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CMU says report clears educators, but inquiry shows student reported 'toxic environment'

Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

Coons, Wojcik and Clark were put on paid leave earlier this year as part of a review by the school. They were restored to their positions in August, after Honigman provided a verbal update on its investigation, Davies said.

Investigators appear to have determined there is a difference between a "hostile work environment" as defined "under applicable laws and CMU policy" and the "toxic environment" reported by a student in 2016.

In 2016, a student told Wojcik — who recently served as head of the journalism department's internship program — details about what she considered a terrible experience at the firm.

"(The student) said she became visibly upset while describing her negative experience to Wojcik, and Wojcik gave her tissues in response ... (The student) also told Wojcik that she cried on the way home from work every day because she felt uncomfortable at Vanguard, and that the workplace at Vanguard was a 'toxic environment,'" the report states.

"However, (the student) also told us that she did not say anything to Wojcik about Bucholz's role in workplace toxicity. Instead, (the student) told Wojcik that her discomfort at Vanguard was caused by other women working at Vanguard. (The student) said she did not say anything to Wojcik that might embarrass Bucholz because she was under the impression that Wojcik and Bucholz had a close relationship."

The student told investigators the meeting was short and that "she did not believe Wojcik took her concerns seriously." However, investigators say the student also told them that she believed Wojcik should not have been placed on leave by CMU.

Wojcik told investigators he did not remember the conversation, but said if any student had told him about any abuse or an uncomfortable work environment at an internship, he would have alerted superiors.

In or around 2019, a CMU graduate who worked for Vanguard spoke with Clark about Bucholz. The graduate described Bucholz as "temperamental, a 'creep' or 'creeper,' and that he maintained shoddy business practices." She also described Bucholz as a jerk who threw temper tantrums in the office.

Both the graduate and a separate CMU student interning at the firm at the time said they sometimes rode in Bucholz's car with him, where he kept a handgun locked in the glove box. The gun was also in the office at times, according to the report.

 

Investigators noted that none of the CMU faculty or employees asked appropriate follow up questions when they were told about these allegations.

"(The CMU graduate) later told Clark she quit working at Vanguard because 'things got weird, inappropriate.' This should have led Clark to ask a litany of follow-up questions about the safety and well-being of (the student still interning at the firm), such as: What do you mean by Bucholz's demeanor? Has he shown violence in the workplace? What do you mean by Bucholz being a 'creep'? What do you mean by 'inappropriate?'" the report states.

"We recommend that CMU institute enhanced training on how to identify the warning signs of harassment, misconduct, and retaliation."

Davies said he did not necessarily agree that this meant the CMU educators received warning signs and did not appropriately follow up.

"I mean, we can think back on our own careers, how often someone came to me and said, 'I'm working for a creep' and where did that conversation go," Davies said.

Other recommendations from investigators include making online reporting of alleged sexual harassment easier for students, increasing staff training on when and how to report misconduct, broadening the definition of which employees qualify as a "mandatory reporter" under university policy and get more feedback from students during their internships.

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