A former officer of the Association for Student Conduct Administration denied on Thursday that he had sexually assaulted the association’s president-elect, whose public accusations against him rocked the association’s annual meeting in Florida this week.
The controversy erupted when Jill L. Creighton, who had been elected to lead the association for 2017-18, posted an open letter Wednesday on Twitter saying her predecessor, Jason Casares, "took advantage" of her during a convention in December.
The accusation probably sounded familiar to the attendees, whose jobs largely involve sorting through charges of sexual assault and other misconduct. Their jobs usually revolve around student complaints, not the charges and denials of two of their colleagues.
Ms. Creighton, assistant director for global community standards at New York University, said the alleged assault happened in Fort Worth, Tex., after she had had too much to drink. She filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Casares and asked the association to impeach him.
Speaking through his lawyer, Mr. Casares denied the accusation and said he had stepped down as president-elect last week for unrelated personal reasons. He had been slated to take over as president this week. Instead, the association decided to retain its current president, Laura Bennett, for 2016-17.
"The allegations are completely false, and an investigation with an outside law firm found them to be false," said his lawyer, Tony Paganelli.
Asked whether there had been a consensual sexual encounter, or none at all, Mr. Paganelli said Mr. Casares had agreed to keep the details private.
The association’s Board of Directors released a letter to members on Thursday saying it had received a formal complaint on December 10 from Ms. Creighton regarding alleged misconduct between herself and Mr. Casares. It hired the outside investigator "to ensure a fair and unbiased investigation for both parties."
After a "rigorous" inquiry, the investigator could not substantiate Ms. Creighton’s claims, the association’s letter said. The complaint was resolved in executive session and has been closed.
Nevertheless, Mr. Casares, associate dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator at Indiana University at Bloomington, has been put on paid administrative leave by the university while it investigates, a campus spokesman said on Thursday.
'Failed to Protect Me'
In an interview with The Chronicle on Thursday evening, Ms. Creighton stood by her account.
"This is a very big personal and professional risk, and I would not have done it if it were not true," she said. "I have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward."
When she filed her complaint, the association put her on "involuntary suspension," which has since been lifted. She said she plans to resume her duties as president-elect when she has had "time to heal."
In her public letter, Ms. Creighton said she had decided to come forward because she "could not stand the hypocrisy of Jason parading his expertise on Title IX, knowing how he had behaved with me."
She said she was shocked to learn that Mr. Casares not only was planning to attend the conference, but also would be presenting a session on Title IX. She said she had asked for his session to be canceled, but the association refused.
"I needed a safe space, and to be able to attend this conference free of the hostile environment that his presence creates for me," Ms. Creighton wrote in her open letter. "ASCA has failed to protect me."
According to the conference schedule, Mr. Casares was scheduled to present in several sessions, including one titled "Using a Trauma-Informed Approach in Sexual-Misconduct Investigations."
He canceled his appearance in at least one of the sessions because he was concerned that Ms. Creighton would disrupt it, his lawyer said.
In the letter to members, association officials said that while Mr. Casares resigned as president-elect on January 29, "he remains a member of ASCA and maintains the same rights as other members to attend and present at ASCA events." The association "is working to accommodate the needs of both Ms. Creighton and Mr. Casares during this difficult time, taking into account safety and privacy precautions."
A spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department confirmed on Thursday that it had "an open case for a sexual-assault investigation where contact was made with the victim" during the evening of December 9. No other information was available.
Sarah Brown contributed to this article.
Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts, and job training, as well as other topics in daily news. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at email@example.com.