A former University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student will receive a $325,000 settlement from the UW System following a sexual harassment claim that the University left unpunished for two years. UWO will pay $125,000 with “indirect” federal funds.
The sexual harassment claim was against former UWO art professor Michael Beitz who had a relationship with an undergraduate art student, identified in court records as A.R., starting in 2012 and ending three years later.
The student said the University violated her Title IX rights by acting “with deliberate indifference” to the sexual harassment she faced from Beitz.
A.R. began classes at UWO in 2011, the same year Beitz began at UWO, but she removed herself from the University in 2014 because of depression stemming from her “coerced and emotionally abusive sexual relationship” with Beitz.
A.R. said in her lawsuit that Beitz vandalized one of her art pieces by drilling holes into the ears and mouth of a plastered sculpture, performing sexual acts with it, ejaculating into it and sending her photos of it, which A.R. said contributed to Beitz’s “intimidating and degrading” behavior toward her.
Beitz resigned from his position at UWO in June 2015.
Complaints made in 2012-13 by two people associated with the University, a student and a mother, notified the art department chair Gail Panske, who is still at UWO, of Beitz’s behavior, but she did not investigate the complaints or refer them for investigation.
It was in 2014 that A.R. issued a complaint herself that sparked Panske to action by forwarding an email to the Dean of Students and assistant Vice Chancellor.
Beitz admitted his relationship with A.R. at that time, but denied the allegations.
A University investigation concluded that Beitz felt no remorse for his actions.
After admitting the relationship, Panske did not administer disciplinary action against Beitz for not informing his superior of an intimate relationship with his student, violating the University’s policies on consensual relationships and sexual harassment.
Beitz was hired two months after he resigned from UWO, without punishment from the University or board of regents, by a committee to a tenure-track assistant professorship, like his role at UWO, at the University of Colorado — Boulder.
UCB officials said they did not know about Beitz’s allegations at UWO when he was hired.
Beitz resigned from Boulder in May 2019.
A.R. and Beitz’s consensual relationship began in 2012 and after a year, A.R. tried to distance herself from him because of a new romantic relationship.
A.R. said Beitz then tried to kiss her without consent in a University building and in her apartment. Beitz said A.R.’s statements were invalid because of her drug use.
Beitz is also reported to have followed a perfumed smell around a University building after A.R. removed herself from the University because he thought he would find her. Beitz told her this and told her that he would stalk her, depending on how his relationship with his wife unfolded, A.R. said.
Reports from a 2015 University investigation included:
Pressuring A.R. to have sex with him after a 2013 showing at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
Asking A.R. to take a morning-after pill.
Continuing to talk to A.R. in the fall of 2014 after A.R. and University officials told him not to.
Storing nude photos of A.R. to coerce sexual conversations.
Asking A.R. to retract her complaint and “clear his name.”
Beitz was 13 years older than A.R. when the relationship began.
Beitz’s lawyer said the costs of litigation is what led Beitz to settle in court. “Mr. Beitz did not make an admission of liability as part of the settlement agreement,” lawyer Jason D. Luczak said. “Mr. Beitz is no longer teaching.”
The payout from the UW System is one of the largest in recent years. UW System spokesman Mark Pitsch said $200,000 will come from the Department of Administration’s risk management fund and $125,000 will come from UWO’s “indirect” federal money.
A spokeswomen for the UW System told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the settlement was “in the best interests of taxpayers and the University.”
The newspaper was the first to break this story, among other sexual harassment claims that went unpunished throughout the UW System where professors left the University where allegations came from and picked up a job at a different university in the same or similar role.
UWO was found to have had three University employees who received sexual harassment claims, including one volleyball coach, Brian Schaefer, who had relations with his players.
UW System rewrote its hiring policy and now requires campuses to ask about sexual misconduct before hiring any finalists. The policy also mandates exchanging personnel files among all UW campuses and state agencies during the hiring process.
A.R.’s compensation for emotional and physical damage done identified under her Title IX rights marks the largest settlement issued in recent history.
Students can report sexual harassment allegations to the University Police, local police, Title IX coordinator or the Counseling Center.