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UW-La Crosse Professor Accused Of Sexual Harassment Leaves University

Joel Elgin Says He Resigned To Protect Retirement Benefits, Claims University Investigation Ignored His Response To Allegations

Students on the UW-La Crosse campus.
Students on the UW-La Crosse campus. Photo courtesy of UW-La Crosse

A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor who was being investigated amid sexual harassment allegations is leaving the school.

Chancellor Joe Gow announced that Joel Elgin, former Art Department chair, will no longer be employed by the university in an email to students and staff on Tuesday. Gow said Elgin canceled a meeting to respond to the recently completed investigation into the allegations against him.

In a statement from his attorney on Wednesday, Elgin said he was not afraid to meet with Gow or respond to the investigation that he said is “anything but fair, balanced and independent.”

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Professor Elgin was prepared to talk with Chancellor Gow and to go to a University faculty tribunal to address the student’s charges when the University system’s attorney advised that Professor Elgin’s accumulated sick leave was at risk. That accumulated sick leave could be used to purchase health care coverage upon retirement and was worth thousands of dollars. Despite Professor Elgin’s desire to clear his name and reputation, he could not put his family’s economic future at risk,” said a statement from Elgin’s attorney.

Elgin had been on leave since September when a UW-La Crosse student accused him of sexual harassment in a public Facebook post. The student said Elgin asked her to remove some of her clothing and touched her during a private lesson.

UW-La Crosse officials later confirmed that other people brought forward information about Elgin’s conduct in response to the post.

The student who initially accused Elgin also said the university failed to take prompt action to protect her and other students.

Gow said in the email that he plans to release the report from the investigation and hold an open forum to answer questions about it.

“I found (the report) to be thorough and compelling enough to move the process of dismissing a faculty member to its next phase. I firmly believe the testimony of the individuals interviewed by the investigators and I thank them for their courage in coming forward to tell us about their experiences with Professor Elgin. On behalf of our university, I apologize to them for what they have been subject to. I think that once you read the investigative report you will understand why I feel the way I do,” Gow said in the email to staff and students.

Gow said he didn’t know whether Elgin would attempt to block the report’s release under state public records law.

Elgin said in the statement that university investigators did not include most of his statements in their report. and UWL faculty should be afraid of students making “a bogus claim” against them.

“The University appears to want fairness but, in the end, it will cave to a persistent complainant and/or threaten to eliminate economic benefits that were earned from years of work. While complaints of sexual misconduct should be investigated thoroughly, the credibility of the alleged harasser and the complainant should be considered. That wasn’t done in this case. And it probably won’t be done in the future,” Elgin said in the statement.