Lehigh Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation - Higher Education
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Lehigh Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation

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Dr. James Braxton Peterson, a well-known academic who served as the director of Africana studies and professor of English at Lehigh University, resigned from his post amid an internal sexual misconduct investigation, according to an email sent to faculty and staff from the provost’s office.

Lehigh University announced Tuesday that Peterson “unconditionally resigned” from his position before Provost Patrick V. Farrell could provide a formal decision regarding the investigation’s reports on the allegations against Peterson. Although Peterson’s resignation made disciplinary action “moot,” Farrell “determined there was sufficient cause to initiate the process that could result in revocation of tenure and termination of employment,” The Morning Call reported.

University officials received notice of Peterson’s alleged sexual and other misconduct from “multiple individuals” in the Lehigh community in November, the email said. On Nov. 7, campus officials shared that allegations had been made against a faculty member, but they did not immediately name Peterson at the time. He was placed on paid leave and barred from Lehigh’s campus. His biography has since been removed from the institution’s website.

Dr. James Braxton Peterson

A voicemail message for Peterson was not returned.

Since November, Peterson – a Black intellectual known for his political commentary on racial equality and the current presidential administration – continued to make regular appearances on MSNBC, CNN and other media programs.

As of publication today, Peterson was still listed as a Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow for spring 2018 at the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, but later was removed. His podcast, “The Remix,” on Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate WHYY will no longer be distributed due to the allegations against him, according to The Morning Call.

The allegations against Peterson add to those of others speaking out in the #MeToo movement about inappropriate sexual conduct at colleges and universities, in Hollywood and in the workforce. The provost’s office at Lehigh concluded its campuswide email about Peterson’s allegations with a number of supportive resources for anyone experiencing harassment, discrimination, retaliation or sexual misconduct.

“We recognize that the individuals who came forward to report their experiences made difficult decisions to do so,” the email said. “As a university, we affirm our commitment to providing a campus environment where all members of our community feel safe and supported.”

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at tpennamon@diverseeducation.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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