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Utah State University Eastern professor put on administrative leave following sexual harassment allegation

Following allegations of sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment, a professor at Utah State University Eastern in Price has been placed on administrative leave.

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This photo of biology professor Tyson Chappell was published online by the USU Eastern Eagle in March of 2012.

USU Eastern Eagle

SALT LAKE CITY — Following allegations of sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment that the Deseret News reported earlier this year, a professor at Utah State University Eastern in Price has been placed on administrative leave, university spokesperson Tim Vitale confirmed on Tuesday.

Tyson Chappell is a professor of biology who taught anatomy and physiology classes at the university. A student tutor who who worked closely with Chappell for several years told the Deseret News that enrolled students were notified that Chappell will not be teaching this semester and instead their classes will be broadcast from another campus.

Vitale would not say how long the administrative leave will last or whether the action was in direct connection to Title IX reports. Title IX is a federal law aimed at protecting students at universities from sex-based discrimination.

“Title IX reports are private, so the university cannot release those,” Vitale said. “And we cannot discuss personnel matters.”

Chappell could not immediately be reached for comment.

This is the latest in a series of actions Utah State University has taken since last year that involve faculty members accused of misconduct. Colleges across the country have grappled with how to keep students safe while being fair to teachers who face allegations of sex-based discrimination.

In April, the Deseret News reported that a female student who said she was sexually harassed by Chappell waited nearly two years to receive a draft report of the school’s findings. The university took 10 months to respond to a complaint filed by a male student who said he was discriminated against by the same professor.

Alison Adams-Perlac, director of Utah State University’s affirmative action and equal opportunity office, which handles Title IX complaints, told the Deseret News that a leadership transition was to blame for the delays. The university reorganized the office and made multiple staff changes in the wake of an investigation last year that found discrimination and sexual misconduct had gone unchecked for decades within the piano department in Logan.

While the school found no evidence of discrimination against the male student, who claimed Chappell gave special attention to attractive women in the class, the school found, based on a preponderance of evidence standard, that the professor “sexually harassed” the female student while she was enrolled in his anatomy and physiology class in the spring of 2017. The school’s findings cited text messages that were sexual in nature and frequently included invitations for the student to meet him alone in his office, as well as the professor’s own admission that he hugged the student and held and caressed her hand.

The school issued reports to both students shortly after being contacted by the Deseret News.

“I am very relieved,” said the male student in response to the news that Chappell has been placed on administrative leave. The student will continue his nursing degree online through Nightingale College. “Finally, the university did the right thing.”