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WSU investigation: Lessenberry violated non-discrimination, sexual harassment policies

Jul 19, 2018

Jack Lessenberry

An investigation into the conduct of former Wayne State University journalism instructor Jack Lessenberry finds a pattern of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Lessenberry resigned from the university in June following resignations as a contributor at Michigan Radio and the Detroit Metro Times

In documents obtained by the Michigan Public Radio Network, an investigator outlined allegations of Lessenberry’s most egregious behavior, which dated back to 2005. They include inappropriate remarks, unwanted attention and kissing, and retaliating against students who rebuffed him. 

“Student B is a recent student, in her early 20s, who graduated in 2015,” the report says. "Mr. Lessenberry and the student had an ongoing relationship that included the exchange of loving, passionate cards and a physical relationship that consisted in part of numerous passionate kissing sessions (including in Mr. Lessenberry’s office and car) over a several month time period."

Eventually the student decided she would no longer see Lessenberry. “Mr. Lessenberry reportedly became irate," the investigator writes. "He threatened to fail the student in both her final class with him and the independent study. The student finished the class with Mr. Lessenberry and received an A. Mr. Lessenberry, however, refused to allow her to withdraw from the independent study and an incomplete remains on the student’s transcript."

The investigator, Tara Mahoney of Detroit's Honigman law firm, says she would have recommended termination of Lessenberry's employment had he not already resigned.

“Based on the … findings, Mr. Lessenberry’s actions violated several WSU policies, including, but not limited to, the Wayne State University Non-Discrimination/Affirmative Action Policy and the Sexual Harassment Statute, and potentially the Policy 01-5 Sexual Assault based on the ‘intentional, unconsented, unwelcome physical contact’ described herein.”

Lessenberry could not be reached for comment.