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Exhibitionist Teacher Rehired : Fired for Exposing Self to CSUN Female Instructors

August 19, 1989|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

California higher-education officials have reinstated a Cal State Northridge geography professor who was fired after he admitted exposing himself to two female instructors.

Associate professor Darrick Danta will resume teaching when classes begin in September, said Jeff Stetson, a spokesman for the chancellor's office of the Cal State University system.

But an attorney for the two female instructors said that under the terms of a settlement between Danta and CSU officials, Danta will be suspended without pay for a year beginning in January.

University officials refused to comment further, saying it is a personnel matter.

Danta, a 34-year-old tenured professor, was fired by CSUN president James W. Cleary in November after admitting that he exposed himself to instructors Carolyn McGovern-Bowen and Christine Rodrigue. Danta, who has taught at CSUN for four years, said Friday his behavior toward the two women, which included pulling his pants and underwear down to his knees on several occasions, was "a joke."

Agreement Reached

Danta appealed his firing and the matter was turned over to an arbitrator. On July 31, after four days of testimony in the case, CSU officials and Danta reached an agreement, said Joseph C. Pinto, an attorney for the women.

Pinto said Danta defended himself during the hearing by claiming that off-color jokes and "body humor" were accepted behavior in CSUN's geography department.

Danta would not comment on the settlement, except to criticize Cleary for dismissing him without allowing him to present his case at a formal hearing.

Several people involved in the case, who asked not to be identified, suggested that CSU officials reversed Cleary's decision because CSUN administrators failed to conduct the investigation properly. In early summer of 1988, CSUN's Affirmative Action Programs Office, which handles sexual harassment complaints, questioned Danta about his behavior, but did not tell him who his accusers were and that he was subject to disciplinary action if he admitted exposing himself, the sources said.

Without those disclosures, Danta's confession may have been extracted unfairly, they said.

But a spokesman for Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), a member of the Assembly Education Committee, said Danta should have been fired anyway. Under the university's sexual harassment policy, behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile working or learning environment is punishable by dismissal, depending on the circumstances, said CSUN spokeswoman Gloria Wells.

Multiple Complaints

Rodrigue said her complaint against Danta detailed more than six incidents between spring, 1986, and early 1987 in which Danta stood in the doorway of his office with his shirt pulled up and his pants and underwear pulled down, a deadpan expression on his face. Rodrigue, who has been hired to teach geography this fall at Cal State Chico, said she also told university officials of another incident in which Danta allegedly came into her office one evening and fondled himself.

"I am extremely concerned about him being in contact with students because he has shown he cannot control himself," Rodrigue said. "And I'm angry about the university's decision. It just shows that the old boy network protects its own."

The Danta case marks the second time this summer a CSUN professor has been reinstated after being fired by campus officials.

Last month, the State Personnel Board ordered CSUN to reinstate Eleazu S. Obinna, a Pan-African studies professor who was fired last summer for allegedly offering students "A" grades in exchange for selling raffle tickets to raise money for his nonprofit foundation. The state board also ordered Obinna suspended for 90 days.

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