CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — Another professor in the University of Illinois system is facing sexual assault and harassment allegations.
Paul Schewe, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been sued by six graduate students — both current and former — in the school’s Criminology, Law and Justice department.
All six students have alleged “harassment, inappropriate sexual conduct, and in the case of…(one of the students), sexual assault” from Schewe, who also allegedly “pressured (them) to interact and socialize…in unsafe environments (such as his apartment and his boat) where alcohol and/or drugs are present.”
Schewe’s academic study area has focused predominantly on rape prevention, and he’s written multiple papers on the subject. He’s also written numerous academic articles on domestic violence, child sex abuse credibility allegations, among topics of that nature.
In an email statement to WCIA, Schewe said that he has been “completely exonerated in a nine-month Title IX investigation (by UIC) that would have absolutely found me responsible if it possibly could have.”
A spokesperson for UIC said that Schewe was placed on paid leave from the university in “late summer 2018,” after “six current and former women graduate students reported concerns” via initiating a Title IX investigation.
“We are aware of the complaint filed against the University and its employees and it remains under review,” the statement read. “…While sexual misconduct investigations do not always result in a complainant’s desired outcome, we take all reports seriously and are committed to a fair and equitable process for everyone involved.”
The allegations date back to 2016, in which two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit accepted an invitation to Schewe’s boat, which was not uncommon for Schewe to ask of his students, according to the lawsuit.
Although the two women “had…been on the receiving end of these constant invitations,” they had both “similarly turned them down.” Both plaintiffs “felt uncomfortable about the situation presented by the boat situation — drinking alcohol socially with a male professor who made them feel uncomfortable.”
The two women, after declining “approximately ten boat invitations,” “finally accepted an invitation because they felt a sense of obligation due to… Schewe’s constant invitations and pressure.”
After agreeing that there would be “negative” consequences for their refusal to participate, the two women agreed to accept an invitation at the same time for safety in numbers.
Once on the boat, the lawsuit alleges that Schewe told the women stories about “partying, drinking and consuming illicit drugs,” and after referencing cocaine, offered both of them the drug.
At one point, the suit says Schewe told them “the whole point of the boat is to get away from my wife.”
Both women say they left the boat after about two hours.
One of them returned for a second outing, but brought three additional friends with her — two men and one woman “to create a sense of protection and barrier between themselves and…Schewe’s inappropriate behavior.”
The one woman who did not return to the boat “experienced a reduction in financial awards and assistance” that Schewe “was in control of or had influence over.”
Another woman alleges that Schewe was among the faculty and students who went to a bar in late 2017 to socialize as a group. She was among those who attended a sort of after-party and Schewe’s apartment. While there, the lawsuit alleges that he offered “marijuana and marijuana edibles” to all of the guests, made a “sexual advance” against her, and performed nonconsensual oral sex on her.
The Sunday after, he sent her an email that, at the bottom, said “I feel like I should have been more of an adult that night. That I should have shown more restraint. Talked more and assumed less. Anyways, if you’re comfortable sharing, please let me know how you’re feeling.”
According to the lawsuit, Schewe’s story changed during the Title IX investigation the woman brought to UIC, from saying that he did not have sex with the woman, then saying that he had, then “again denying it.”
Other allegations in the lawsuit include that Schewe texted his students images of “naked or almost naked” women, “appeared to be taken from his boat.”
During the Title IX investigation that Schewe says cleared him of any wrongdoing, the lawsuit alleges that he “admitted to defendant UIC’s internal investigators that he has had sexual and/or romantic relationships with former students.”
UIC is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as are two Title IX investigators the suit alleges failed to “conduct a professional and ethical investigation of the allegations against” Schewe.
The suit says UIC ignored the University of Illinois system’s Comprehensive Policy regarding Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking and Sexual Assault by failing to find the actions the women said Schewe took as constituting a hostile environment per the policy definitions.
It also alleges that “Schewe’s inappropriate behavior was common knowledge amongst graduate students in… UIC’s Criminology, Law and Justice Department. …UIC should have reasonably been aware of (his) behavior.”
All six women are seeking damages and that UIC “provide mandatory training for all mandatory reporters using trauma-informed principles” and that it “be ordered to create a system of reporting sexual misconduct that is less intimidating for the most vulnerable members of the community: students, untenured faculty and junior faculty.”
And while the lawsuit was filed in federal court in mid-September, the court process comes at a time where the UI is touting its commitment to sexual assault reforms: last week, the UI board of trustees approved a resolution to implement recommendations from a Sexual Assualt Task Force established in 2018.
Among those recommendations: banning student-faculty relationships between students or supervisor-type employees in the same department, requiring finalists for campus jobs to allow their former employer to release records of sexual misconduct, and adopting policies that allow for varying levels of discipline, up to dismissal.