Records: Fired Dean of University Libraries Jeff Luzius' behavior at Lansing bar constituted sexual harassment
Dean of University Libraries Jeff Luzius was fired April 4 after Central Michigan University received multiple sexual harassment complaints regarding his behavior — one of which was found to violate school policy.
On April 5, Associate Dean of University Libraries Kathy Irwin was promoted to dean of University Libraries. No reason for Luzius’ departure was given in the announcement from University Communications.
Through a public records request, Central Michigan Life received a copy of Luzius’ personnel file on April 10. The Michigan Freedom of Information Act request is heavily redacted, however, and large parts of the narrative about what Luzius is accused of doing and/or saying has been removed.
The university’s Office of General Counsel claims information about the sexual harassment complaints was removed from the report because it "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy (personal addresses, banking and financial information, other intimate and embarrassing information) and is thus exempt from disclosure.”
In addition, two records were completely withheld from the request. According to the Office of General Counsel, the records are exempt from disclosure because the documents "are education records as defined by the family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and disclosure of them would violate FERPA."
The 1974 federal law protects the privacy of student education records.
Public records show university officials attempted to address Luzius’ behavior while he was acting in his capacity as dean for 13 months. What the public records also show, though the documents lack important details, is erratic behavior involving drinking and approaching female colleagues at a downtown Lansing bar following the first day of an October 2017 conference Luzius was attending as dean.
In Provost Michael Gealt’s April 4 letter terminating Luzius’ employment, the provost said he met with Luzius on Aug. 23, 2017 to “discuss the findings and recommendations presented by the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE) that followed from their investigation of a complaint about (Luzius’) behavior at a local tavern.” Gealt also stated in his termination letter OCRIE made him aware of two other cases since their August meeting that Luzius “behaved in an entirely unprofessional manner while acting in (his) capacity as the Dean of CMU Libraries, and on one of these two occasions, the investigation by OCRIE found that (his) behavior constituted a violation of the university’s Sexual Harassment protocol.”
Luzius began his tenure at CMU on March 1, 2017 with a salary of $170,000. A May 2017 investigation was conducted by OCRIE after it received a sexual harassment complaint against him.
On July 26, 2017, OCRIE Executive Director Katherine Lasher wrote to Luzius to let him know her office cleared him. Gealt met with Luzius in August 2017 to conduct his annual performance review and discuss his behavior. Gealt said in an email he sent to Associate Vice President of Human Resources Lori Hella that Luzius assured him that type of behavior would not happen again.
OCRIE did not find any violation of university policy, Gealt wrote, but the provost made clear while he did not receive “an official censure, it is expected that nothing like this will happen again.”
On Nov. 22, 2017, Gealt wrote to Luzius to inform him of a complaint received from staff at the Midwest Collaborative Library Services (MCLS) about his “behavior at a recent conference.” The provost said Luzius is to not attend any conferences and not communicate with MCLS, saying communication with the organization should be handled by Irwin.
A week later, Luzius was notified by OCRIE that a complaint had been filed against him alleging he “engaged in prohibited harassment in violation of (university) protocol.”
According to the complaint, Luzius attended the annual Michigan Library Association (MLA) conference Oct. 18-20, 2017 in downtown Lansing. After the conclusion of the first day, three women — all employees of the MCLS who attended the conference — went to a bar in downtown Lansing. They noticed an intoxicated man at the bar. One of the employees identified him as Luzius, according to the complaint. One of the employees had met Luzius in his role as dean of University Libraries, the complaint states.
What was Luzuis accused of saying or doing? The Office of General Counsel’s altering of the document eliminates that detail in the complaint. According to the document, the three employees were sitting at a table in the bar. Luzius was asked to stop doing or saying something, but did not. Luzius allegedly “walked away from the table for a period of time before returning.” What happened after he returned to the table was also eliminated from the document.
“MCLS expressed concern about its business relationship with CMU because of this interaction,” the complaint stated. “MCLS described CMU as an important client.”
On March 14, Luzius was notified by OCRIE that its investigation into the October incident was complete.
Witnesses stated Luzius was also intoxicated during a Council of Library Dean and Directors meeting in October 2017 in Marquette. The OCRIE investigation ultimately found that Luzius was at the MLA Conference on Oct. 18, 2017, was intoxicated at the bar and was found to violate CMU’s sexual harassment protocol. Much of the information in the OCRIE findings was also redacted.
It is unclear why Luzius was investigated in May 2017. Two public records sought by CM Life were denied by the Office of General Counsel, which cited FERPA. The federal law only applies to records regarding students. It is unclear if students ever filed complaints about Luzius.
“Your actions constitute not only a material breach of trust and confidence, but a violation of university policy in a highly visible manner that caused, or may have caused, damage to the university’s reputation,” Gealt wrote to Luzius in the termination letter. “The behavior you demonstrated in that incident is not what I expected of any CMU employee, let alone a senior officer such as yourself.”
The day Irwin was promoted to dean, CM Life placed an inquiry to University Communications for information about Luzius. Director of Communications Heather Smith said the university does not discuss personnel matters.
Attempts to reach Luzius were unsuccessful.