Investigation: Ex-UTSA President Romo ‘Likely’ Sexually Harassed Women - Higher Education
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Investigation: Ex-UTSA President Romo ‘Likely’ Sexually Harassed Women

by Catherine Morris

An internal investigation into former University of Texas at San Antonio president Dr. Ricardo Romo found that Romo “more likely than not” violated the UTSA’s sexual harassment policies, the San Antonio Express-News reported on Monday.

Romo was approaching retirement in August after serving as UTSA president for 18 years, but was placed on administrative leave with pay in February, pending an investigation by the University of Texas system. He resigned when the investigation closed in early March, stating at the time, “I have been made aware that the manner in which I embraced women made them uncomfortable and was inappropriate.”

Nevertheless, questions lingered in the wake of Romo’s abrupt departure. Documents that the Express-News obtained by open records request provide a clearer picture of the complaints against him. Three of his female employees told investigators that they were subject to unwelcome physical advances from Romo, such as hugging and waist-grabbing.

Ricardo Cedillo, Romo’s lawyer, did not respond to specific requests for comment from Diverse, but told the Express-News that the investigation was a “character assassination.”

In a response sent to UT officials on February 24, Cedillo said that investigators failed to take Latino culture into account. ‘Abrazos,’ or embraces, he said, are a commonplace form of greeting among acquaintances and friends.

Yet the three female complainants indicated to investigators that the “hugging” was unwelcome, describing the physical contact as “disgusting,” “perverted,” and physically painful. Another employee said that Romo took photos of her without her consent.

Sonia Martinez, Romo’s chief of staff, was placed on leave with pay along with Romo.

In a September news conference, Romo said he hoped to go leave UTSA on a high note. “I knew whenever I go out, I want to go out still pitching fastball — I don’t want to go out on a stretcher,” he said. After retirement, Romo planned to work with UTSA’s Institute of Texan Culture, a role he will no longer take.

Romo grew up in San Antonio’s West Side and went on to become UTSA’s fifth president and the first Latino to lead the institution. Many attribute UTSA’s  transformation from a commuter school serving  18,000 students to an emerging Tier One research institution with an enrollment of more than 28,000 to Romo’s leadership.

The university had already initiated a search for Romo’s successor at the time of his resignation, and is currently being led by interim president Dr. Pedro Reyes. Previously, Reyes was the special assistant to the chancellor and an education policy professor at UT-Austin.

Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at cmorris@diverseeducation.com.

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