Wichita State Assailed on Athlete-Rape Probe | Courthouse News Service
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Wichita State Assailed on Athlete-Rape Probe

WICHITA, Kan. (CN) - A former vice president sued Wichita State University, claiming it fired and defamed him for investigating forcible rape allegations against male athletes.

Wade Robinson filed a federal complaint Wednesday against Wichita State University and its former president John Bardo. He also sued the Registry for College and University Presidents.

Robinson was hired as vice president for campus life and student affairs in July 2009 and Bardo became college president on July 1, 2012.

Robinson claims that on April 25, 2013, he "learned about an incident involving the alleged forcible rape by a member of the WSU men's basketball team shortly after the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament. This alleged rape had occurred on April 21, 2013."

He claims that Bardo and the athletic director did not inform him or the school's general counsel of the alleged rape for four days, and that he found out about it from the Wichita Police.

Robinson says it was his duty to oversee Title IX investigations, and that he told Bardo, the athletic director and the general counsel so at an April 27 meeting he requested. He began investigating the alleged rape on April 29.

On May 14 that year, Robinson says, he asked the associate athletic director for help so he could talk to the alleged rapist, and the associate A.D. told him "that it was not the time to bother this person and that they would help at the right time. "

Six days later, he says, "On May 14, 2013, Bardo made the first threat on plaintiff's employment."

In January 2014, Robinson says, he learned about another allegation of forcible rape, "made by a female student against a member of the WSU men's track team," and he investigated that, in his capacity of Title IX overseer.

He says the Title IX coordinator encouraged the woman to file a "formal statement," but she had left the campus and would not do so at that time.

After meeting with the alleged rapist twice in March 2014, Robinson says, he "emailed the WSU President's Executive Team that he was going to begin an initiative with the campus Greek Community to emphasize ending sexual violence, which was part of NASPA and federal initiatives."

On April 21, 2014, he says, Bardo again threatened to fire him. In July that year he was demoted to vice president of student engagement and removed from the Executive Team.

On Jan. 12, 2015, now in an "inadequate office space," he told his bosses that the alleged victim of the January 2014 "was making a formal statement," so he would investigate, under Title IX.

"Three days later, on Jan. 15, 2015, plaintiff was verbally informed that his employment would be terminated effective June 30, 2015," he says in the complaint.

A human resources officer told him he was being fired because he "did not fit," Robinson says.

In a March 2, 2015 announcement of his firing and the college's search for a new vice president, Robinson says, the defendant Registry for College and University Presidents wrote: "'the incumbent does not fit with the culture of the executive leadership team' and that 'the current operation is too hierarchical and punishment-centered.'"

On March 4, 2015, Robinson says, Bardo met with the student body president and told him that "'the conduct process overseen by Dr. Robinson was too punitive in nature rather than educational as it should be,' that 'the Student Affairs Division improperly allocated finances in supporting the institution's goals,' and that 'the Student Affairs Division is too bureaucratic in nature.'"

This was reported in the Wichita Eagle newspaper on May 9, 2015.

After he was fired, Robinson says, he applied for 24 jobs and was rejected for all of them.

He eventually got a job at a community college in Des Moines, Iowa, for salary $70,000 less than he earned in Wichita.

Wichita State's General Counsel David Moses called the lawsuit a "personnel matter which will now be addressed in the legal system."

"It makes claims that are without merit, and we welcome the opportunity to set the record straight," Moses said.

Robinson's attorney Sarah Brown told Courthouse News that Robinson went to court "to seek justice to clear his name."

Robinson seeks punitive damages for Title IX violations, retaliation, defamation, invasion of privacy and open records act violations.

Title IX legislation requires schools that receive federal funds to provide girls and women equal opportunity to compete in sports.

Attorney Brown is with Brown & Curry, in Kansas City, Mo.

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