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.”
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.”