Sophie Cox didn’t see it coming.

The senior journalism student from Atlanta walked away from her introduction to Germanic studies class, taught by Professor Max Reinhart of the University’s Germanic and Slavic studies department, with a very positive, normal opinion on her instructor.

“He was a great teacher,” she said. “He was always very open to everyone’s ideas.”

Since last semester Cox’s opinion on Reinhart hasn’t changed — but the circumstances have.

Reinhart, 65, found himself in the middle of a media whirlwind following the events of Thursday, June 7.

Gwinnett County Police first caught wind of Reinhart’s double life — teaching students and giving lectures by day, wearing women’s clothing and calling himself “Sasha” by night — in an advertisement on backpage.com within the transexuals section.

The scene of the action: the Guest House Inn outside of Norcross. Detectives met “Sasha” there, where a detective agreed to pay Reinhart $60 for “sexual services.”

The next morning, headlines around the country announced his charges: prostitution and keeping a house of prostitution.

The days that followed

Cox did not know how to take these charges that were pinned on her former professor.

“You know, with this whole thing, since I first heard the news, I was surprised because they made it seem like he was running a brothel,” Cox said of the initial reports. “At first I thought, ‘Oh that’s awful because’ — for lack of a better word — ‘he has been pimping people out.’ Then I read some more and found out it was because he rented a hotel room, which is a different situation.”

Cox said the confusion that followed the spotlights was the result of “the media writing too much, too early.”

In an email to The Red & Black, Martin Kagel, head of the department, said Reinhart "was a respected and valued colleague in the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies." 

In the days following his arrest, Reinhart talked with WSB-TV Channel 2 about his arrest, mentioning the same confusion that initially befuddled Cox. 

“This charge is not exactly what it appears, OK. I can only say that,” Reinhart told Channel 2 Action News from the doorway of his Athens home. “I’m embarrassed. I’m feeling very stupid.”

In an email to The Red & Black, Reinhart wrote that “there are restrictions on what should be said publicly at this time. I’m sure you understand. Once things get resolved, it would be my pleasure to sit for an interview with you.” 

In his email Reinhart also stated the media whirlwind buries “a larger and deeper human story ... the name of the charges is so gross and broad as to damn what was really an innocently intended action.”

Kagel was conducting research in Germany at the time of Reinhart’s arrest. 

“Other than that, I cannot comment any further as this is an ongoing investigation,” Kagel wrote in the email. 

Where Kagel cannot comment, Tom Jackson can. 

As vice president for public affairs, Jackson was able to give background on how the process works with University employees who get arrested. 

“Every employee of the university, who is arrested is required to report that to the Office of Legal Affairs, which conducts an investigation into the circumstances and recommends to that employee’s supervisor a course of action regarding their employment.” 

Jackson said the reason why it remains an ongoing investigation is because at the time of interview, the University had not received the police report from Gwinnett County.

“The media seems to be excited about this particular case,” Jackson said. “But we have employees report arrests, unfortunately, around here and each one of them is dealt within the circumstances of the individual situations.” 

 

Moving forward

Since first coming to the University in 1988, Reinhart, A.G. Steer professor of Goethe studies, has found success with colleagues as well as with students. 

But despite his clean past, Reinhart’s future at the University is uncertain. While he was not teaching classes during summer session, students had enrolled in his classes for the fall. 

But Jackson was clear in one distinction: Reinhart’s case is a misdemeanor and not a felony.

“[Actions] can range from a minor misdemeanor, no action or reprimand and for something serious like a felony suspension with or without pay,” he said. “But Reinhart’s is a misdemeanor case.”

After looking at the comments on redandblack.com following Reinhart’s arrest, Cox said she noticed very little vitriol directed toward her former professor. 

“It seems like people could get over it,” she said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘That’s his personal business.’” 

Cox said as a student she hopes Reinhart is able to find some peace in the chaos surrounding his arrest. 

“To me, it doesn’t affect his ability as a teacher,” she said. “I don’t know how the University is going to handle it, but I would hope they would see it as more of a personal issue.”

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(11) comments

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nbpitts

Using a slippery slope argument is a slippery slope. People make mistakes, they always will. Some of them more public and embarrassing than others, but mistakes nonetheless. Dr. Reinhart is an incredible professor and should be treated as such. He's been with the University for decades now and has taught countless students. His worth as an educator, or as a person, should not be confused with his "moral fiber" and his mistakes should not be used to assign value to his teachings. Your students are with you Dr Reinhart!

Slippery slope

I understand this happened in his personal life and this is a misdemeanor. Shouldn't we hope for educators with some sense of moral fiber? Cross-dressing, casual sex, fine...no judgement. Prostitution in a sleazy motel? Come on.

Tango91

Dr. Reinhart is my favorite professor at University. He is a nice guy and and really cares about his students. His actions do not change my view on him. I believe removing him from the University would serve only to hurt the students. I am registered for his Goethe class this fall and hope to see his face when I walk into the classroom in August. His students have sent him emails telling him how much we support him. I hope the University listens to his students and does the right thing and keeps him as a part of the German Department.

mdean

I'm glad the initial comments on this story have been so positive. Onlineathens.com's comments section was morass of homophobia and ignorance, with posters slinging all manner of slurs at Dr. Reinhart. I think it would be a terrible mistake for UGA to fire Dr. Reinhart over something this inconsequential.

Of interest to some readers might be the story of Lisa Chavez at the University of New Mexico, who was discovered on a BDSM website moonlighting as "Mistress Jade." There was a scandal but she kept her job. I am also reminded of the 2007 arrest of UGA math professor Shuzhou Wang. He got pinched on felony charges for making terroristic threats at a high school, but kept his job. (He was later cleared of the charges.) I think it would be a travesty if Dr. Reinhart was fired.

Dr. Reinhart, if you are reading this, I know what you are going through is deeply embarrassing, and I know people are judging you and pointing fingers. There are some of us, however, who are rooting for you. Stay strong and don't let anybody box you into a corner over this! The problem here isn't yours...it's society's for making such a big deal out of this nonissue.

MVB1837

I don't think Dr. Reinhart should lose his job over this. It's simply unnecessary and serves to no sensible end. What he did was completely irrelevant with regards to his career, and I hope the University doesn't trivialize his contributions not just to UGA but to academia writ large just because he may have been the source of some embarrassment.

Also, it's "Goethe studies," not "geothe studies," which is exactly why we need a good Goethe scholar.

Tracey

I hope he doesn't lose his position over this. This is a victimless crime, and his personal business. I'd think the police have more important crimes to pursue anyway. For example, there are women and children being forced into prostitution and advertised on Backpage. Why not go after those cases?
I'll tell you why. Because this one makes news and is probably amusing to them in some way.
Legalize prostitution, tax it, and require testing for STDs like european countries do. Leave people like this guy alone and go after the real criminals.

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