A professor at Pacific University in Oregon says he was told to resign or face what would inevitably be a reputation-destroying Title IX inquisition.
Inside Higher Ed reported that Richard Paxton, a professor of education at the university, would tell an anecdote during class to explain schema theory:
The story, which Paxton says he’s told before without incident, was meant to illustrate the psychological schema theory of how the mind works, particularly Jean Piaget’s notion that schemas develop through a process of assimilation and accommodation. Paxton says that gender is one of the most studied aspects of schema theory, in that humans quickly distinguish between male and female, so he told his students how he and some old graduate school friends once got a surprise after attending a meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans.
Looking for a bar to listen to some jazz music after a good dinner, the all-male group headed to a promising spot across the street, Paxton wrote in a summary of the story provided by DesCamp. “One of the things that got our attention was a group of frankly rather fine-looking ladies standing out front smoking. ‘Looks promising,’ we said.” Yet upon getting closer to “where these ladies in short-shorts were still hanging out smoking, we noticed a sign above the door. It said: ‘Y’all come in. World’s Best Female Impersonators.’”
Suddenly, “our attitudes changed. Our schemas were put in disequilibrium,” Paxton said. “A few nervous comments were exchanged and we quickly decided to go somewhere else.”
Paxton said he has used this anecdote before without incident, but this time, a student accused him of transphobia.
Paxton told IHE that after the complaint was made, he was told that if he didn’t resign, he would be publicly investigated and then fired. She said he had until the weekend to decide and sent him a “voluntary separation of release agreement” the same day as their meeting.
The Trump administration revised Title IX rules to require schools to provide basic due process to those accused of sex discrimination. As IHE reported, Pacific contradicted those guidelines by telling Paxton the school wouldn’t investigate him if he resigned. The original resignation deal offered to Paxton during a virtual meeting, which said he would receive six month’s severance pay, but the final deal only gave him three months’ severance pay.
Paxton refused to sign the resignation deal and was put on indefinite leave. He says he has received almost no information from Pacific about the investigation except a memo in December that said additional allegations had been uncovered. These allegations vaguely accused Paxton of making “negative and stereotypical comments” about ethnicity and gender, including a claim that Paxton called it “weird” for some women to cry after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. Another allegation claimed Paxton said “Jews funded the Revolutionary War.” Paxton is Jewish.
Paxton told IHE he hasn’t been contacted for his side of the story. He has obtained counsel for the investigation, attorney Robin Descamp, who said her client “has been disappeared” and that it was more than 130 days “since my client was kicked off campus like a criminal.”
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