Embattled SDSU Prof. Asked Student to Dress Like ‘French Maid'

New documents from Vincent Martin’s arbitration hearing reveal a history of sexual harassment at University of Delaware

A San Diego State University professor who sexually harassed at least four female students had a history of similar behavior while teaching at another college in Delaware, according to an arbitration document.

For several months, SDSU administrators refused to discuss Vincent Martin’s case or release any documents related to his discipline.

NBC 7 Investigates obtained the new details, found in a decision letter from his arbitration hearing, through the California Public Records Act.

Click here to read the letter.

The newly-released document confirms Martin “resigned his prior post at the University of Delaware after he was accused of sexually harassing a female student” and that he engaged in similar behavior just months later, during his first semester at SDSU in fall 2011.

According to the arbitrator’s decision that upheld Martin’s 30-day suspension at SDSU, Martin also accused a female student of plagiarizing her final exam and invited her to take an “incomplete” which she could satisfy by working as his assistant.

The document details how Martin’s invited that student to out-of-state conferences and “sent her text messages which made her uncomfortable.”

One text suggested the student join him at a hotel in Seattle where “they have awesome in-rooms spa services!:).”

According to the document, Martin also suggested the student wear a “French maid outfit” when she joined him.

“It’s very out-of-line,” said Phillip Kossy, an employment law expert at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savich. “If this were a private employer, and there wasn't some sort of culture of leniency, I would expect the employer to terminate the employee, or some discipline far more serious than a 30-day suspension.”

In a statement, SDSU administrators said the university "limited, legally, with the disciplinary actions we can take until the faculty exhausts his or her due process." Read the full statement below.

The arbitration document also reveals Martin received an “informal warning” for his behavior with that student, and an SDSU vice president advised Martin that his text messages were “inappropriate and his treatment of the plagiarism allegation was a violation of University policy.”

According to the document, Martin “acknowledged that in hindsight he realized he probably should not have sent the “French maid text.”

Less than two years later, Martin was in trouble again for his behavior with two other co-eds.

The document details how one underaged student said Martin sent her more than 200 text messages, many of which suggested they meet for drinks at a bar or his home.

Another student said Martin told her to steal a box of wine from a hotel conference room and made her feel “extremely uncomfortable” when he tried to kiss her twice.

Click here to see more details about the sexual harassment allegations.

Martin has repeatedly declined to speak with NBC 7 Investigates about this story.

His lawyer also said neither he nor Martin have any comment about the allegations, findings or punishment issued by SDSU.

University investigators concluded Martin had sexually harassed both those students and sanctioned him with a 30-day suspension.

One of the victims told NBC 7 Investigates that the punishment was a “joke.”

Sara Kidman, an SDSU student and external affairs manager for the campus' Woman's Outreach Association, said she is surprised Martin still has his job.

"I wonder why he was hired," she said. "And I think it would be kind of a red flag if someone was already let go for sexual harassment, and then to have to issue a warning so early into his career here, how that wouldn't be just end of employment here, I really don't understand."

Martin challenged the suspension, and the university held an arbitration hearing. After testimony from seven witnesses, including Martin and four of his accusers, the arbitrator upheld the suspension, noting that “the totality of evidence of unprofessional conduct here is overwhelming.”

Last May, NBC 7 Investigates sought information about Martin’s tenure at the University of Delaware, including whether “…the University administration receive(d) any complaints about Martin’s behavior….”

The university attorneys denied our request, which was made through Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act. The university cited an wide-ranging exemption to the act as it applies to the university. That exemption allows the university to deny any request for information that does not relate to the expenditure of public funds.

Click here to read the email exchanges between NBC 7 Investigates and the University of Delaware.

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko has long opposed that exemption. On Tuesday, Kowalko told NBC 7 Investigates he will push even harder to kill that exemption, as a result of new information that Martin resigned his University of Delaware professorship after he was accused of sexual harassment.

“It’s very alarming to allow questionable/immoral/illegal behavior to be hidden and tacitly condoned by a secretive policy that eventually permits a continuation of bad and harmful behavior to be transferred elsewhere,” Kowalko told his colleagues in the Delaware legislature. Kowalko also spoke to WDEL radio station about the issue Tuesday.

He urged them to support legislation that would repeal the University of Delaware’s FOIA exemption “…and restore its status as a ‘public’ institution, since it receives over $110 million in taxpayer funds.”

Click here to listen to the complete podcast on WDEL Tuesday.

Kowalko’s efforts were endorsed today by Green Delaware, a community group that campaigns for environmental and open government issues.

“It would be useful to know if Vincent Martin was given incomplete or inaccurate or otherwise deficient references from people at the U of D who were aware of his shortcomings, thus enabling him to secure another academic position and harass other students on the West Coast,” wrote Alan Muller, Green Delaware’s Executive Director. Muller said removing the University’s FOIA exemption “… should be a legislative priority for all who want transparency and integrity in Delaware’s government.”

NBC 7 Investigates asked the University of Delaware administrators for a response to Kowalko and Muller’s criticisms, and a spokesperson replied saying they have "no comment."  

Matthew Butler, Editor in Chief of The Review, the independent student-run newspaper for the University of Delaware, submitted a public request for information to the university as well. Butler asked for the names of students who attended study abroad programs with Martin. The university denied the request.

Click here
to read that request and denial. 

SDSU administrators released the following statement about the University’s discipline process:

“Faculty at SDSU are employed under a collectively bargained contract that is negotiated at the system level and grants faculty certain rights, even in cases involving claims of sexual harassment. SDSU is limited, legally, with the disciplinary actions we can take until the faculty exhausts his or her due process. SDSU does not have discretion to simply terminate a faculty member without providing these due process rights, per their contract. Faculty are afforded the right to a hearing on the discipline wherein the third party reviewer determines whether the university's discipline is appropriate. SDSU takes all steps to ensure the discipline is appropriate (and appropriately severe) given the specific facts of the case and can be supported and upheld at hearing.”

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