"Drunken" nights with undergraduates and an "emotional affair" with a female student led a professor known for bringing in hundreds of thousands in grant money to resign after he was found in violation of the sexual harassment policy.
According to documents obtained by The Red & Black through an open records request, Stephen M. Shellman, an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, admitted having a problem with alcohol and resigned March 7. He was under investigation by the Office of Legal Affairs for violating the University's Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy, which centered around two occasions involving alcohol and inappropriate contact with a student.
The first incident occurred in June 2007, and the second incident concerns action on and around Feb. 12, 2008.
Stephen Shewmaker, executive director for legal affairs, conducted the probe and at its completion, carbon copied documents to University President Michael Adams, Provost Arnett Mace and SPIA Dean Thomas Lauth.
On Friday, Adams announced a change in the NDAH policy, which includes the addition of three ombudspersons and mandatory training for administrators.
"Some of the information you obtained is inaccurate and misrepresents the truth," Shellman wrote last week in an e-mail to The Red & Black. He declined to comment further Sunday night.
The names of many of those involved were redacted, so due to the condition of the documents, The Red & Black is unable to identify all the speakers.
Professor party foul
Shellman met up with a group of students and faculty and drank heavily at three downtown Athens bars. He tried to get an undergraduate female student to drink as well, but she did not want to and left the bar early, according to the documents.
Shellman "got hammered" and left to follow the girl. "Fac and stud tried to get him not to drive - to extent wrestle w/ faculty," according to the documents.
Bryan Early, a graduate student out with Shellman that night, said in the documents he tried to put Shellman in his car and drive him home. But Shellman ran away, got into his own car and drove off.
Shellman, "drives to undergrad female house - tried to kick door down pretty descriptive sexual talk - she not let him in - she called police," according to documents. Shellman was so loud that the female student's neighbors were awakened. "She locked front door + her bedroom door could hear him bellowing outside - got scared," the documents note.
Shellman left before the police arrived, and while driving home, drove his car into a ditch, according to documents. He texted the student and said he crashed his car and "need someone to pick him up and take home." The student called Shellman and said, "I told you no call, no text, if you do it again I will call police." He repeatedly tried calling and text messaging her. The student called Shellman back "to warn him to never come back; stay away."
Shellman responded, "I know, it was so horrible."
Shellman also sent Early a message that he crashed on the way home.
Early drove to the east side of Athens toward Shellman's home and found his car, but could not find him. Early called Shellman's wife, who suggested he might be walking home. Early found him more than an hour later and drove him home.
After the 'blackout'
"I'm in trouble, I'm told I 'hit on' (redacted)," documents state Shellman told his wife the next day.
In the documents, Shellman told Shewmaker he blacked out and his memories fade in and out, but vaguely remembers being at Trappeze Bar, an apartment complex and walking home on College Station and Barnett Shoals roads.
Shellman had no memories of the interaction with the female student on Feb. 12.
In a statement following his resignation, Shellman said he was informed by Early on Feb. 14 of what happened on Feb. 12.
"I could not believe the story and was in shock," Shellman writes. "I remember falling to my knees several times as he recounted the events. I cried and immediately phoned my wife to tell her the events related to me by my graduate student."
But he sent the student a text message on Feb. 13 at 3:32 p.m. saying, "U home by chance ... I have your ID and owe you a serious apology."
Shewmaker wrote in the documents that Shellman, "lied to me about blackout cause text (redacted) 'I owe you apology on Wens' when claimed not know until Thurs when Bryan told him."
On that Wednesday, the female student went to Athens-Clarke County Police to report the incident but didn't press charges.
On Valentine's Day, Shellman's wife called the student to see if she planned to press charges. His wife said she, "did not want him to get fired - he will get therapy."
On Feb. 19, the student's parents "were very clear, they did not want SS to lose his job over this" and "felt strongly the positives outweighed the negatives + that SS should be given a chance by UGA to rebuild relationships and confidence," according to the documents.
On March 7 Shellman resigned, effective April 28. He was told to immediately vacate his office, continue counseling and not consume alcoholic beverages with any students anywhere. Shellman wrote on March 20 "to express sincere regret for the pain this incident has caused," and "I take full responsibility for my actions." He added, "I am in counseling and to date I have not had a drink in 38 days."
Behind closed doors
The first incident with a female student centers around actions that occurred in June 2007 during the Summer Workshop on Teaching about Terrorism conference led by Shellman.
One night during the conference, after getting sandwiches with a colleague, Shellman went to the student's room and tried to get into bed with her.
It was not unusual for them to be alone, according to documents.
In his statement, Shellman said the two were "having a deep conversation about her personal life and family. The narrative turned melancholy quickly and she began crying ... She ended up getting into bed and I went over and put my arms around her to comfort her. It got awkward."
According to the student "he was drunk. Large guy already in bed wanted to sleep in her bed wanted to cuddle she kept moving away to other bed he move to her bed she moved finally he left."
As he was leaving he told her, "I know you are cool and this wont be uncomfortable tomorrow," the documents say.
After the incident, the student said she "decided to keep distance; keep other students w/ them to be buffer."
Another night when he had been drinking, he knocked on the door of the room the girl was staying in and "they did not let him in."
After the incident in the hotel room, Shellman "kept telling (redacted) he would get her a $5,000 scholarship while at (redacted)." (Redacted) had only done research with Shellman, and "felt she could not pull out of situation ... felt 'indebted' to SS ... would be her recommendation for grad school."
Shellman was "boisterous and loud" at summer conferences and "basically - stud. had to take care of him" the documents read.
He put pressure on female students to drink and would buy them beer, according to documents. One female student would put the beers other places or empty them so Shellman would stop asking why she wasn't drinking.
Shellman showed, "a little too much interest" when drinking, and would kiss one particular female student on the forehead and tickle her. He also would ask about personal subjects such as boyfriends.
Mia Bloom, a SPIA professor and colleague of Shellman's, said when he is drunk he "would get physically 'chummy' is touchy feely - gets angry if want to leave or not drunk," she told Shewmaker in the documents.
She said she "saw Steve get undergrads under 21 get drunk - both downtown and @ home - wife normally not around."
Bloom was uncomfortable with Shellman's relationship with undergrads because "buying booze for them illegal." She said he did this at summer conferences and while at the University.
Documents state Shellman was good in the classroom and brought in lots of money to the University.
"With success of bringing in grants, got sense of entitlement and 'power' conduct," Bloom told Shewmaker in the documents. His behavior worsened during the last year as a result.
His confidence was noticed during the NDAH probe. According to Bloom, he told others following his interview at the Office of Legal Affairs on Feb. 15 that he believed nothing would happen to him.
"OLA not take it seriously; nothing going to happen to me."