vandalized bust. Beitz had also made a drawing of the student sleeping prior to that, ejaculated on it and showed it to the student.
The student reported that she felt threatened by Beitz’s behavior and felt a clear power dynamic.
In March 2014, the student contacted Panske by email and told her about the inappropriate relationship with Beitz. The student also sent the same email to another professor, Trina Smith.
Panske then forwarded the email to Terri Gohmann, assistant dean of students, and Assistant Vice Chancellor Sharon Kipetz.
At the time, no action was taken against Beitz for blatant violations of the University’s Consensual Relationships Policy and its Sexual Harassment Policy, the complaint states.
In 2014, Beitz learned of the student’s plans to file a complaint and ultimately convinced her to retract her complaints. Beitz also told the student during this time that when she stopped going to school, he had smelled her perfume and searched the building for her. According to the complaint, he also told the student he loved her and would stalk her if things ended with his wife.
In mid-October 2014, the student ended all conversations with Beitz, and on Nov. 21, 2014, she filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment with the Office of Equity and Affirmative Action. When the student decided to move forward with an official complaint, Beitz took to Tumblr to post pictures of a sexual nature labeled “bitch.”
In its investigation, the University found that the inappropriate sexual activities and comments introduced into the work and learning situation by Beitz included:
— Drinking with the student at bars, along with other students, and in spring 2012, serving her alcohol at his home and having sex with her when she was his student.
— Engaging in sexual activity with the student on campus.
— Drawing a picture of student sleeping, ejaculating on it and showing it to her in fall 2013.
— Reporting to student in fall 2013 that he drilled holes into the plaster bust she created of herself, performed sexual acts on it and ejaculated.
— Trying to kiss student in fall 2013 in the Arts & Communication building when it was not welcome.
— Trying to kiss student in fall 2013 in her new apartment when it was not welcome.
— Demonstrating inconsistent behavior and treatment toward student in the classroom, especially in fall 2013 when student was trying to separate herself from their relationship.
— Coercing student in Madison in fall 2013 to have sex with him and to take the day-after pill.
— Continuing to talk to student in fall 2014, after being told by University officials not to, and by coercing sexual conversation with her, including receiving and storing nude photos of her.
— Contacting student in fall 2014 even when she specifically told Beitz not to contact her.
— Telling student in fall 2014 that after she stopped going to school he had smelled her perfume and searched the building for her.
The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System took no formal action against Beitz, but instead allowed him to finish out the semester teaching art.
In the criminal complaint, the student demands a trial by jury on all her claims and relief as follows:
— Compensation for physical and psychological injuries and emotional distress.
— Compensation for loss of earning capacity, both past and future.
— Compensation for medical and educational expenses and other pecuniary losses.
— Punitive damages.
— A finding of unlawful sex discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of federal statutory and Constitutional law.
— A finding of unlawful retaliation in violation of Title IX.
— Prejudgment interest.
— Reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in this action.
— Any other relief the Court may deem just and proper.
According to the investigative report, “The investigators also express concern that Beitz appears to demonstrate no remorse or sense of responsibility for what has happened. He seems not to understand as GEN 1.2.(7)(2c) makes quite clear: “The individual with the power in the relationship will bear the burden of accountability.”