Assistant English Professor Malcolm Woodfield, who was accused of sexual harassment by former student Lisa Topol, resigned from the University on April 26 amidst hearings investigating the matter. Woodfield's resignation, part of a settlement between him and the University, allows many questions to remain unanswered, even to those involved in the hearings. According to prepared statements released by both Woodfield and the University, Woodfield admitted to having sexual relations with Topol. The releases did not mention any misconduct concerning sexual harassment. According to the University's statement, "Professor Woodfield has admitted that he engaged in sexual relations with a student in his class and that this was was unethical under the University's policies. Professor Woodfield regrets his behavior and, by resigning, takes full responsibility for it." Woodfield said this week that he always admitted to having sexual relations with Lisa Topol, relations which, according to him, were initiated by her and occurred on only one occasion. "What I admitted to was meeting Lisa in an apartment once, which she borrowed from a friend for this specific occasion," Woodfield said this week. "Only by some strange Alice in Wonderland P.C. interpretation could you call this sexual harassment." While Woodfield said his version of the story became apparent during the hearings with Topol's own testimony verifying his, Topol's attorney Alice Ballard disagrees. Ballard said Woodfield's case "totally fell apart," adding that because the hearing committee became "sympathetic" to Topol's story, she was going to win "hands down." No one could comment for sure on why the University settled with Woodfield. According to Ballard, Woodfield approached the University with his resignation when he realized his case was going to fall apart. "[Woodfield] approached [the University] when there was no way he could avoid testifying," Ballard said this week. "What they have allowed him to do is completely evade responsibility -- they allowed him to tell the world and the press that he won this case." But Woodfield disagreed, saying the University approached him the weekend after his defense had begun. He said he is not sure why the University wanted to settle, but thinks the apparent strength of his case, after only a couple of his witnesses had spoken, and the weakness of Topol's case led the University to settle. "It was clear to them that the [University] had not established any sexual harassment case," Woodfield said. "We didn't even need to put on a counter case." University General Counsel Shelly Green was unwilling to comment on the settlement agreement, saying only that Woodfield resigned and the University accepted his resignation. Both Topol and Ballard are upset with the University for allowing him to resign without properly concluding the hearings. "Although I am quite relieved that this emotionally and physically draining process is over, I am appalled that the University would give Professor Woodfield anything in exchange for his resignation," Topol said in a prepared statement. "Professor Woodfield managed to duck and run at the last minute." Topol currently has lawsuits pending against the University and Bates College, Ballard said this week. Both institutions are presently answering the first round of discovery under oath -- necessary preliminary procedures before the trial goes to court. Ballard was unwilling to comment on a formal complaint filed against Woodfield, only willing to say that "something is going on."Comments powered by Disqus
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