SSU president denies charge of harrasment

By Dina Paluzzi

Sangamon State University President Durward Long denied allegations that he fondled a female student at an SSU party and said he has not committed any sexual harassment “in the broadest sense” of the meaning.

Long’s response reported Tuesday by the SSU News followed a sexual harassment charge filed against him and the Board of Regents Tuesday. The charge filed by seven SSU professors to the state Human Rights Department did not specify any incidents, but claimed Regents and Long “have created a hostile, offensive and intimidating working environment.”

The Human Rights Department will investigate several incidents that occurred recently and several years ago.

Richard Battles, Human Rights Department spokesman, said the department might file a complaint depending on what is discovered during the investigation. The process could last from several months to more than a year.

During a public speech Tuesday, Long said he gave one “non-threatening hug” to a female student by putting an arm around her body at an SSU pigroast on Aug. 26.

The SSU News reported Long as apologizing for the embarassment the publicity has caused SSU.

Long who returned as SSU president on Nov. 7 after a 60-day medical leave of absense for alcohol abuse treatment and extreme fatigue said, “I am deeply sorry for the fact that I was drinking in public.”

SSU Student Regent Brian Hopkins said Long announced a press conference immediately following Tuesday’s speech but did not answer many of the press’ questions. Specific questions about the charge were directed toward Long, but “he sort of brushed them off,” Hopkins said.

Long keeps apologizing, but has not admitted to doing anything, Hopkins said.

Hopkins said the charge should not come as a “complete surprise to the board (of Regents).” Regents were aware of “a real and present danger” that a suit might be filed, he said.

He added that he did not think the charge would merit the calling of a special Regents meeting. The next Regents meeting is Dec. 1 at NIU.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves and Chairman Carol Burns were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Hopkins said the charge “takes the whisper campaign and puts it right in the laps of due process.”

The SSU News said that during Long’s address, he talked about that his remembrances of the events at the pigroast were, about his alcoholism and his aftercare program.