A lawyer for a former San Diego State University professor who sexually harassed at least four female students is threatening to sue SDSU for investigating and disclosing the professor’s past behavior at the University of Delaware.
In a strongly-worded response to that legal threat, an attorney representing SDSU said Professor Vincent Martin admitted he resigned his Delaware teaching position after he was accused of sexually harassing a female student.
“Of greater concern to San Diego State is that your client has engaged in predatory behavior on multiple occasions at San Diego State and, based on Dr. Martin’s own admissions, had engaged in similar behavior at the University of Delaware,” SDSU’s attorney wrote to Martin’s lawyer.
Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates confirm Martin sexually harassed female students who took his Spanish literature classes at SDSU.
Click here to read more details in this investigative series.
According to the documents, Martin was suspended for 30 days as punishment in two of those harassment cases. Martin appealed that suspension, but an arbitrator upheld the punishment after reviewing the evidence. The arbitrator’s decision, obtained by NBC 7 Investigates under the California Public Records Act, states Martin had resigned his prior post at UD in 2010.
He was hired by SDSU in 2011.
As of Nov. 19, Martin was no longer employed by SDSU. University administrators told NBC 7 Investigates they cannot clarify whether Martin was fired or resigned “due to employee privacy rights.”
In a Sept. 14 letter to SDSU president Elliot Hirshman, Martin’s Delaware attorney, Michele Allen, criticized SDSU for having “... chosen to improperly use and disseminate confidential information… with the intent to harm Dr. Vincent Martin.”
Click here to read the letter and response from SDSU.
Martin’s attorney demanded SDSU reveal how it learned information about Martin’s employment at the University of Delaware. “Failure to comply with this request will force my Firm to seek Court intervention to prevent (SDSU) from using and disseminating this confidential information and seek damages against (SDSU) for tortuously (sic) interfering with Mr. Martin’s agreement.”
In a response, University Counsel for California State University, the college system SDSU is part of, reminded Martin’s attorney that SDSU’s investigation -- upheld by the arbitrator -- found Martin had “...engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward a number of San Diego State students…”
The attorney, Marc Mootchnik, noted “In our experience, one who engages in such a pattern typically has a history of similar behavior.” Mootchnik acknowledged SDSU “attempted to obtain information regarding Dr. Martin’s prior employment,” but the lawyer said the University of Delaware “... provided no information regarding any circumstances under which Dr. Martin left that University. The source of that information to which you allude was Dr. Martin himself, who admitted those circumstances during the disciplinary hearing.”
NBC 7 Investigates obtained the letters through the California Public Records Act. The letters do not indicate SDSU knew about Martin’s problems in Delaware when he was hired in 2011.
Allen did not respond to NBC 7 Investigates request for comment on this story.
Jan Blits, a retired University of Delaware (UD) professor, told NBC 7 Investigates UD campus administrators “evidently tried to cover-up” the harassment allegation against Martin.
Blits, who was awarded the UD’s Excellence in Teaching Award and served as a Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Naval Academy, chaired UD’s Faculty and Welfare Privileges Committee at the time Martin faced that allegation. The committee is empowered to review and pass judgment on allegations of unprofessional conduct by UD faculty.
In Martin’s case, Blits said, “the administration bypassed the committee and evidently struck a sweetheart deal with the accused (Martin)." Blits claims UD administrators short-circuited his committee’s investigation and covered up Martin’s alleged wrongdoing because “they want to hide the fact that there are problems at” the University of Delaware.
UD administrators declined to comment on Blits’ allegations because, they said, it involves a “personnel issue.” Martin and his attorney have both declined to answer questions about the allegations against Martin at SDSU and UD, and will not comment on the terms of Martin’s departure from SDSU.
Blits said his recollection of the specifics of Martin’s alleged misconduct at UD are vague. But he distinctly recalls being troubled by the content of flyers and advertisements for the Spain study abroad program Martin organized at UD, which is where he believes the alleged harassment occurred.
“Word was out that it was a ‘party trip’, and he advertised it that way,” Blits said. He confirmed with a colleague that Martin’s advertisement for the study abroad program included a photo of Martin “with his arms draped around two female students (at) a table with empty sangria pitchers… The message was ‘Study abroad and party with me.’”
Bilts said that photo was taken in 2006 and appeared every year thereafter on Martin’s UD homepage.