Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Report details how Westerman violated MSU sexual harassment policy

October 31, 2018
<p>Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Executive Director for the MSU Alumni Association Scott Westerman gives a speech at the anniversary of the MSU Evening College on Sept. 21, 2011. (Mo Hnatiuk | The State News)</p>

Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Executive Director for the MSU Alumni Association Scott Westerman gives a speech at the anniversary of the MSU Evening College on Sept. 21, 2011. (Mo Hnatiuk | The State News)

An MSU report obtained by The State News shows the MSU Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, found in a report dated Aug. 22, 2018, former employee Scott Westerman engaged in “severe, persistent, and pervasive unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” with an unnamed female claimant who was a student at the time.

Westerman, who resigned from his position in April as Vice President of Alumni Relations and Executive Director of the MSU Alumni Association, sent “multiple communications of a sexual, intimate, and romantic nature in the form of email and text messages.”

The report states initial interviews with the claimant were held March 13, 2018, by Kroll Investigators, a British firm, on behalf of OIE. The claimant met Westerman in August 2010, where they developed a “mentorship” relationship she described as “father-like.” 

Westerman reportedly added her to his University Club membership, let her use his car and paid for expenses such as groceries and contact lenses. 

The mentorship relationship changed between 2010 and 2012, according to the report. The claimant said Westerman would “send me texts on what to expect from a spouse and materials on what qualifies as good sexual intercourse.” 

The claimant provided numerous email exchanges between Westerman and herself, many of which provided links to, or copy-and-pastes, of articles about sex. Many of these emails were not responded to by the claimant, such as a Nov. 26, 2011 email with a copy-and-paste of a New York Times Magazine article entitled "Teaching Good Sex."

The email from Westerman had a subject line of “Loved this article,” and included the phrase “reminded me that the bulk of our conversations ended up being about relationships in general … this guy seems like an amazing teacher.”

The report includes a passage about an incident that took place in a hotel in December 2011. The claimant was drinking alcohol after the Big Ten football championship game in Indianapolis, Dec. 3, 2011. She did not want to stay at her registered hotel, so she asked Westerman to pick her up and take her to his hotel room, which had two beds. 

The claimant said she laid down in one, and Westerman rubbed her back and asked if she wanted him to hold her, which she declined. He then reportedly stated, “I wish I could have sex with you so you could know what it’s really supposed to feel like.”

The claimant stated her work performance started to suffer in the wake of this incident, as she began to question the nature of her and Westerman’s relationship. Her employment was eventually terminated in August 2012. 

She stated she was concerned about filing a complaint against Westerman because she was "afraid of losing her job, afraid of being blacklisted, afraid of losing her network in the area; afraid losing other mentors she had met through (Westerman); afraid of not being believed; and afraid of the possible repercussions.”

A witness Kroll interviewed April 19, 2018 stated the claimant called her in the immediate aftermath of the December 2011 hotel incident from the bathroom. The claimant later said she was unsure if this call took place, but she definitely told her about the events after the fact. This witness said she was “always concerned” about the relationship between Westerman and the claimant, calling many of his actions “weird for a mentor.”

On March 22, 2018, Kroll interviewed Westerman who attended the interview with his attorney. Westerman was asked if this mentorship relationship ever happened with another person, to which he said: “... about 12 students we have created bonds with. We go to their graduations and weddings, exchange Christmas cards. Basically, these people become our friends, that was the case with (the claimant).” 

Upon viewing a preliminary draft of the report, the claimant asked for clarification on how many of those students were female, what the nature of the relationships were and if Westerman ever alone with any of those students. Westerman’s response did not address these questions.

Westerman denied his relationship with the claimant ever turned romantic and said he did not feel his contacts with the claimant were inappropriate. 

He often told the claimant he loved her, using the phrase “LYNMW,” meaning “Love You No Matter What.” Westerman said he wanted to help the claimant better express love verbally, which she had “trouble expressing” and she told him she would “work on that.”

When asked about the December 2011 hotel incident, Westerman reportedly said, “I don’t remember, but I wouldn’t have done that. I don’t recall.” He gave similar answers to follow-up questions about the conduct described in the report. He did say his comment about them potentially having sex would be “so wrong (on) many levels.”

OIE’s analysis states they must determine: Whether Westerman’s conduct was unwelcome; whether the conduct was of a sexual nature; whether the conduct was severe, persistent, or pervasive; and whether a reasonable person would find the conduct created a hostile or abusive environment.

OIE concluded: “Given the number and frequency of their prior electronic communications, and the fact that the claimant did not directly respond to (many of these communications), a preponderance of the evidence supports a finding that these communications were unwelcome.” 

In regards to the question of whether the conduct was of a sexual nature, OIE cited six different electronic communications, all of which included either romantic or sexual sentiments. The report also cited the December 2011 hotel incident, stating “a preponderance of the evidence establishes that this conduct was clearly sexual.” 

OIE stated because of the frequency of these communications and their sexual nature: “A reasonable person would find the conduct was severe.” 

In addition, Westerman’s behavior caused an unreasonable interference with the claimant’s performance at work. Because of his high-level position at MSU, OIE found the conduct “unreasonably interfered with the claimant’s work or performance, and caused a hostile environment.” 

Therefore, the report concluded, Westerman violated Michigan State University’s policy on sexual harassment by “engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature with the claimant.”

Scott Westerman resigned from his position in April during the course of the investigation, four months before the report was concluded in August. 

MSU Vice President and University Spokesperson Emily Guerrant said MSU did not have an updated statement on the matter, referring to the statement from August.

"While the investigation did determine Westerman violated university policy no disciplinary action will be taken as he is no longer employed by MSU," the statement said.

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