Prof claims he was threatened with Title IX investigation, pushed out over transgender comments

Pacific University professor Ken Paxton says an administrator pressured him to step down by threatening him with a Title IX investigation.

A university administrator allegedly told Paxton that the results of a Title IX investigation would end his career at the school, though the investigation had not yet been opened.

Pacific University Professor Ken Paxton is suing the school for allegedly threatening him with a Title IX investigation if he did not resign. Paxton and his attorney say the investigation is a baseless attempt to oust him from the university, and that the accusation made against him has no merit.

Paxton told Newsweek that he believes the investigation stems from his frequent use of an anecdote to help explain how Schema Theory works. Paxton claims that a university administrator told him that telling the story was a violation of the civil rights of students, according to a letter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

The letter explains that Paxton was approached by Associate Vice President of Human Resources Jennifer Yruegas as part of the plan to oust him from the school over a benign story. Yruegas allegedly told Paxton that “if he did not resign, she would, initiate a Title IX investigation that would result in the termination of his appointment, giving him until Monday, October 12, to submit his resignation.” 

Yruegas emailed Paxton a resignation form that same day, but he did not sign it. 

[RELATED: SUNY chancellor embroiled in Cuomo scandal; conservative groups call for his resignation]

In the offending anecdote, Paxton describes being part of a group that walks into a bar in New Orleans, noticing that attractive women are standing near the entrance. But when the group realizes that they’re at a drag bar, they felt out of sorts, not knowing the proper social scripts to follow in such a situation. Newsweek reported that Paxton, applying Schema Theory, would feel “perfectly comfortable at a drag bar,” eventually. 

Attorney Robin DesCamp, Paxton’s legal counsel, told legal scholar, commentator, and writer Jonathan Turley that her multiple requests for Zoom recordings of Paxton’s online classes have been met with silence from the University. Turley says that DesCamp believes the recordings could clear up whether or not his comments were sexist or transphobic. 

DesCamp also sees a motive for this investigation: Paxton’s tenured status would make it very difficult for the school to fire him, so she supposes that this investigation may have been the administration’s way of pushing him out - by intimidating him into leaving of his own volition. 

[RELATED: Here’s how much American academia spent lobbying the federal government]

In a statement to Campus Reform DesCamp attacked the notion that Paxton could even be accused of being transphobic.

“The anecdote” she stated in reference to Paxton’s bar story “pertained to female impersonators, also known as ‘drag queens,’ who are by and large cis-gendered males, the majority of whom are likely to be gay. The remainder are straight males. Whereas it is not impossible to have a transgendered male (or female) be a female impersonator, it’s pretty unlikely, because trans people tend to view their gender identity very seriously, while female impersonators unashamedly mock gender identity.”

“The allegations against him are making comments in class that are anti-transgender and for somebody not to know the difference between men who dress as women and people who feel born in the wrong body shows grotesque ignorance,” DesCamp said of the university’s conduct.

Pacific University President Lesley Hallick responded to the AAUP letter with her own letter, this one explaining the school’s process for handling Title IX complaints. The letter did not, however, touch on Paxton’s situation in any level of specificity. 

In a statement to Campus Reform the university declined to comment on “personnel matters” though claimed to “follow established procedures for investigation and resolution of any allegations of misconduct, in accordance with our Faculty Governance Handbook as well as state and federal law.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito