Humboldt State University began investigating a claim that one of its faculty members solicited multiple students for sex in exchange for money after anonymous flyers with apparent text message screenshots were discovered last week in campus bathrooms.
The screenshots appear to feature text messages from a person “purporting to be an HSU professor,” according to HSU Title IX coordinator David Hickcox. The sender provides an HSU-related email address, but their name is redacted in screenshots included in the flyers.
HSU announced Monday it is investigating the claim, but there currently is no known accuser who has come forward with allegations against a faculty member. University officials declined to say if the investigation has identified any specific faculty members.
“About a dozen administrators worked through the weekend and were in constant contact,” Hickcox said. “We were all going through deliberately to find what the evidence was that would suggest a certain person was responsible.”
Besides the flyers, the university’s investigation has turned up other sources of information since it began, HSU spokesperson Grant Scott-Goforth said Monday.
Scott-Goforth declined to say if the university has canceled any classes, saying it could “be used to identify the people involved.”
Currently, the matter is not formally a Title IX investigation because no one has come forward with a complaint, but Hickcox’s office is participating in the university’s process.
Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination or retaliation on the basis of sex (including sexual harassment and sexual assault), is limited to public university campuses and doesn’t involve the judicial system.
When a Title IX investigation and subsequent hearing against a student results in a finding that the claim is more likely than not to be true, the accused individual faces sanctions that may include suspension or expulsion. Hickcox said he will look into “fair and consistent” sanctions for faculty members should a formal investigation arise.
Hickcox was hired as HSU’s Title IX coordinator in December 2019 after several years of working as a recruitment manager in the university’s Human Resources department.
In multiple statements emailed to the campus community, HSU has provided links to the university’s counseling and psychological services, as well as a campus advocacy program that operates on behalf of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team.
The emails also provide Hickcox’s contact information, as well as a phone number for the university police department.
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.