UWL professor accused of sexual harassment leaving university, declines to respond to investigation

A UW-La Crosse professor accused of sexually harassing a student is leaving the university, according to Chancellor Joe Gow.

Former Art Department Chair Joel Elgin declined to respond to an investigative report that was recently completed into the allegations.

“I had scheduled a meeting earlier today to provide Elgin his legally required opportunity to respond to the conclusions in the investigative report. Through his attorney, Elgin canceled our meeting. He received a copy of the investigative report on Friday, November 22nd, and the meeting he declined earlier today would have been his opportunity to tell his side of the story,” Gow wrote in a campus-wide email.

Elgin was placed on leave from the university in September after UW-La Crosse reopened an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.

In a social media post, a student at UW-La Crosse claimed she was sexually mistreated by her professor during her freshman year. She did not report the incident at the time, but did talk with the UW-La Crosse Human Resources Department in the fall of 2018. “They took me in for questioning and told me they would start an investigation over the summer and that they would keep me updated on the process. Summer is now over and I never received any updates on the matter,” the student wrote.

The student claimed Elgin touch her inappropriately in a locked closet in a university building.

In the email to campus Tuesday, Gow also said he is eager to share the investigative report with the public. “I found it 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 says Wisconsin Public Records Law gives Elgin the opportunity to attempt to block release of the investigative report and he is unsure if he will try to do so.

Once Gow is legally able to do so, he plans to release the report and hold an open forum on campus to answer questions about it.

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