Penn Graduate School of Education professor Marybeth Gasman has been accused of fostering a racially insensitive and sexually inappropriate climate in her workplace on campus.
Gasman, who ran the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and studied historically black colleges and universities, was investigated by the University, Inside Higher Ed reported. Gasman is leaving GSE after 16 years at Penn and will start at Rutgers University – New Brunswick on Sept. 1.
Gasman allegedly made comments about both her and her staff’s bodies and sex lives in group texts, according to the report. She was accused of “fetishizing” some of her Latinx and black staff and students. Former Center for Minority Serving Institutions assistants, who were not named in the Inside Higher Ed article, accused Gasman of rubbing men's arms and chests and asking two people to compare butt sizes. She also repeatedly encouraged a man and woman to "hook up."
The complaint against Gasman also included several sexually explicit texts that Gasman sent to her work group chats. She allegedly wrote "Please get a room, you two,” and said that one staff member “sucks and flashes.”
Following the University investigation into the complaints against Gasman, Penn took a number of steps to "change the culture," the report said. GSE master's students were relocated from Gasman's center to another part of Penn's campus. Gasman's grant writer, who participated in the sexually explicit text messages, resigned following the investigation, according to the article.
Gasman did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Pennsylvanian.
In response to the report, GSE Dean Pam Grossman emailed members of the Penn community on Aug. 27 stating that she is not able to discuss individual personnel matters and reiterated GSE's dedication to a "respectful, professional workplace and a strong, equitable, and responsive community." Grossman also said GSE does not condone sexual misconduct on campus and assured that the University responds to all reports of sexual harassment.
"Let me be clear: Penn GSE does not tolerate sexual misconduct and harassment and is committed to doing everything possible to create an environment where every member of the community feels respected and safe," she wrote.
Grossman did not respond to a request for comment. University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy said Penn has no further comment beyond Grossman's email.
Gasman is still slated to finish moving her Center for Minority Serving Institutions to Rutgers in just a few days. The announcement of her move was made in December 2018.
“The Graduate School of Education vetted Dr. Gasman before her appointment and eagerly looks forward to her joining the faculty as an internationally recognized expert in U.S. higher education,” Rutgers spokesperson Neal Buccino told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The accusation against Gasman comes after years of efforts by graduate students petitioning for improvements to GSE's sexual harassment policies. In September 2017, the Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania published a petition calling for better procedures for students to report sexual harassment after incidents of workplace sexual harassment at the school. Following their advocacy, GSE published an update to their sexual harassment policies in July 2018.
As part of the updated policy, Penn GSE began yearly staff and faculty training for sexual harassment and sexual violence reporting during the 2017-2018 academic year.
In her email to the GSE community, Grossman referred to the recently established training on sexual harassment and misconduct. She wrote that "further training initiatives will continue in the upcoming academic year and beyond."
Staff Reporter Ashley Ahn contributed reporting.
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