By Gabby Carlson & Chrysa Keenon | Echo
Former Professional Writing Professor Dennis Hensley resigned on June 16 when faced with multiple allegations of misconduct.
In late May, an investigation was opened due to information provided from second-hand sources that multiple women claimed to be sexually harassed by Hensley at multiple writers' conferences over the course of many years, according to the Taylor University press release provided by Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer. Hensley was presented with the allegations on June 15 and was immediately suspended while the investigation continued, and Hensley sent in his resignation less than 24 hours later.
Only one account was filed by a student. In 2004, a student of the Fort Wayne campus filed a complaint against Hensley. According to a statement in the Marion Chronicle-Tribune, she was a recent rape victim. She was raped by a man in a pool hall, according to an article by Inside Higher ED. She reported the assault to the police the following day, and had a meeting with Hensley, who was her adviser at the time. When Hensley learned of the rape, he allegedly pulled her into a hug, took off her glasses and kissed her twice on the lips, according to a statement in the article in the Fort Wayne ABC 21 WPTA TV website.
In a statement made in the Chronicle-Tribune, Hensley said he was comforting her in emotional shock.
"When she reported it, the way she remembered it was totally exaggerated," he said in the article.
She filed a complaint with the university, but the investigation at the time yielded conflicting stories, according to Taylor's statement. Hensley was forbidden from any further contact with the student and warned not to interact with students in any way that could remotely suggest impropriety, according to the press release.
In an article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Hensley implied the #MeToo movement may have been the cause of this accusation. Then 69-years-old, Hensley characterized his resigning as retirement.
"I thought I should just take the high ground and retire, and just call it quits and let this thing die its own death," Hensley said in the article.
The statement released by Taylor mentions two other separate concerns, but they do not involve harassment of or advances on either Taylor staff or students. Over the course of the recent investigation, the University learned of a call placed in 1997 to a Taylor faculty member about concerns with Hensley that was never communicated to anyone in authority.
"To be clear, since the Fort Wayne incident in 2004, Taylor University administration received no complaints from students, faculty, staff members, parents or alumni/alumnae that alleged Hensley had ever sexually harassed or assaulted them, nor such complaints from anyone outside the Taylor community until the information brought to Taylor administrators in May that prompted the investigation," the University press release said.
Several of the accounts came out through social media and mainly accused Hensley of misconduct during conferences not affiliated with Taylor.
"As a Christian institution of higher education, guided by biblical principles of truth, justice and grace, Taylor is grieved by any instance of predatory behavior or abuse of power," said the statement from the University. "We hold accountable each member of our community with the expectation they adhere to the highest ethical, behavioral, and moral standards. We are committed to providing an environment of dignity, respect and safety for all members of our community."
Hensley was one of two professors in the professional writing major, and was formerly the head of the department before it was absorbed into the Communication Department. In lieu of Hensley, Assistant Professor of Professional Writing Linda Taylor has taken over as head of the major.
Taylor said she has taken over additional courses and will be hiring adjunct instructors to fill spaces when needed.
"I want to see us grow!" Taylor said. "I spoke with longtime publishing professional and agent Dan Balow this summer. He knows what we do in this major and how well we prepare our students to navigate the publishing world, and he said to me, "The publishing world needs Taylor's Professional Writing major." He knows what we teach isn't taught anywhere else."