A University of Colorado Boulder professor at the heart of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former University of Wisconsin student has stepped down, but it is unclear if the settlement of the case has brought about any concrete changes in the CU hiring process.

Michael Beitz, a tenure-track art professor at CU Boulder, resigned in May, the same month the lawsuit in Wisconsin was settled. A former student at Wisconsin’s Oshkosh campus said in the lawsuit that she faced sexual harassment from Beitz, who was later hired at CU Boulder.

A CU Boulder spokesman said the case has heightened the university’s awareness of the need to ask former employers about any concerning behavior, but did not specify what policies may have changed.

‘We didn’t know’

The student’s allegations were reported by the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper in May 2018 as part of a series on sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints at the university. CU Boulder told the Daily Camera it learned of the allegations when the report came out.

The University of Wisconsin system agreed to pay $325,000 to the former student, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The student, referred to as A.R. in court documents, said the university violated her rights by failing to take action against Beitz, the Journal reported.

According to reports, A.R. and Beitz began a consensual relationship in 2012, but she tried to distance herself a year later. A.R. said Beitz sexually and emotionally abused her, including vandalizing one of her art pieces and coercing her into sex. A.R. eventually withdrew from school because of depression stemming from the harassment.

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh investigated Beitz in 2015 and found he violated sexual harassment and consensual relationship policies.

He resigned in June 2015 and was hired at CU Boulder in August 2015. When CU Boulder became aware of the lawsuit, which was filed in October, Beitz was put on paid administrative leave.

When asked about the hiring process, CU Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff said the university conducts criminal background checks and reference checks.

“We also have better awareness now to ask former employers about any concerning behavior that would not show up on a background check,” he said in an email.

When asked why the university didn’t ask Beitz those questions while hiring him, he said: “We didn’t know about this faculty member’s past conduct until long after he was a CU employee. Our policies allow hiring managers to ask about concerning behavior or any other conduct that would not necessarily show up on a background check. However, sometimes past employers share that information and sometimes they don’t. We asked many questions during the reference check, but this past conduct didn’t come to light. We’re now probing deeper for such information in the hiring processes.”

The Daily Camera contacted Valerie Simons, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and the university’s Title IX coordinator, for an interview. She referred the Camera to Huff, who said he already “provided … the information from the campus perspective.”

Boulder Faculty Assembly Chair Robert Ferry said he didn’t know enough about the issue to comment.

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