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U-Va. says professor accused of sexual harassment will not teach this school year

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. (Norm Shafer for The Washington Post)

The University of Virginia has told an English professor accused of sexual harassment that he will not be teaching creative writing this school year or advising students while the school investigates the allegations.

John Casey, a prominent fiction writer, was told Nov. 20 that he faces accusations from former students that he sexually harassed female students in U-Va.’s prestigious creative writing program, according to a letter this week from a university civil rights office. One of the accusers, Emma Eisenberg, alleged that Casey inappropriately touched students on their shoulders, buttocks and lower backs, and subjected them to unwanted and sometimes crude sexual comments.

Casey said in an email Monday that it was “too early and perhaps improper to comment” on the allegations but he planned “a complete rebuttal.” He did not respond to an email Thursday, asking about how the investigation has affected his teaching plans. The 78-year-old author of the award-winning novel “Spartina” and other works joined the U-Va. faculty in 1972.

Anthony P. de Bruyn, a U-Va. spokesman, said that Casey is on sabbatical and has not been teaching in the fall semester, but he had been scheduled to teach in the spring semester until the allegations arose. The letter to Casey on Thursday from Emily Babb, U-Va.’s assistant vice president for Title IX compliance, advised the professor that he would not be assigned any teaching duties in the spring and that he should not participate in student mentoring or graduate admissions decisions until the investigation is complete. Eisenberg, who chose to go public with her complaint, provided The Washington Post with a copy of the letter. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.

Babb wrote in the letter that Casey also faces a new allegation involving  conduct toward another faculty member and that he has been directed not to contact that person, but the letter did not elaborate on the allegation. The measures spelled out in the letter, Babb wrote, “are not intended to be punitive in nature” and do not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

U-Va. investigates sexual harassment allegations against English professor