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WSU Fires Dean of Business Over Inappropriate Interaction With Students

Posted at: 02/01/2013 1:55 PM
Updated at: 02/01/2013 5:23 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Winona State University says it fired its Dean of Business after the University discovered he had inappropriate interactions with 16 male students dating back to 2009.  

School officials say they learned of the allegations against Bill Murphy after an anonymous tip was delivered through an attorney in August of last year. University spokesperson, Andrea Mikkelson, says Murphy was terminated shorter afterwards, in late September.

According to the school, Murphy subjected the students to inappropriate interaction which involved highly personal sexually-oriented discussions and, in some instances, requests to photograph students in various degrees of dress. School officials say some photographs were in fact taken and that they were taken on campus.

Officials also say a small number of the students involved still attend WSU.

While Murphy's job was terminated by WSU, as part of the agreement, he was given access to health insurance through the school as well as access to his flexible spending account. He was also given a small severance pay of less than $4,000.

University officials say they're investigation turned up no "criminal activity", but says it turned the matter over to the local police. The Winona County Attorney's office could not find any charges against a Bill Murphy. Attempts to contact Murphy have been unsuccessful.

WSU President, Scott Olson, sent a letter to students and staff today, detailing the situation. In the letter he states, Minnesota data privacy laws prevented the University from making information about this situation public until today. You can read the letter for yourself, in its entirety, below.

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February 1, 2013     

Dear Students and Families,  

Providing a high quality learning experience in a safe and healthy setting for each of our students is paramount at Winona State University.  Because these values are core to our mission and community, it is with deep regret that I write to inform you of a situation contrary to these values.  

The University learned this past fall that some of our students had been subjected to inappropriate interaction by an employee of the University.  The inappropriate interaction appears to have been directed at a small number of adult male students, primarily in the College of Business, and involved highly personal sexually-oriented discussions and, in some instances, requests to photograph the students in various degrees of dress.

Upon learning of these allegations, I immediately initiated an investigation. The employee, Bill Murphy, dean of the College of Business, has not worked on campus since that time and was terminated from his employment in late September 2012, following completion of the investigation. Law enforcement officials were notified, and we are not aware of any criminal activities in this matter. Minnesota data privacy laws have prevented the University from making information about this situation public until today.  

I want you to know that the University will not tolerate this kind of conduct by any employee, regardless of their role.  We have clear policies in place to promote the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, program participants, and others in our learning community.  The University is committed to enforcing these policies vigorously by taking prompt and appropriate action.  

The University provides education on preventing sexual harassment or sexual violence, and communicates broadly with the student body about how to report sexual harassment or sexual violence if it occurs.  If you believe that you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or other inappropriate sexual conduct, we strongly encourage you to report the behavior to the University's Affirmative Action Officer.  You may do so confidentially, without fear of retaliation.  Further, we want you to know that the University has a variety of support services available to students at no additional cost, including counseling, advising and tutoring, and we encourage any student-for whatever reason-to seek out these services if needed. Contact information is provided below.  

I encourage you to forward this message to your family. We want all members of the University community to be aware of the University's stance on inappropriate sexual conduct and the resources available to students.  

We are profoundly saddened by this breach of trust.  We will take the steps necessary to address any harm that may have occurred, and remain unwavering in our commitment to ensuring the well-being of our students and providing a positive learning environment.   

Sincerely yours,  Scott R. Olson, President