‘A concerning pattern’: IU found a professor sexually harassed a freshman, allowed him to continue teaching
By Emily Isaacman
Content warning: This article includes descriptions of sexual harassment.
This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 28 to reflect additional allegations that McGibbon asked undergraduate women to attend callbacks in bikinis in 2008. Information on the theater department’s audition policies was also added.
IU determined associate professor Murray McGibbon sexually harassed a freshman in 2018.
A 2019 Title IX investigation report stated “the evidence reveals a concerning pattern by [McGibbon] of singling out certain students.”
McGibbon continues to teach in the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Junior Josh Hogan, the student he allegedly harassed, says IU has not sufficiently protected him and other students.
IU’s definition of sexual harassment includes “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity,” according to the university’s sexual misconduct policy.
McGibbon’s behavior violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy and Code of Academic Ethics, according to a September 2019 decision letter to Hogan from Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Eliza Pavalko.
In that letter, Pavalko told Hogan that McGibbon’s interactions with him were “unwelcome and reasonably interpreted as amorous, romantic, and sexual in nature and they were sufficiently severe, pervasive, and persistent to create a hostile environment for you.”
McGibbon “engaged in sexual harassment” and “exhibited a pattern of singling out some students and giving them undue attention,” Pavalko wrote.
She recommended Level Two Sanctions — the highest tier of punishment for a violation of IU’s sexual misconduct policy — and imposed six specific sanctions, including barring McGibbon from interacting with Hogan and directing plays while Hogan is a student.
This semester, McGibbon teaches 33 students in three acting and directing classes.
When asked to respond to a detailed list of questions and allegations, McGibbon sent the following statement through his lawyer, Anthony Paganelli:
“Prof. McGibbon’s ability to dispute false claims against him is substantially constrained by both the confidentiality of the Title IX process and by the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). Prof. McGibbon’s conduct was thoroughly investigated by the University’s Office of Institutional Equity in 2019. Professor McGibbon fully cooperated with the investigation. He and the student in question are both required to maintain the confidentiality of that process, and Prof. McGibbon will continue to do so despite any improper public attacks against him. The matter was closed over a year ago, and Prof. McGibbon has complied in all respects with the University’s decision.”
Though individuals involved in IU investigations are encouraged to maintain privacy, Emily Springston, IU’s Director of Institutional Equity and Title IX, said in an email, “While the university cannot speak about specific student and employee matters, we do not prohibit other individuals from talking about matters during and after investigations.”
McGibbon’s presence hurts the department’s overall culture, a department staff member who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from McGibbon told the Indiana Daily Student.
“Our students don’t feel safe or comfortable in our department, and he’s a part of that,” the staff member said.
Two other people accused McGibbon of misconduct during IU’s Title IX investigation into Hogan’s allegations, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney confirmed in an email. One alleged sexual harassment. The other alleged racial discrimination.
Pavalko determined McGibbon only violated the sexual misconduct policy for one complaint, Carney said. Documents show this complaint was Hogan’s.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal funding. At IU, the Office of Institutional Equity handles Title IX complaints.
The report from the Title IX investigation into Hogan’s allegations states McGibbon’s behavior made “students uncomfortable and uneasy, while also feeling they did not have the ability to speak up or raise concerns at the time, because of [McGibbon’s] role and authority within the Department and his directorial power.”
The report’s recommendation to Pavalko states there was “evidence of a pattern by [McGibbon] of identifying new, beginning students, and engaging in behavior that is outside of the professional and academic boundaries expected.”
During a department-wide Zoom call in August, Hogan sent a public message: “why is a known, sex offender, proven guilty by IU, still teaching at IU”?
“why is a known, sex offender, proven guilty by IU, still teaching at IU”?
— Junior Josh Hogan sent this message in a department-wide Zoom call
Springston said in an email that IU’s process does not use terms such as “guilty” and “not guilty” because it is not akin to a criminal court. Rather, Title IX investigation reports involving faculty are sent to Pavalko, who issues decisions and sanctions.
Springston and Pavalko declined to comment on specific cases, citing privacy laws.
“I want to stress that IU takes all reports of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or discrimination of any kind very seriously,” Pavalko said in an email.
The words Hogan messaged during the Zoom call caused graduate student Jamie Anderson to process that she might have been sexually harassed by McGibbon the night before.
“I think if we don’t do something drastic now,” Anderson said, “this program is going to be considered one of the most unsafe spaces to be for just about anyone.”
In 2018, McGibbon cast Hogan, now 21, as the only undergraduate student in a controversial mainstage play he directed and gave the then-freshman individual attention that Hogan says left him traumatized.
He says McGibbon took him on a daytrip for lunch and a movie, invited him on an all-expenses paid trip to Greece, asked him to stay back alone at night after a cast readthrough at his house, told him he loved him, changed a scene in the show to expose Hogan’s body, called him almost daily to chat about matters unrelated to the show and offered him alcohol underage, according to the Title IX investigation report and interviews with Hogan.
McGibbon asked Anderson just before 9 p.m. Aug. 26 to join a Zoom call, according to an email. Anderson said during the call he told her he wanted to meet regularly like that and told her he “wasn’t trying to seduce” her.
Students have accused McGibbon of repeatedly giving undue attention to new, young students; offering alcohol to underage students; texting, emailing and calling students late at night unrelated to their work together; and asking students to spend time with him individually, unrelated to their educational work.
Linda Pisano, chair of the theater department, declined to comment on specific allegations.
She sent the IDS a general statement saying in part that the department wants “all our students to have a learning environment in which they feel safe and encouraged.”
The lines between professor and student easily blur in theater. Acting demands openness and trust. Violating that trust can damage a student actor’s academic success.
The role Hogan auditioned for in 2018 required vulnerability. The actor had to break down crying during auditions.
While McGibbon was Anderson’s directing instructor in fall 2019, she says she confided in him about her history with sexual violence and PTSD.
Hogan and Anderson said McGibbon’s actions and IU’s response caused their mental health to severely decline. The potential to run into McGibbon made them feel unsafe attending certain classes and shows. Hogan said he has seriously considered leaving IU.
McGibbon’s comments on the Zoom call with Anderson worsened her post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, she said. Hogan said he’s suffered from sleep paralysis and anxiety since he reported his allegations against McGibbon.
Asked how students can feel safe when a professor found to have sexually harassed a student can still teach, Springston said in an email that her office works with campus and department leaders to “take appropriate preventive measures when responding to reports and conducting formal investigations.”
“IU definitely wants students to feel safe and supported,” Springston said.
McGibbon has taught at IU since 1996. He makes the fourth highest salary in his department.
Name Position 2020–21 Salary
Jonathan R. Michaelsen Professor, director of graduate studies $129,206
Linda Pisano Department chair $94,719
Elizabeth Limons Shea Contemporary dance program director $89,775
Murray McGibbon Associate professor $78,079
SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE UNIVERSITY CONTROLLER
Opinions of McGibbon in the department are mixed, current and former students said. Two IU alumnae said McGibbon taught them more than any other instructor because of his straightforward coaching style.
Students said rumors about McGibbon began in 2014.
McGibbon teaches three acting and directing classes in the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Students said they don’t feel safe in the department while he is allowed to continue teaching.
Former students said McGibbon’s behavior has made students uncomfortable since at least 2008.
McGibbon allegedly requested undergraduate women, including freshmen, attend auditions in bikinis in 2008, 2014 and 2016. Two women said he took photographs in 2014 and 2016.
Two theater staff members with professional experience said no one should ever be asked to remove clothing for auditions and called McGibbon’s alleged requests unacceptable.
During 2018 theater auditions, the week before classes started, Hogan tried out for a show McGibbon was directing. Hogan hadn’t declared a major yet. He wasn’t aware of his rights as a student actor. The department has general audition guidelines but does not have specific written policies explaining unacceptable types of interactions between directors like McGibbon and students.
McGibbon called Hogan into his office during the audition week and said he needed to learn more about the freshman’s personal life before deciding whether to cast him, Hogan said.
McGibbon ultimately cast Hogan as the only undergraduate in “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” a four-person play centered around a family that falls apart after the father falls in love with a goat named Sylvia.
An IU news story called the show “arguably the most controversial theatrical performance presented at IU Bloomington.” In 2018, McGibbon told the IDS he had pushed to direct this play at IU since 2002, calling it “a once-in-a-lifetime play” that would “cause a lot of discussion.”
Hogan seized the opportunity to establish himself as an actor through the role McGibbon awarded him. He said McGibbon bragged about other students he’d guided into successful careers. Hogan assumed the director was taking him under his wing.
McGibbon has wielded power over students through his authority as a faculty member, connections in the competitive theater industry and ability to cast students in roles for performances that are key to their education.
“Josh was definitely trying to ignore the problematic nature of the situation,” said junior Ben Ballmer, Hogan’s close friend and roommate.
McGibbon’s interactions with Hogan violated professional boundaries, Pavalko wrote in her decision letter.
He asked Hogan to stay at his house alone after a cast readthrough and offered him wine, according to interviews with Hogan and allegations in the Title IX investigation report.
Emails show McGibbon invited Hogan to spend a day with him alone in Nashville, Indiana, to have lunch and see a movie.
Date: Sept. 1, 2018 at 2:26 PM
From: Murray McGibbon
To: Josh Hogan
Maybe we could go there for a walkabout and have lunch at the Hobknob restaurant? Try and find a mid afternoon showing of Christopher Robin?
Let me know where I should pick you up, and what time…
Sent from my iPad
McGibbon also invited Hogan on a paid trip to Greece after his ex-wife couldn’t go, according to emails between the two and interviews with Hogan. McGibbon confirmed to IU Title IX investigators that these incidents happened.
McGibbon called and messaged Hogan almost daily to talk about matters unrelated to their work together, Hogan said. McGibbon left voicemails when Hogan didn’t answer, a screenshot shows.
At the end of one of the calls, McGibbon said “I love you” and later emailed Hogan to say his love didn’t need to be reciprocated, according to interviews with Hogan and allegations in the Title IX investigation report.
Hogan deleted that email so he wouldn’t have to see it anymore, he said.
Later in the rehearsal process, McGibbon said he couldn’t wait on an intimacy coordinator to start directing a kissing scene, asking Hogan to run it several times in a row while he watched, Hogan recalled.
McGibbon chose for Hogan to appear in a scene wearing only a towel, Hogan said. McGibbon said he asked Hogan about this choice and Hogan “thought it was a cool idea,” according to the report.
Hogan said he felt he had “no option but to go along with [McGibbon’s] frequent outreach, contact and invitations, given [McGibbon’s] directing and decision-making power,” according to the investigation report.
The report found “evidence of quid pro quo sexual harassment.”
McGibbon “denies some of these interactions happened, and with others, he has indicated they were minor or only done to help [Hogan], and were not of a sexual or amorous nature,” according to the report. He denied Hogan was ever at his house alone, according to the report.
McGibbon was “adamant that his actions toward [Hogan] were the actions of a concerned, involved faculty member,” the report said.
He said he took Hogan to Nashville because he was a new student and “his audition was not good,” according to the report. He “saw something” in Hogan and believed he could do better.
McGibbon said Hogan “looked right for the part [in “The Goat”], as he looked young, which the role required,” according to the report.
McGibbon told Title IX investigators he “acted impetuously” when he invited Hogan to Greece, which he called a “stupid” decision.
He could not recall ever telling Hogan “I love you,” according to the report, but said he refers to people in conversation as “love,” which is common in South Africa, where he is from.
McGibbon told IU investigators he communicates with students mostly for scheduling arrangements and does not socialize much with students outside of rehearsals, according to the report.
He said he offers alcohol when he hosts cast parties, but announces that students under 21 can’t drink, the report said.
The report said McGibbon told investigators the rehearsal period for “The Goat” was happy and successful.
Anderson, the graduate student, started working closely with McGibbon in fall 2019. McGibbon was her main directing instructor. She said they developed a solid line of trust.
On Aug. 26, McGibbon emailed Anderson at 8:43 p.m. to ask if she was up for a quick Zoom call. She isn’t taking classes with McGibbon this semester, so there was no clear educational reason for them to connect.
Anderson said she joined the call, and McGibbon seemed eager to catch up but appeared drunk and disheveled. His hair was unkempt, his face was bright red and the drink in his hand appeared to be alcoholic, she told the IDS. She said McGibbon told her he believed in her talent and wanted to be her adviser and serve on her thesis committee.
He told her he would love to start meeting regularly “like this,” she said.
“It’s not like I’m trying to seduce you or anything,” she recalled him saying.
When Anderson saw Hogan’s message about a sexual offender during the welcome back Zoom call the next day, she said she processed that McGibbon’s behavior the night before was not OK.
The event triggered past trauma, Anderson said. She said she experienced a dissociative episode in public that put her in physical danger and has since started EMDR therapy.
She reported the incident with McGibbon to the Office of Institutional Equity.
“You can’t act like a repeated behavior like this is going to magically disappear, because history has proven otherwise,” Anderson said.
“You can’t act like a repeated behavior like this is going to magically disappear, because history has proven otherwise.”
— Jamie Anderson, graduate student
IU appoints Murray McGibbon to the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
McGibbon is promoted to associate professor, a tenured position.
2008, 2014, 2016
McGibbon asks women to audition in bikinis and have pictures taken, former students say.
Josh Hogan begins his freshman year at IU and auditions for “The Goat,” a show McGibbon is directing.
Aug. – Dec. 2018
During rehearsals for “The Goat,” Hogan says McGibbon:
Took him on a daytrip for lunch and a movie,
invited him on an all-expenses paid trip to Greece,
asked him to stay back alone at night after a cast readthrough at his house,
told him he loved him,
changed a scene in the show to expose his body,
called him daily to chat about things not related to the show
and offered him alcohol underage,
according to interviews with Hogan and Title IX documents.
Dec. 7, 2018
Hogan emails Department Chair Linda Pisano to notify her of “inappropriate practices” involving McGibbon during rehearsals for “The Goat” and asks to set up a meeting.
Dec. 14, 2018
Hogan officially reports McGibbon to IU’s Office of Institutional Equity.
Sept. 11, 2019
An IU administrator sends Hogan a decision letter saying she determined McGibbon had sexually harassed him and “exhibited a concerning pattern.”
Aug. 26, 2020
Graduate student Jamie Anderson joins a Zoom call with McGibbon at his request. She laters reports him for allegedly sexually harassing her on the call.
Failing to hold perpetrators accountable can diminish students’ trust in the Title IX process and deter them from reporting sexual misconduct, said Justine Andronici, a lawyer who represented survivors in sexual abuse cases against Jerry Sandusky.
“If the process fails one victim, it fails every victim,” said Andronici, who is not involved in McGibbon’s case and was speaking generally.
Springston, the Title IX coordinator, said in an email that between 2015 and spring 2020, nine faculty members have left IU-Bloomington in connection with an investigation by her office. Five were fired and four resigned pending an investigation. This included tenured faculty, she said.
Hogan reported to Springston’s office on Dec. 14, 2018, that McGibbon “engaged in inappropriate conduct, including conduct of a sexual nature and making inappropriate advances,” according to the report.
Three months later, in March 2019, Hogan received an email from McGibbon:
It’s been a while
Date: Mar. 26, 2019 at 8:30 AM
From: Murray McGibbon
To: Josh Hogan
It’s been a while and I was just wanting to touch base and see how you are doing. Try and track me down over the course of the next few days and let’s catchup!
Hogan panicked, he said. He thought the Title IX investigators had already put a no-contact order in place.
But they hadn’t informed McGibbon of the investigation yet, emails show. There is no set time frame for investigators to inform an accused faculty member of a complaint, Springston said in an email.
The investigators informed McGibbon of Hogan’s complaint by the next day, according to emails between Hogan and Equity and Title IX Specialist Carol McCord.
McGibbon was also barred from being involved in department shows, meeting with students alone and contacting Hogan in any form until the investigation concluded.
Hogan still had to attend classes in the theater building.
“There was a chance around any corner that I could run into him,” Hogan said.
He received the investigation report in August 2019, eight months after he first met with Title IX investigators McCord and Laura Galloway.
In her September 2019 decision letter, Pavalko issued six specific sanctions:
While Hogan remains an IU student, McGibbon:
Can’t direct plays
Must notify the department chair of any individual projects or thesis committees which he is directing or on which he is serving
Can’t participate in any activities organized, sponsored or overseen by the Student Advisory Board
Must conduct all interactions on campus if they are related to his faculty role
Should not provide or make available alcohol to underage students
Should make every effort to avoid interacting with Hogan in any form
When Hogan graduates, top IU officials will determine whether McGibbon can direct plays again and will consider additional monitoring, according to Pavalko’s letter.
Hogan viewed the sanctions as “a glorified slap on the wrist.”
McGibbon continued teaching.
Hogan said he didn’t realize he could appeal the decision if he did not agree with the sanctions. This option was mentioned in Pavalko’s decision letter.
He quickly saw the sanctions were insufficient, Hogan said.
Nearly two weeks after Hogan received the report, he emailed Pavalko to say he saw McGibbon outside his classroom. Pavalko responded saying, “Given that Prof. McGibbon is still teaching and has some responsibilities that require him to be around the department, it is impossible to ensure that you will not run across him from time to time, either in the building or outside the area.”
In a November 2019 email to Pavalko, Hogan said he saw McGibbon at a public performance in the theater building. He said he couldn’t go because McGibbon was there, though at the time McGibbon’s sanctions did not apply to public events.
Emails show Pavalko modified the sanctions within a week so that Hogan and McGibbon would have to inform the department chair 48 hours in advance if they planned to attend a smaller venue event in the theater department, in addition to mainstage productions. If both of them wanted to attend, McGibbon couldn’t go.
Emails show Pisano also notified Hogan in advance of mainstage shows McGibbon planned to attend.
Still, Hogan wrote to Pavalko five days later: “I am forced to potentially run into the person who harassed me on a near daily basis, I am forced to be in fear of going to any events related to the theatre department, and my experience at IU has become one that is dominated by fear.”
Pavalko responded by summarizing the additional restrictions she imposed on smaller venue events and reminded Hogan that he could have appealed her decision.
She told him to let her know if there were other types of department events not covered by her sanctions she should consider, according to the email.
Hogan felt the university wasn’t doing enough to protect him and others, he said.
Investigators determined the most recent complaint against McGibbon “did not rise to the level of a violation under the current version of the policy,” Carney said in an email. They referred the complaint to Pavalko to determine whether McGibbon’s alleged actions violated other university policies.
The IDS independently confirmed this complaint was Anderson’s.
Anderson said the investigators told her Oct. 12 that McGibbon likely meant his comment as a joke. They didn’t inform McGibbon of her complaint, she said investigators told her.
Her positive working relationship with McGibbon last year also lessened her credibility, she said they told her.
“This is the reason why people don’t come forward,” Anderson said she told investigators.
Pavalko and Springston declined to comment on specific cases and did not respond to a question about whether it would be appropriate for investigators to react to allegations the way Anderson described.
Many students want IU to remove McGibbon from teaching.
“Anything less than the removal of this individual is condoning sexual harassment,” Hogan wrote in the same Nov. 12, 2019, email to Pavalko where he said his time at IU was dominated by fear.
Because the Education Department doesn’t set a threshold for when a faculty member should be fired for a Title IX violation, and IU’s sexual misconduct policy is vague, it’s unclear what warrants a professor’s removal.
Faculty members rarely face serious consequences for Title IX violations, Stanford professor Michele Dauber said.
“Universities have consistently failed to hold sexually harassing faculty accountable and have consistently failed to terminate faculty or to otherwise protect students in cases where faculty have been found to have committed sexual harassment,” said Dauber, who is not involved in McGibbon’s case and spoke generally.
One staff member said faculty who may be aware of the allegations likely avoid talking publicly because McGibbon is one of a small group of tenured theater professors who vote on tenure-track professors’ promotions.
Nine current and former students told the IDS they had heard rumors about McGibbon’s misconduct and tried to steer clear of him.
Staff member Sharai Bohannon, a playwright and house manager, said she lived in Bloomington for less than two weeks before she heard the allegations against McGibbon.
She said she refuses to recruit students, recommend guest artists or advise potential faculty to work at IU as long as McGibbon remains a faculty member. She started at IU in April and said she feels “dirty” working here herself.
“I feel like on some level, everybody knows something is not right here,” she said.
Ballmer, Hogan’s roommate, said Hogan’s distress isn’t just tied to what he alleges McGibbon did.
“I think what’s continuously hurting him is also IU’s response,” Ballmer said.
Hogan said he experienced night terrors and sleep paralysis multiple times a week as the investigation unfolded. He felt ostracized by the relatively small theater community. Other students didn’t talk to him directly about the allegations, but he felt everyone knew.
Hogan has considered leaving IU, but he decided to stay for two reasons: He’s almost done with his degree, and he wants closure. He feels like his efforts to protect other students are far from done.
“If I had known that this process was ahead,” Hogan said, “I probably would have just not said anything.”
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