Professor reinstated following closed Title IX investigation

Written By Sarah Gibson, Copy Desk Chief

Following a Title IX investigation held last October over controversial classroom comments, Dr. Channa Newman has been fully reinstated as both a faculty member and chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“She’s always been very controversial in class,” a student source that would like to remain anonymous in concern for taking future classes with Newman recalled. “In class she takes time to promote her own personal beliefs and agenda regardless of the actual class topic.”

The situation, described by said student, began when Newman began discussing the “Me Too” movement in class. Newman expressed a distaste for the movement. Her students reacted by trying to explain the purpose of the movement and explained that it gave the people who believed in it hope. Newman responded by saying that it was a “false hope.”

One student in the class spoke up to say as a rape victim, it gave them hope. Newman reiterated her previous statement, telling the student that the hope the “Me Too” movement gave them was false hope.

While the events of the incident happened on Oct. 4, it was not reported to Title IX until Oct. 9. On Oct. 16, students in Newman’s classes received an email from Assistant Provost Jonas Prida telling students that Newman’s classes had been cancelled. However, all three classes Newman had been teaching at the time were able to be covered either by Prida or other staff members.

“When we sent the first email out, we had no idea when Newman was going to return,” Prida said. “I was asked to cover the courses to the best of my ability when she was put on leave.” 

The Title IX office declined to comment about this specific case for confidentiality reasons. However, according to Dr. James Thomas, associate provost and judicator for Title IX, the process is fairly simple.

When a Title IX complaint is filed and officially submitted to the Title IX office, a group of people investigate the incident by gathering interviews and talking to those involved and writing a document that is sent to the judicator, which in this case, is Thomas. The judicator reviews the documents submitted and then determines if there was or was not an offense.

“We have a lot of information that comes to me and I deliberate,” Thomas said. “I look at all the information. I go back through our Title IX policy and try and determine. This report doesn’t tell me, ‘Is there an offense or isn’t there an offense?’ It’s just, ‘Here are what people have told us’.”

Thomas explained that when both parties receive the verdict of a Title IX investigation, it is provided with instructions on how to appeal the case if they are still unhappy.

“Both sides have an opportunity to appeal,” Thomas said. “There’s usually one level of appeal for this.”

Both parties are given 10 days after the verdict to decide if they would want an appeal and to start the process.

“I think that’s fairly standard,” Thomas said. “You have a standard period of time to make a decision if you agree with what was concluded or not. In reviewing the process and reviewing other policies, we decided 10 days seems like a reasonable amount.”

The investigation has also interfered with the schedules of students. One mandatory class for those in the Global Cultural Studies program is titled “Wealthy White Males”, and is taught exclusively by Newman. In Newman’s absence, students were given the option of taking a different course to substitute “Wealthy White Males.” Once Newman was reinstated, university staff told the students that because it was returning, students were heavily encouraged to take it, and that it was still a requirement.

“I was offered something else. Now they’re saying I have to take this class or I won’t graduate.” One anonymous student source said.

Prida explained the rationale behind having a substitute class available was rooted in the fact that nobody knew when Newman was going to return.

“We didn’t want those students to be caught in the situation of ‘Oh no, what do I do?’,” Prida said. Prida went on to say that now that Newman was reinstated, “Wealthy White Males” would be returning as a class, and because it was a requirement, it could no longer be substituted by any other class.

The anonymous student source further described the class in which the incident happened in as being unconventional.

“It was supposed to meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we only met on Thursdays because she scheduled another class at that same time, so she decided to meet with one class on Tuesdays and one class on Thursdays,” the student said.

The student noted that they paid the same amount of money for that class that they would if the class had actually been held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at the time of their interview on Wednesday, Jan. 2, none of their grades for the class had been posted. 

When asked about how they felt about Newman teaching classes at Point Park again, students said their outlook was dim.

“Whenever the election was happening […] she was taking class time to talk about why she was voting for Donald Trump,” the student said. “It was not appropriate to talk about politics in a French class. I honestly didn’t learn very much in that class. She shouldn’t allowed to be the head of the department. She shouldn’t be allowed to teach here, honestly, because she’s not teaching anyone anything.”

They further expressed their distaste with how the university handled the situation at the close of their interview.

“The way the university has handled this has made a lot of students feel like they don’t matter,” the student said. “Myself and a lot of other students feel as if we have been cheated out of our money because we barely learned anything.”

Prida, who empathized with students on the situation, stressed in his interview how important students are in these situations.

“It sounds corny, but it’s true, it’s ultimately about serving the students,” Prida said. “That’s fundamentally who we’re here for. I can understand why students don’t necessarily feel like they were well served in this situation.”

The Globe reached out to Newman, who declined to comment on the situation.