DeKALB — The clock is ticking on the contract of Eric Dannenmaier, former College of Law dean, who has been involved in an NIU research project since resigning amid sexual harassment allegations.
Dannenmaier resigned from his position in June after a Title IX investigation ruled he had “more likely than not” sexually harassed two former law school employees. NIU and Dannenmaier entered a resolution agreement July 7 allowing Dannenmaier to continue working with the university until no later than Dec. 31, according to the documentation of the agreement. Dannenmaier has since held a temporary faculty position in which he has researched environmental opportunities for the university.
Two female colleagues of Dannenmaier, previously identified by the Northern Star as Female 1 and Female 2 for the sake of anonymity, filed the sexual harassment complaints with the university after they left the College of Law in February.
Female 1 said she thinks Dannenmaier’s continued employment with the university sets a bad standard for NIU, which she and Female 2 said they attended.
“It saddens me because I think by still having him on the payroll, still on the school website, still out there employed by NIU, whether or not they are, they are sort of putting their stamp of approval on it and giving him this validity that I don’t think he should have in this situation,” Female 1 said.
Female 2 said she saw the resolution agreement as a way to keep Dannenmaier from suing the university. Dannenmaier filed for a temporary restraining order against the university July 6 so as to ensure no information related to his disciplinary record be released, which was later dropped.
“It feels like the university went out of their way to settle what could have been a lawsuit,” Female 2 said.
Spokesperson Lisa Miner previously identified the agreement as a way to protect the university from potential legal action.
“Our agreement with Mr. Dannenmaier protects the university from the possibility of a protracted and expensive internal hearing process to which all tenured faculty are entities, with an uncertain outcome,” Miner said in a July 15 email to the Northern Star.
The agreement also states that Dannenmaier must complete employee training sessions and can not seek further employment at NIU.
Dannenmaier’s role post-resignation is one listed as a “non-institutional temporary faculty position” with the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships.
“In the faculty position, Dannenmaier will perform research and policy development efforts at the local, state and national level related to, but not limited to, water in a changing world, restoring ecosystems, aging in community and governmental efficiency,” according to the resolution agreement.
Dannenmaier has continued to receive a portion of the salary he would have made as the College of Law dean under the resolution agreement. The salary for Dannenmaier’s time as a temporary faculty member will come out to $94,500, according to the resolution agreement.
Since signing the agreement, Dannenmaier has been working with Gerald Blazey, Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships vice president.
Blazey said the partnership between himself and Dannenmaier hasn’t taken any negative turn.
“It’s been collegial, and it’s been productive,” Blazey said.
Dannenmaier and Blazey have been working on a plan to help NIU’s environmental law initiative, which will help prepare the university and its students for the future in terms of dealing with increasing environmental law cases and legislation. Blazey said Dannenmaier has wanted a project like this for years.
“When he first came to the university, he was interested in starting some policy effort around environmental law,” Blazey said. “The task I put before him was to develop a strategy for completing this initiative to increase NIU efforts around environmental law and research.”
Dannenmaier is an environmental law specialist and was appointed to the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in 2013 by former President Barack Obama.
Dannenmaier has been communicating with Blazey via e-mail and phone from his home in St.
Louis, Missouri. Blazey said he has yet to meet Dannenmaier face-to-face for the operation. The resolution agreement states Dannenmaier is required to attend mandatory meetings at “certain locations,” but it never states specifics about whether these meetings are on-campus or at another location off-campus.
“We have a regular call every two weeks to discuss the project he is working on,” Blazey said.
Blazey said he approached university administration and Dannenmaier prior to the resolution agreement about the prospect of using the time Dannenmaier had before he left NIU to work on blueprinting a project for involvement in environmental law and research.
“They thought that would be a useful activity to do while he was still on contract with the university,” Blazey said.
The project is also meant to assess NIU’s environmental law efforts and help support its efforts for the future. NIU offers various classes related to environmental law, including the Environmental Law Society, which hosts discussions, conducts research and works with other universities on environmental projects.
Blazey said the project with Dannenmaier is a third of the way complete with a little more than two months left in Dannenmaier’s contract. Blazey said he recognizes the impending end of Dannenmaier’s contract means the project is now in a race against the clock.
“I wouldn’t say there is urgency,” Blazey said. “I would say there is recognition that if we are going to finish anything substantive and have significance, it needs to be done before his contract expires.”
The two females involved in the Title IX investigation both said they are looking to pursue further legal action related to the investigation, both doing so separate from each other.
“Dannenmaier was handled with kid gloves,” Female 1 said. “And I was given very little communication. This is my sort of way of stepping to the table and saying ‘Hey, I’m part of this conversation too,’” Female 1 said.
Dannenmaier did not respond to repeated requests for comment.