Dan Fabian and Kerry Albright Fankhauser, both deputy Title IX coordinators and associate deans at the University of Richmond, have been married since January 4, 2016, according to a document obtained by The Collegian.
A marriage between two Title IX coordinators on the same staff raises questions of objectivity, a potential conflict of interest and concerns over confidentiality.
Whitney Ralston, one of two students who have come forward with public accounts of the university's mishandling of her Title IX case, was upset when she heard of the deans' relationship. "That was really hard for me to find out because I trusted Kerry with a lot," Ralston said. "When I found that out, that broke my heart. I had no idea she was in involved in this relationship and I think that's a huge conflict of interest."
Ralston went on to say that she felt as if Fabian and Fankhauser might have discussed confidential information about her case once the work day was over.
In a DePauw University case from 2014, a United States District Court overturned the university’s expulsion of a student who was “responsible for non-consensual sexual contact and harassment.” The decision to overturn the university's ruling was dependent on a number of issues, one being that the victim’s advisor for the case was married to DePauw’s Title IX coordinator at the time.
"The fact that [the student’s] advisor is married to the Title IX coordinator, who obtained and summarized a statement from King (the accused) that was a prime reason for the Board’s discrediting of his testimony, is troublesome, as is the fact that King’s own advisor was ill-equipped to be of any real assistance to him," the ruling states.
Fabian and Fankhauser filed for a marriage license on December 22, 2015 and were married in a religious ceremony in Henrico, Virginia, less than a month later, according to their marriage register.
The marriage register is below:
Fabian has been out of office since at least Sept. 1, 2016 and has been the subject of much criticism related to his handling of Title IX Cases. According to Fabian’s out-of-office email response, he will be out of the office through Sept. 22, 2016. He is currently at a conference and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Fankhauser is also out of the office until Sept. 22 according to an assistant in the Westhampton deanery, but responded to request for comment via email with the following statement: "While I am loath to talk about my personal life, I am happy to report that after many years as professional colleagues Dean Fabian and I were married. I am proud of the work I do with students every day and my commitment to them is unwavering."
Cynthia Price, director of media and public relations for Richmond, gave the following statement: "As we have said previously, the marital status of our employees is not a matter of public record."
University Communications declined to make Carl Sorensen, associate vice president of Human Resources, available for this story, saying, “it is not appropriate to comment on a personnel issue.” Sorensen is also the deputy Title IX coordinator for Title IX complaints for faculty and staff.
An Education Department spokesman offered the following statement when asked whether the marriage presented a conflict of interest: "As a policy, OCR refrains from offering opinions about specific facts and circumstances and/or compliance with federal civil rights laws, including commenting on a specific school’s policies and procedures, without first conducting an investigation." The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is part of the U.S. Department of Education.
According to University of Richmond’s Human Resources policy, the employment of relatives is permitted, though the university “must be careful to remove any potential conflict of interest in the employment situation.” The university explicitly includes spouses in its definition of immediate family members.
The policy also states that no individual may have hiring authority or “supervisory responsibility for their significant others, domestic partners, or any other individual whose personal relationship to the supervisor may cause disruption or a conflict of interest in the workplace.”
Both Fabian and Fankhauser serve as the deputy Title IX Coordinators for students and are responsible for investigating student reports of sexual misconduct.
Richmond’s conflict of interest policy states that certain “employment opportunities may constitute a breach of ethical standards, resulting in conflict of interest between the University and the employee.” According to the policy, it is an employee’s responsibility to disclose “any possible conflict of interest” to his or her supervisor, department head or appropriate university official “at the earliest practicable time.”
The policy also states that any employee who engages in activities that “constitute, or appear to constitute, a violation will be subject to a review and evaluation of these activities by University administration. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest is a serious matter.”
Richmond is currently under federal investigation by the Department of Education for potential violations of Title IX policy. The university has been under investigation since June of 2014.
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