University department chair resigns amid controversy - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

University department chair resigns amid controversy

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About 80 University of Wisconsin-Platteville students arrive to what's supposed to be an open forum regarding claims one of their professors is being retaliated against.

But it's canceled on short notice on Tuesday. "I just wanted to let everyone know there will not be a forum today.There's an email that was sent to you," said Paul Erickson, UW-Platteville director of communications. 

The university citing privacy for faculty, staff and students.

However, one of their professors very vocal about what she's been going through. "I've been viewed as a problem from my administration for having stood up for, not just student rights but also my own rights," said Sabina Burton, tenured criminal justice associate professor.

Burton says it started four years ago when a student approached her about reporting an incident. "It started with a student sexual harassment complaint. The student felt sexually harassed by a male professor in my department and she approached me for advice."

Burton says she was assigned to lower level classes, and taken off of prestigious department assignments -- she believes because she didn't keep it under wraps. 

The student she advocated for has since graduated and the university says she wasn't sexually harassed.

Multiple complaints within the department have been brought against Burton. Now she's afraid her job is on the line.

However, the room is filled with students who have her back. "I think we can all kinda agree that us students are here because we support Dr. Burton. Is that a yes?"

"Yes," replied many in the room.

But problems loom within the department. 

The current department chair is resigning, citing in an email, "recent events have made clear that there is no institutional support for me to take the necessary step to help this department move on from a past that is both troubled and troubling."

At last check -- the criminal justice department is working on finding a new person to lead.

As for Burton, she previously filed a civil lawsuit claiming retaliation, but it was dismissed.

In a statement the university says they strive "to ensure all students, faculty and staff operate in the best possible environment. The university invites all people to express their concerns, takes all comments seriously, and follows due diligence in the review process. By addressing all issues, even if a case is dismissed, we create an even stronger environment and more inclusive atmosphere on our campus.”

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