In a cultural system where sexual assault, abuse, and harassment is normalized and mediated with displacing language such as “you’re overreacting,” “they’re only joking,” or “they were asking for it” that comments on any individual’s autonomy of self, it would be assumed that the one “safe” enclosure from this normalized objectification would be an English department at a recognized University. Concerning sociopolitical issues, humanitarian rights, and autonomous rights of the individual are a few of the things practiced within many Humanities colleges, and should be a staple across colleges within and without University/state college settings. Unfortunately, the “safety” that was falsely embedded through department ideologies on mental health, awareness, and the pursuit of education in an environment that only promotes healthy conditions to thrive within, was completely ripped away from myself and my colleagues as of August ‘19.
Actually, I should say sooner than that was it known that the English Department at USF would be home to Joe Moxley once more after sexual allegations and discriminatory comments had been made apparent in early 2018 over a period of time. Over the summer of 2019, and unknown to the graduate students, undergraduate students, GTAs, GAs, and TAs, was Moxley definitively going to return in the Fall as an instructor. Before I go into why this is an issue, why this is being swept under a rug, why I and my colleagues are incredibly outraged at the indecency of the situation to subject us to an individual known for his sexual harassment and discriminatory nature, I want to preface with everything I, as a Ph.D English Literature student at this institution, as a Graduate Teaching Assistant that presides over approximately 40 students every semester to teach them composition skills and ensure their safety, as a member of faculty, and as someone that admires individuals of this department and this school, know about current reaction to the situation and what that situation actually involves.
For one, I will not be naming people. I am taking it of my own liberty to write about this because, albeit on my own site and not a well known news affiliation, I believe it needs to be heard. This is not to say that I am 1) damning or blaming any singular person or group and 2) saying there is no other complications within the story that I am made unaware of. I simply want to share the story, my own frustration, and why I have that frustration. However, I will say that my resentment on the matter is shared among my colleagues, and rightly so. It is a shared consensus that it is absurd Moxley is allowed back into the department.
Second, you can find news articles written April ‘18 that give a synopsis of a USF instructor under scrutiny of sexual allegations and discriminatory infractions. This instructor, Moxley, was on the FYC program overseeing the use of MyReviewers, a platform created by Moxley and his team to facilitate student work and accrue data for rhetorical and textual research purposes to “improve students’ writing, critical thinking, and collaborative competencies” (English.usf.edu). According to his USF bio page, “Professor Moxley teaches graduate courses on pedagogy, research methods, scholarly publishing, and rhetoric and technology” (English.usf.edu). He also has 17 published works and is the publisher of the Writing Commons, a “peer-reviewed, open-education resource for college-level writers“ (English.usf.edu). However, these were all written prior to his paid-leave over the majority of 2018 and 2019.
After these allegations came to light - although specifics were never made public - Moxley was placed on paid-leave and was unable to communicate with students, the department, or visit the campus. However, he never received a deductions in benefits or salary according to the article written by the Tampa Bay Times (McNeil 2018). This “suspension” was not disciplinary, and I cannot stress this enough. According to the same article, “In a March 19 letter handed to Moxley, Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg wrote that leave isn't a disciplinary action, nor does it confirm inappropriate conduct. Rather, Eisenberg said, ‘This is a prudential step taken to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the University's review’" (McNeil 2018). This next information is not part of the articles but known by the department and every member of faculty: after Moxley was officially suspended, it became mandatory that all GTAs take Title IX training. To educate those that are unaware of Title IX, according to KnowYourIX.org “Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding (the vast majority of schools).” What is important to recognize here is that this training was not made mandatory, although it is a federal law, until after the breach of Title IX by a member of faculty.
More than a year has passed since Moxley was placed on suspension, and light of investigation reveals has gone mute. No article has been written, no news has been heard. However, over the summer of 2019, and primarily in August, was it made aware to certain members of the department that Moxley would return as a member of faculty present on campus. Obviously this news alerted individuals, my colleagues, and myself, but as of yet the information has been swept under the rug and unjustly at that. At this point I would like to add that within the sub-fields of the department, my field was left unaware of the situation while other fields were notified because it was felt it should be known.
As a member of the Literature department, the one sub-field left unaware, I was alerted by the news because I coexist within the department across all sub-departments, and find benefit in crossing these invisible boundaries. However, it is only because of these relationships that I was made aware because my colleagues felt it important to notify me. What I wonder is why no one else thought it prudent to make everyone, as inclusive as possible, within the faculty, aware of the situation?
As far as the allegations go, those made aware of his return were also told of the results of the investigation. Moxley was found definitely guilty on three accounts of Title IX. I guess it really is true that once you get tenure they can’t fire you, especially as an upper class, heterosexual, white male. Again, I want to reiterate just how deeply run sexual misconduct has become normalized within our society and how far it reaches even within the walls of education.
I want this addressed because of the situation it is putting all of us in - being placed around someone convicted of three accounts of Title IX and given nothing more than a slap on the hand is ludicrous. At the very least the individual would be out of the department, let alone given his job back after a year-long suspension. I, as well as my colleagues, are absolutely appalled at the incredulous nature of the situation. However, I want to remind everyone here of the bottom line - a USF instructor found guilty on three account of Title IX was ultimately given his job back.
Now, to continue I want to include here that Moxley is not teaching graduate students at this time. Upon returning Fall ‘19, he was initially to be part of the FYC (first year curriculum) program once more. However, awareness of the incredibly unsettling decision led some members to step forward and voice their opinion. The answer? Moxley is teaching undergraduates. With younger and younger college students enrolling out of high school, with the inclusion of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses to compensate for college credit, some undergraduates are as young as 17 years of age. How, in the complex enigma that is a University, is it at all a probable and sensible idea to place someone found guilty on three accounts of Title IX at the head of possible minors?
So, bottom line, what are the possible implications of Moxley’s return? For one, and perhaps the most important, is the position it puts members of faculty, such as myself, in that would be impacted by the presence of someone known to be found guilty on sexual allegations. It is not necessary to be spoken about, but unfortunately I feel I must mention that anyone could have history, trauma, and wounds from a sexual assault, harassment, or abuse experience at some point in their life. Regardless if from the specific individual in question, how can a University and department put its faculty in the same accompaniment with an individual that could spur traumatic events within an individual? How is that a safe environment? And now, if someone feels unsafe within the current situation, such as myself, we must come forward with our own trauma and wounds and history to supplement the work that was not done to keep our mental health, safety, and education at the forefront of this investigation.
Below I included resources as well as cited information that I encourage you to read, educate yourself, and become aware of the situation not just here but that is occurring in work places, other institutions, and places of artificial “safety.” And I want to add resources to USF and off-campus resources for victim advocacy, understanding your rights, and seeking help if you are in need. I will speak on behalf of Victim Advocacy at USF and say they have an amazing team of individuals.
To end this, I will conclude with the following: I have spoken out loud because I am tired of the silencing nature of normalized sexual misconduct within our society.