SMU Professor Patricia Davis Claims She Was Fired for Blowing the Whistle on Sex and Nazi Fetishism in the Human Rights Program

PatriciaDavis.jpg
SMU
Patricia Davis
In 2006, with the controversy over its ultimately successful bid to house the Bush Presidential Center very much brewing, SMU set to work establishing the Embrey Human Rights Program.

It was a pioneering effort that aimed to raise awareness of global social justice issues and perhaps inspire students to pursue the type of advocacy that has sometimes been missing from the Hilltop. Every indication is that the program has been a success, in no small part thanks to founding director Rick Halperin, a well-respected academic and human rights advocate.

But Patricia Davis, who until recently was a tenured theology professor at SMU and Embrey's associate director, claims Halperin's saintly reputation isn't entirely deserved. Halperin, she contends, somehow managed to spend seven years atop the Human Rights program despite being a lecherous Hitler fetishist who has sex with students and enjoys nothing better than running around naked and spying on neighbors.

She makes these seemingly wild claims, plus a few more, in a federal lawsuit against SMU claiming she was fired for reporting her boss' sexual indiscretions.

We've reached out to university spokesman Kent Best, who said he's looking into the matter, and to Halperin, who has not yet responded. (Update at 1:05 p.m.: Best passed along a brief statement by email: "SMU does not comment on pending litigation. The University stands by its personnel decisions and looks forward to resolving these claims in a court of law.")

According to Davis, she first suspected Halperin of misbehaving with students in 2005 on a 10-day tour of Holocaust sites in Poland. It was that trip that inspired Lauren Embrey to endow a human rights program at SMU, but Davis claims that a female student approached her one day to report that Halperin had been hitting on her.

Eight months later, Davis says, she walked into her boss' office to find a female undergraduate "kneeling behind Halperin's desk with him," according to the suit. Seeing Davis, "the student jumped up with a start. Both acted embarrassed as if in a compromising situation, and [the student] ran out of the office."

The lawsuit goes on like this for a while. Davis recounts closed-door meetings with female students at odd hours and on weekends, explicitly sexual conversations that drifted across the hallway at odd hours and on weekends, and a growing reputation on campus that Halperin seduced students.

One evening in 2011, Davis claims, she returned to the Embrey office to fetch her cell phone only to find Halperin and one of his female graduate students locked in passionate embrace.

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SMU
Rick Halperin
When he saw her, Halperin pushed the woman away from him with such force that the papers on the reception desk went flying. Both "were red in the face and her hair was in disarray," the suit claims. "Both looked very embarrassed, began stammering forced greetings, and picking up the papers. Unprompted, [the woman] said, "I'm here to get my paper.' Then she picked up her backpack and left. Halperin said nothing after the student left; he just went into his office and closed the door."

It's at this point in the lawsuit that things get exceedingly weird, and hard to believe.

Almost as soon as they met in 2005, Halperin displayed disturbing tendencies. For instance, he told Davis that he engaged in 'peeping' (which he also called 'steam-piping') and other lewd activities for recreation (like running around his neighborhood naked and looking in windows). Also, he appeared obsessed with the Nazis (privately giving Nazi salutes, screaming 'Achtung' on the telephone, displaying huge posters of Nazi symbols and events in his office and watching hours and hours of pictures of bodies and Holocaust death camps on his office television). These things, in addition to his inappropriate conduct toward women involved with the Human Rights Program, concerned Davis.

How a professor atop the human rights program managed to harbor not-so-secret Nazi tendencies without detection goes unexplained. But Davis claims she eventually reported her concerns to the dean of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, then to Beth Wilson, an associate VP, then on up the chain to President Gerald Turner. Nothing happened, not to Halperin at least.

Instead, Davis says, the school administration turned their attention to her and began an investigation into her claims. In September, the lawsuit says, the investigation concluded that she had been unfairly targeting Halperin.

She was fired "due to false accusations of sexual harassment and to your disruptive and detrimental impact on Program operations and your poor working relationships with Program and other SMU staff," she was told in a termination letter quoted in the suit.

She, of course, begs to differ. She claims she was fired for blowing the whistle on Halperin, which violated federal law governing universities and amounts to breach of contract. She's seeking unspecified damages.

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55 comments
ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I seriously hate Facebook comments here, I used to just say it to go with the Kergo bit, but look below.  They are in no order and make no sense when not in reply form like they actually are on FB.  Its a bunch of gibberish that reads like shit, you cant tell who is talking to who.  At least twitter comments are not here anymore

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

i note that those who know absolutely nothing about these  events except what the lawsuit alleges have already made up their minds and are busy, below, venting their hatred on one side or the other.

THIS is what comes from giving this kind of legal action premature publicity. What say we all lay back and wait for the courts to decide. Know something about the case? Contact one of the lawyers, of which there are sure to be many.

Maricela Ann Vilchis
Maricela Ann Vilchis

don't be surprised if it is true, example, Jerry Sandusky, he was a highly respected coach for years, many, many, many years before the truth came out.

Maricela Ann Vilchis
Maricela Ann Vilchis

what's it to her? it's called stopping inappropriate behavior, that's what it is to her.

Maricela Ann Vilchis
Maricela Ann Vilchis

how shallow of you, what does anyone's weight have to do with reporting inappropriate behavior

Maricela Ann Vilchis
Maricela Ann Vilchis

PLEASE!!!! "no one likes a snitch" ....................a teacher is having sexual acts performed on him and in relationships with students, clearly it's for grades and other things and not for love, the guy is unattractive as hell.....................it's her duty as a teacher to report inappropriate behavior that is happening in the university. Cleary the SMU administration knew about this, this only adds to their highly distinguished reputation. Way to go SMU!!!!!!!!

Maricela Ann Vilchis
Maricela Ann Vilchis

wow major pervert, she shouldn't be fired for reporting inappropriate misbehavior, that's usually why these perverted teachers continue to do these things, more embarrassing is that these young female students are actually performing sexual acts with this male teacher, as unattractive as he is, they must obviously be doing it for grades. She should sue SMU, obviously SMU is more worried about their reputation as a university than protecting their young adult students with aggressively sexual professors. DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!! Trust me I am sure more students will start to come forward and I bet anything this has been going on for years and how could no one in the SMU administration not have known about this, students and teachers gossip, what's going to be more embarrassing is when it comes out that this was obviously brushed under the rug by the SMU administration.

lisawall
lisawall

This is absurd. I have been a colleague of Dr. Halperin's for 15 years and have NEVER seen, nor heard anything remotely unethical in his behavior. He has always been a kind and effect agent for his program and human rights everywhere. If I had any inkling there was any impropriety I would have been the first person to point it out and this is simply  false and damaging information. Obviously the Observer didn't attempt too hard to find someone from "the other side of the story". 

Garrett Mobley
Garrett Mobley

So, she was fired for invading someone's privacy and exposing it? Okay.

David Ristuccia
David Ristuccia

All I'm saying if you haven't thrown around some sieg heils and achtungs in the bedroom, you're missing out.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

If you have his email address, somebody needs to send this story to Bob McDowell IMMEDIATELY!

GriffManstrong
GriffManstrong

Pervert AND a nazi fetishist? Man, what are the odds. I'm guessing next she'll say he's a satan worshipper, maybe a sheep shagger? I can't wait to see the evidence, other than the usual 'B-buh-but I SAW it!!'.

I'm sure their's a women's studies dept that needs a professor somewhere.

Theresa Pham
Theresa Pham

Wow, I've seen him around campus doing speeches and he is indeed respected in my eyes too. He just always seems passionate and adamant about human rights... very bizarre.

Liesl Beneke McQuillan
Liesl Beneke McQuillan

Rick Halperin is highly respected in the academic community and there is NO WAY he could have had Nazi posters hanging in his office without anyone else noticing. That is patently ridiculous. It sounds like this woman had a psychotic break. There is also no way he could have been teaching for as long as he's been teaching without anyone coming forward to condemn him if he's taking advantage of his power relationship with students. Again, this woman really does not seem sane.

Adrianne Lee Hodgin Bruce
Adrianne Lee Hodgin Bruce

I have a very hard time believing this about Rick Halperin. As a former student, I can say without qualms that he never fell short of inspirational as an instructor and devoted humanitarian.

Milo Lowenstein
Milo Lowenstein

No doubt Rob. Look at their pics. I know, you NEVER should judge a book by its cover but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, & quacks like a duck....WTF!

Jeremy McKane
Jeremy McKane

Who knew sex and nazi's go together like peanut butter and jelly?

Rob Hunter
Rob Hunter

Just when you think YOU'RE strange...here comes someone that is totally so much stranger. My money is on her story.

Brian Chestnut
Brian Chestnut

At least he didn't "half-ass" it. When he decided to be a freak, he jumped in with both feet. Lol

Esteban Mainzer
Esteban Mainzer

less time snitching, more time on the treadmill, honey.

psoileau
psoileau

First of all, I'd like to say that my comments have absolutely nothing to do with this particular lady or her accusations against SMU.  I'd just like to make the following observation which is kind of related.  Texas is one of many "right to work" states in which employment is "at will" and can be terminated by either party at any time.  Why is it, however, that colleges still operate under the tenure system by which you are given a "guaranteed job for life" after your probationary period?  This segment of the workplace seems to be out-of-sync with the rest of the Texas workplace. 

Ceecee
Ceecee

Do you work for/attend SMU or know Dr. Halperin on ANY sort of level?  Dr. H is one of the most respectable, forward thinking men one could have the pleasure of meeting.  Anyone who knows this man knows these claims are completely falsified. 

Besides, he's a Human Rights professor who opens students' eyes to some of the most brutal regimes/events in history, including the barbaraties of the Nazis.  Why on EARTH would he have those symbols in his office, where anyone could walk in and see them?! (he does not).  Talk about getting your "facts" mixed up.

luke.darby
luke.darby

@lisawall If you're a colleague of Dr. Halperin we'd actually love to speak with you. You can email me at luke.darby@dallasobserver.com. 

Guesty
Guesty

@lisawall  Perhaps you should call up the Observer directly and give your account.  They might even update this story with it.  Otherwise, news reporters have no alternative but to publish the one side that has spoken.     

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@lisawall "We've reached out to university spokesman Kent Best, who said he's looking into the matter, and to Halperin, who has not yet responded."

Id say that going to the source was the best possible attempt to get "the other side of the story"

luke.darby
luke.darby

@Adrianne Lee Hodgin Bruce We'd like to talk to students and colleagues of Halperin for a follow up. If you're interested please email me at luke.darby@dallasobserver.com.

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@ScottsMerkin 

Maybe I missed something in the article but even if everything about him were true, doesn't seem like anything was illegal

Guesty
Guesty

@ScottsMerkin Federal discrimination statutes generally protect against retaliation for reporting discriminatory conduct.  The Texas whistle-blower act doesn't matter.

Whether that is what happened here is an entirely different issue.  

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@Brian Chestnut Ad you know this because...?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@psoileau  

The actual question is whether an employee is terminated for cause or without cause for the purposes of determining unemployment benefits.

Additional questions are whether or not Ms. Davis was in a tenure track position or had an employment contract.

Guesty
Guesty

@psoileau Texas is a right to work state, but that does not prevent employers and employees from agreeing to different standards, such as specified contract lengths or tenure type positions.  

Whether or not tenure is a good thing depends a great deal on your perspective.  I think it generally helps develop scholarship by increasing academic freedom.  But it probably makes professors less responsive to the needs of students because it basically is impossible to get fired for being a bad teacher.  Professors have institutional reasons for caring more about scholarship than teaching, and professors decide who gets and retains tenure, so that seems to be the deciding factor in tenure decisions.   

RWilliams
RWilliams

@psoileau Academic tenure serves an inportant community purpose. It allows certain academics (who are assumed to be informed members of the greater community) to speak up about unpopular causes without fear of losing their positions. Protected by tenue, many academics spoke up for the anti-war movement in the 1960s, educating student about resistance and, some say, helping to end the war in Vietnam.

titusgroan
titusgroan

First, tenure isn't given after a probationary period - a committee has to review your record of publications, presentations, community service etc.  It's not a cake walk. 

Second, tenure protects academic freedom - the ability of a faculty member to say and study what they want. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@psoileau The problem with "right to work" states is that if you agree to debase yourself and allow yourself to be bullied and abused, then you have the right to work.  If I were you I'd be thoroughly ashamed of this odious practice in this state, not proud as peach-pahh the way you are.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@Guesty

Or to quietly await the outcome of this suit, which will vindicate one party or the other. 

Of course that would mean not rushing into print (or electrons) with what is at this point mere hearsay, thereby destroying one and possibly two reputations for the sake of...what? What deep moral or ethical principle is embedded here? The right of jaw-flapping blog dogs to their daily titillation? 

A lifetime in the journalism profession has left me extremely squeamish about this kind of thing. At the best, we're being used by one side or the other, or both. At the worst we're using our power against people who often have little or no power of their own to defend themselves.

Guesty
Guesty

@ScottsMerkin @lisawall "Id say that going to the source was the best possible attempt to get 'the other side of the story'"

Sometimes, but when the "source" also has just been named as a defendant in a lawsuit, it's almost guaranteed not to get you "the other side of the story."  I'm not sure what else the Observer could do, but lets face it, we all know the only intelligent answer to such an inquiry is "we don't comment on pending litigation." So as a practical matter, every report on a newly filed lawsuit is going to be one sided.  

GriffManstrong
GriffManstrong

@Tom434 @GriffManstrong

Maybe if she'd dressed up like a nazi? I'd believe a girl that size would make a perfect Brunhilde.

liesl_mcquillan
liesl_mcquillan

@Jenn That picture will only load quite blurry for me, so I am curious: Are the posters actual Nazi posters, or are they representations of human rights abuses? If it's the latter, it's like having pictures of famine victims to show the horrors of famine on your wall and a colleague claiming you're supporting famine.

cheddar
cheddar

@Jenn He teaches the Holocaust! It's hard to teach the horrors of the Nazi regime and its extensive propaganda without showing any of it.


ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@RWilliams @psoileau  

Tenure is an abused privilege and  is the refuge of the lazy and narcissitic professor.


Tenure is supposed to provide security for the freedom of academic inquiry and research from external forces.


Instead, it has allowed marginal professors to act like spoiled brats who ignore their responsibilities.


Besides the historical record has shown that many of the so called Viet Nam protesters were incorrect in their statements, spread false information and were more interested in just simple anarchy.  One of the more notorious is Peter Coyote who admitted that he was only interested in disrupting activities on his university campus.  And then there is Jane Fonda ...



WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@titusgroan You mean like studying female students, peeping and Naziism as a life style?

Jenn
Jenn

@cheddar @Jenn Understandable, I was just responding to the post that there was "NO WAY he could have had Nazi posters hanging in his office." Apparently he did.

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