UCA closes sexual harassment investigation at OA office

The University of Central Arkansas recently finished an administrative investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of interns at The Oxford American offices on campus, according to records released by the university under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Between July 19 and Aug. 1, UCA officials interviewed interns, staff and former staff and found: “There were many examples of inappropriate sexual conversation and language, obscene gestures were witnessed and potential sexual harassment situations were documented.”


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The workplace at the prestigious literary magazine could be viewed as “hostile,” according to the draft report released Monday.

A final report, with few changes, is expected to be reviewed by President Tom Courtway today [Thursday,] said Graham Gillis, interim title 9 coordinator for UCA, in email.

The move to investigate workplace conditions at the magazine came after the Oxford American Literary Project Board fired magazine founder and former Editor Marc Smirnoff and former Managing Editor and Managing Art Editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald for inappropriate behavior last month, board officials said previously. Allegations have surfaced that the pair sexually harassed interns or staff at the magazine.

Fitzgerald and Smirnoff deny sexually harassing interns or staff and are contesting allegations via a website, Facebook and emails. The pair have listed defenses and counterclaims online.

However, Smirnoff admits to touching or photographing feet, adopting pet names for interns and serving alcohol to underage interns.

After reviewing emails, the UCA police department referred the issue to the Title 9 coordinator to investigate. The issues at the magazine never warranted a criminal investigation, said Arch Jones, organizational and community services director.

The university took up its own investigation because the magazine’s office is located at Old Main, according to the report. Under title 9 legislation, universities are obligated to investigate cases of possible harassment of students even without a complaint, according to the draft report.

In the draft report, issued Monday, UCA officials made three recommendations to improve workplace conditions — requiring sexual harassment training, communication from management for what is acceptable behavior and holding regular meetings to discuss workplace issues. The report also recommended keeping signed documentation of training in personnel files.

In a telephone interview Wednesday evening, publisher and interim Editor Warwick Sabin said The Oxford American will implement the recommendations by UCA.

“Were going to do everything that UCA wants us to do,” Sabin said. “We’re going to comply with everything that UCA recommends.”

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