A former University professor resigned and obtained a new job in academia before his sexual harassment investigation was completed.
Timeline of Events in the Blount case
1991: A graduate student accused Blount of trying to kiss her. The complaint was dropped.
1996: Four students made sexual harassment allegations against Blount. All four students dropped their complaints.
2003: An undergraduate student accused Blount of touching her inappropriately. He was found in violation of the policy. The University issued him a letter of reprimand, told him to take a sexual harassment class and eliminate interactions with undergraduates.
2003: A female professor issued a sexual harassment complaint against Blount.
2004: Blount resigned before the Office of Legal Affairs completed the investigation. All parties involved in the investigation agreed not to
Anthropology professor Benjamin G. Blount left the University in May 2004 and immediately began working as a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio.
Blount continues to teach there today, said James McDonald, the University of Texas San Antonio's associate vice provost.
McDonald declined to speak further on this case. Blount also declined to comment.
Blount was appointed as the editor of the American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthro-pological Association, according to the journal's March 2005 issue.
Blount's 2004 resignation from the University came while the Office of Legal Affairs was investigating sexual harassment complaints levied against him.
The University, Blount and the female professor who issued the complaint reached a settlement agreement on May 7, 2004. In the agreement, all parties - including the female professor who made the allegations - agreed to "maintain the confidentiality of this agreement and the circumstances surrounding this agreement."
The professor who filed the complaint told The Red & Black Sunday during a phone interview that it is important for cases to come to a conclusion "for everyone's sake," especially for the accuser and the accused.
"It certainly would have made my life easier if the University had completed the investigation, she said. "It created enormous stress in my job for a number of years."
Blount resigned from the University on May 7, 2004, and the investigation was dropped.
On November 24, 2003, a female professor of anthropology filed a letter with the Office of Legal Affairs detailing her account of what she described as inappropriate sexual advances from Blount.
She came forward when she felt "more professionally secure" after becoming a full professor, according to the Office of Legal Affairs' documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald through an open records request.
The woman said she also became aware her "experience was not singular, and particularly distressingly that students in our department have been similarly pressured and harassed."
"I was asked by the University not to discuss the matter in writing," said said Sunday.
The settlement stated, "No determination has yet been made and will not be made due the resignation of Dr. Blount."
Tom Jackson, vice president for public affairs, said employees who are found in violation of the University's harassment policy typically receive a notation in their personnel files.
Jackson said he was unable to comment on the details of Blount's case.
But Jackson said he was unsure if informal resolutions - the kind of resolution Blount received - were included in employee's personnel files. Jackson was also unaware that some cases are never resolved.
"I suppose that would render it moot as far as the University is concerned," he said about an employee who resigns while under investigation. "I just don't know the answer to that question."
History of Allegations
In 2003, a student complained that Blount made unwelcome sexual advances, according to the documents.
The student reported on May 5, 2003 to Legal Affairs that in a May 1, 2003 meeting with Blount he "started stroking my knee with both his hands. Then he progressed to my thigh and between my legs. I felt really uncomfortable, so I crossed my legs."
The student told Legal Affairs that Blount said he would be doing research on the Georgia coast, and "he asked whether I could go to by the Ga Coast to see him." The student said she told him she would not visit.
According to documents, the student said when she left Blount's office "he hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. While he hugged me, I felt he held me tight for 3-4 seconds and I could feel his hands touching my behind."
On May 20, 2003, Blount denied the charges. He responded after Kimberly Ballard-Washington, then associate director of Legal Affairs, contacted him about the charges. He wrote in a May 20, 2003 e-mail that he had "no idea what this could be about, and I categorically deny that I have done anything wrong," according to documents.
The Office of Legal Affairs issued a resolution, stating Blount was found in violation of the policy on June 20, 2003.
The resolution states: "Dr. Blount denies that he engaged in any harassing conduct with you. My findings, however, are that Dr. Blount has violated the University's Sexual Harassment Policy. I have therefore entered into an informal resolution with Dr. Blount."
The first complaint against Blount was filed on Feb. 12, 1991 by a graduate student in linguistics.
She wrote in a letter to the Department of Anthropology and Linguistics that Blount tried to kiss her during a casual conversation, according to documents.
She said she believed, "his actions were not innocent."
Though she did not wish to pursue the issue further, she said it needed to be brought to attention, because: "something of a similar nature may happen again to someone else, with more serious consequences," documents state.
A Feb. 1, 1996 document from the Office of Legal Affairs stated there were four allegations of sexual harassment against Blount, but none of the women wished to pursue formal charges.
Susan Jones, then the associate vice president for Legal Affairs, wrote in response that "we will be req'd to take action (though tenure revocation process if necessary) if further incidents occur."
Jones advised on Feb. 1, 1996, Blount's superiors meet with him, give him a copy of the harassment policy and tell him the University views "the matter very seriously," documents show.
When Blount was found in violation of the policy in 2003, Legal Affairs wrote a letter to the student who complained. The letter stated Blount would "receive a letter of reprimand from Dr. Wyatt Anderson, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences," and "attend a sexual harassment training class ... If no class is available prior to November 20, 2003 he will review the sexual harassment training video."
But Blount never attended a workshop.
"Since I neither was informed about a workshop nor saw any notice or advertisement of one, I checked out a video, as instructed," he wrote Nov. 17, 2003 in a letter to the Office of Legal Affairs.
The female professor who issued a complaint in 2003, said many universities deal with sexual harassment cases well. She said hiring an official to deal solely with sexual harassment complaints, as members of the University community have suggested, is "a very good idea ... It's hard for the administration to deal with these things."
She is no longer employed by the University but said harassment was not the reason she left.
"I left UGA for another job. The case was not the reason I left, and in every other way UGA was a model employer, and the deans and department heads I worked with were universally supportive and professional," she wrote to The Red & Black in an e-mail Sunday. "However, given the enormous amount of stress this has caused me and my family over a number of years, it did make the decision easier."
She said she decided to come forward after hearing that a number of students had filed complaints against him as well.
"It's very unlikely that it's only you," she said about sexual harassment. It would have been "inexcusable not to act in my mind."