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University of Kentucky professor files suit against university, student

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Posted at 4:28 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 16:28:57-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18/Kentucky Kernel) — A University of Kentucky professor has filed a lawsuit against the university and a student.

The professor, Buck Ryan, claimed in the lawsuit that he has suffered damage to his personal and professional reputations after a student in one of his classes had told the university's Office of Institutional Equity that Ryan had violated the school's discrimination and/or sexual harassment policy. In the suit, he claimed that the student's complaint was "baseless" and said that it failed to allege he had engaged in conduct that constituted harassment or sexual harassment as defined by the university's policies, "or any other reasonable source."

The lawsuit is against the university, its Title IX coordinator Martha Alexander of the school's Office of Institutional Equity, and the student.

After learning of the complaint against him, the lawsuit said that Ryan communicated with Alexander, saying, "Please let me know how a professor making a sincere and honorable effort, going out of his way to help a student, ends up facing an allegation of sexual harassment, especially when there is no evidence of anything 'sexual' and when offering help is considered 'harassment.'"

There was an investigation opened into the complaint.

In a story published in the student newspaper 'Kentucky Kernel' on Nov. 30, 2018, the student commented on the complaint saying, "It was something where a professor grooms you for success, but it always felt weird."

In Feb. 2019, Ryan, through counsel, submitted a response to the complaint to Alexander. In May 2019, Alexander notified Ryan that their investigation had determined that the complaints were not supported by evidence, according to the lawsuit, but said that Ryan had acted inappropriately by communicating with students over text and offering students football tickets. The lawsuit said that Alexander also ruled Ryan had violated a "no contact" order by emailing a student that had dropped his class. Ryan claimed that the email was sent to more than 90 other students in the class and that Ryan did not know the student had dropped the class.

The lawsuit also claimed Alexander ordered Ryan keep the Office of Institutional Equity's conclusions confidential.

Ryan demands to be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as his costs expenses and attorney fees.

According to the Kentucky Kernel's story on the lawsuit, UK President Eli Capilouto said in an email that the suit was "without merit." Capilouto also said that the university will pay for the student's defense.