Going into Tuesday’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) general body meeting, junior Barry Goldberg felt fairly confident that his resolution, co-sponsored by junior Krishna Mahadevan, would pass. It may be watered down by the USG, but he thought it would probably get through.
Goldberg, a representative from the engineering caucus and Mahadevan, a representative from the arts and sciences caucus, were calling for USG to demand that university administration terminate Lawrence Mitchell, the former dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law from his faculty position.
Mitchell spent much of last year embroiled in a lawsuit brought against him and the university by CWRU law professor Raymond Ku. The suit alleged that while he served as the dean of the School of Law, six professors experienced sexual harassment from Mitchell, along with four members of the administrative staff and a law student. Several of these individuals allegedly stated to Ku that they feared for their jobs if they reported Mitchell’s misconduct.
Ku sued Mitchell and CWRU claiming that he was retaliated against after his attempts to report the sexual harassment by Mitchell in late 2011. Mitchell was appointed the dean of the law school after a long search that same year.
Mitchell stepped down in March “to alleviate uncertainty surrounding his status and demonstrate his personal support” for the acting deans. He has been on leave since then and is set to return this fall in a professor capacity.
The case settled out of court in July 2014 for undisclosed terms, although it is believed that CWRU purchased Mitchell’s Cleveland Heights home for $575,000 in preparation for a settlement with Ku.
For Goldberg, the purchase was insult added to injury. He believes that a sworn affidavit by Daniel Dubé, a former special assistant to the dean, was fairly substantial proof against Mitchell. In an interview with The Observer in November 2013, Dubé said that when he attempted to report Mitchell’s sexual relationship with a law student to Provost Bud Baeslack in a letter, he was told to work from home, and subsequently “laid off for budgetary reasons.” He alleges that he was offered a severance package with a nondisclosure agreement, which he declined.
“The only motivation he could have would be a matter of conscience and I respect him for that,” Goldberg noted.
The rest of the USG general body did not feel as strongly as Goldberg. After a half-hour-long presentation by CWRU Chief Risk Management Officer and Chief Litigation Counsel Peter Poulos on CWRU, the discussion moved into criticism of Goldberg’s resolution. Concerns were expressed over the lack of information available, whether the resolution was too specific and whether support from law school students was needed.
Just like that, the bill was pushed back to committee for more information. It’ll have to wait until this summer for any potential action by the committee, and if that committee wants it to be brought back to the representatives, next fall is the earliest that will happen.
Goldberg was “extremely disappointed by the outcome of the resolution.”
“I feel we had the opportunity to have an important, yet uncomfortable, discussion, but the majority of voting members in the room instead scrambled for excuses to make it somebody else’s problem,” he noted. “The blatant display of apathy and cowardice shown by refusing to address the problem is, quite frankly, embarrassing.”