The University of Kentucky is launching legal action against the Kentucky Kernel, its student newspaper, in an effort to withhold details of sexual assault claims against a professor.
The university plans to appeal the Kentucky Attorney General’s request to open records pertaining to the case, which concluded in December.
An anonymous source close to the case leaked 100 pages of investigation documents to the Kentucky Kernel, detailing complaints that James Harwood, Entomology Professor, allegedly sexually assaulted two students in 2012 and 2013, while three other students testified but did not make formal claims.
According to the Kernel, Hardwood has denied the allegations of sexual assault. He officially resigned as of August 31 citing “family medical reasons” in an email to the Kernel, and indicating that he had “not been found guilty.” He did not undergo a disciplinary hearing or have his tenure revoked immediately, as was recommended by the investigator; he continued to receive his full pay and benefits until August 31.
When Harwood signed his resignation agreement on February 26, the Kernel filed a public-records request with the university; they received the settlement documents, which did not include any mention of the charges. Upon this release, the newspaper contacted the Attorney General, who ruled that the university was obligated to release all of the documents pertaining to the case.
The University of Kentucky’s President, Eli Capilouto, responded with an August 9 blog post wherein he detailed plans to sue the paper, citing the necessity to protect the privacy of the individuals involved in the case. The Kernel’s Editor-in-Chief, Marjorie Kirk, and the complainants have criticized the university’s actions.
The Harwood family will continue to receive health care benefits until December 31 or until James Harwood is employed elsewhere. Harwood will not be allowed on campus without submitting a request to the Attorney General, unless it is for health care related services for him and his family.
With files from Buzzfeed News and Kentucky Kernel.