Documents reveal a pattern of sexual misconduct by Geography professor toward his students
“I thought of you last night and it was tingly,”or “you are too pretty to be dating that boyfriend of yours”. These are some of the comments Henri Grissino-Mayer, professor in the Department of Geography at The University of Tennessee, sent to his students.
In 2006, Henri Grissino-Mayer was found in violation of sexual misconduct towards one of his students. He was never terminated, instead he was given several “corrective actions” to abide by. In 2010, he went against several directives. He broke the “no future contact” with the student from the2006 complaint, and had a sexual relation with her.The documents show not only hand written notes regarding sexual acts, but also a plan on how to mislead university’s investigators. In 2011, he is still enjoying all the perks, benefits and status other faculty members enjoy at the university.
The documents related to his investigation were obtained from the University of Tennessee’s Public Records Office. They are laced with sexual comments towards his student: “You are a desirable girl,how lucky is your husband, I want to have a glass of wine that’s all, one glass, and have you so close tome that I can feel your breath.” However, according to the same documents, Henri Grissino-Mayer denied any mention of sex to his student in his statement regarding the complaint filed against him in2006. Moreover, in one of the 2006 documents, the Office of Equity and Diversity‘s investigator document, Grissino-Mayer admits the following: He had exhibited inappropriate behavior, that such behavior had been over the top and crossed the boundaries between an appropriate faculty-student relationship. Henri Grissino-Mayer’s explanation for such behavior was that he was emotionally stressed from over-coming a major illness during the previous year,sorrow over the recent death of a student acquaintance, and the sheer exhaustion of his workload at the University and within his profession.
According to the same documents, several female students and a prominent professor complained about Grissino-Mayer’s behavior and sexual comments towards his students. Dr. Lydia Pulsipher, a professor in the Geography Department, was concerned about complaints she received over the years from different students. Examples given by Dr. Pulsipher, included comments about “their body parts and other remarks”. Dr. Lydia Pulsipher contacted her department Head Dr. Bruce Ralston regarding Grissino-Mayer. That prompted Dr. Ralston to have Dr. Pulsipher forward her accounts to OED director Dr. Marva Rudolph. Dr. Pulsipher even offered to submit the names of at least two students,one of which now works for the CIA. Consequently, these incidents may have been going on at least three years prior to 2006. Grissino-Mayer was hired in 2000. The University’s Office of Equity and Diversity brushed these complaints as “here say” and never investigated them.
Since the 2010 fall incident, several students commented on Grissino-Mayer’s conducts with his students. A former Geography student said, “It’s well known in the Geography Department about Grissino-Mayer, we were warned by others to stay away from him because he would try to sleep with his students, he was known as the creepy professor.” Another student wrote, “I was a Geography major. I graduated in 2003. I know the faculty involved (I took a couple classes from him). I’m not in the dept anymore, but I have friends who are. I think it is despicable what he has done, although I’m not surprised because it is well known how much he flirts with his students.”
According to the documents obtained from the Public Records Office, seven “Corrective Actions” were to be taken against Henri Grissino-Mayer. He was to no longer work as an adviser or mentor with undergraduate students. Records show that he is still working with undergraduate students. A letter of reprimand detailing the findings from the 2006 investigation and complaint was to be placed on his personnel file. Five years later this letter does not seem to exist. Dr. John Zomchik, Associate Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences, argued that â€œdue to clerical error,Henri Grissino-Mayer’s letter of reprimand detailing his sexual misconduct with his student was not placed on his personnel file, but that the letter is now on his permanent personnel file. A request to get a copy of it and any evidence as to if and when it was actually placed on his file, has been delayed.The Athenaeum News made a public records request regarding the letter of reprimand. The request was sent August 12, 2011, we were notified on August 18, 2011 that this request is currently being processed and we should have an answer by August 31, 2011.
Dr. Marva Rudolph, OED’s director declared, “This case is closed, and I will no longer comment on anything regarding Dr. Grissino-Mayer.” When asked why she was ignoring legitimate questions and concerns, her response was “I am ending this call.”
Meanwhile, Grissino-Mayer was recently given another promotion.He is now a full professor with an increase in salary.The conclusions are yours to draw.
Editor’s Call: The Athenaeum News still hopes to get the University’s feedback regarding this case. The Athenaeum News also encourages any former or current students that have experienced similar situations with Henri Grissino-Mayer or any other faculty, to come out and file a complaint with the Office of Equity and Diversity. Even though in my case, I was not satisfied as to how OED and others have handled previous complaints regarding Grissino-Mayer, I would like to think that this is not the norm. I believe that knowledge and awareness are powerful tools to combat such acts. The Athenaeum News will continue to shed light on these issues and be our students’ voice.
Some of language and emails sent by Henri Grissino-Mayer to his students
“I thought of you last night and it was tingly”
“you are a desirable girl , how lucky is your husband to come home and have you waiting on him. I would immediately head to you. Some guys are just fortunate.”
“you are too pretty to be dating that boyfriend of yours.”
“I wanted to just wrap us up in that blanket and lie down somewhere. And of course I’m saying to my-self all the while not to overstep my limits.”
“I can’t imagine how nice it would be to see you first thing in the morning. In fleecy PJs. Maybe without make-up and no contacts, which would be good. And then go to bed at night with your face fresh in my mind. It’s hard to hold back my thoughts of you…PG-13, PG-13, PG- 13.”
“I don’t know how you do it, with a house, a business, classes, a double major, a daughter, a husband. You have delicate features, very feminine. I’ve looked at your make-up, your face, your hair, your ear rings, your neck, your shoulders. I’ve noticed you have freckles. I’ve noticed how slender you are but know that I also know the limits of what I can check out! I would never demean you or our friendship by doing that.”
“Damn. I thought I was addicted to you before, but now these feelings are ridiculously incredible and pleasurable.”
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