Sex Misconduct Case Has a Terrifying Twist

An Arizona professor had to battle anonymous accusations of sexual misconduct
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
She Was Close to a Dream Job —When the Reddit Posts Appeared
Stock image.   (Getty Images)

Think academia can get nasty? Hope you're sitting down. Sarah Viren, who teaches at Arizona State University, tells a horrifying story in the New York Times Magazine. The professor was close to getting a dream job in Michigan when sexual harassment claims appeared on Reddit against her and her wife Marta, who's also an ASU teacher. "Sarah was on the bed, topless, and asked us to join her," read one, while another added that "lesbian professors, too, are capable of harassing students." The school swiftly began a Title IX investigation into sexual misconduct, grilling the couple over every accusation. But holes emerged when student names on the posts weren't real, and one used the term "y'all," which no one says in Arizona. So who was behind this?

Viren soon began getting texts from a fellow professor also up for the Michigan job. "Any news?" he wrote. "I've been thinking of y'all." Viren knew that the prof, who she calls "J," was gay and miserable living in a conservative town. As the painful investigation dragged on, Viren filed a lawsuit that found J's phone number behind two email accounts responsible for some of the claims. But pursuing him in court was costly, so Viren and Marta settled in July. (They agreed never to use his name, but clues in the article might inspire Internet sleuths—maybe even on Reddit.) While ASU cleared the couple, Viren had to decline her dream job after the University of Michigan couldn't find Marta a spousal hire. At least Viren got to tell their story. Read it in full here. (More sexual misconduct stories.)

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