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Ohio U. professor quits over inappropriate relationships with students

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 1:17 PM

A tenured Ohio University professor has quit — just months after the school started the unusual process of stripping him of his job because of accusations that he had a string of inappropriate relationships with students and a subordinate.

C. Aaron Kelley, the former dean of OU’s College of Business, will retire at the end of June.

University officials recently gave Kelley, 62, two options: resign or face having his tenure revoked, which would open the door for OU to fire him.

Tenure is designed to guarantee academic freedom and puts the onus on schools to prove just cause before it can fire faculty members.

OU received Kelley’s resignation letter last week.

President Roderick J. McDavis began the process to dismiss Kelley last September — fueled by what he called Kelley’s inappropriate behavior and poor judgments stretching back to 1996.

“Over period of 13 years, you have disregarded repeated warnings and have engaged in a patter of behavior that is harmful to the university and the young women with whom you had a relationship,” McDavis told Kelley in a letter.

“By repeatedly abusing your position of authority over students you have created a significant risk of legal liability for sexual-harassment claims against you and the university.”

Kelley and his attorney did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

In 1996, Kelley stepped down as the business-school dean after having an affair with his secretary.

He then had a sexual relationship with a former student that lasted from April 2000 to May 2001. The relationship became public right about the time Kelley accepted a job as dean of the business school at Coastal Carolina University. He ended up declining that offer.

Kelley also faces accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with two students he taught in OU’s master’s of business administration program in India. Kelley had denied the allegations but concedes he had sent numerous text messages to one of the students that end with “Love, Mr. Banana.”

He told the Faculty Senate, which held a hearing on his de-tenuring, that the student simply liked fruit-related nicknames and that he called her “Sleepy” because she often slept through class. The Faculty Senate concluded that the pet names indicated a relationship that was at the very least “inappropriately flirtatious and solicitous.”

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