April 22, 2024


Built General Tough

Computer science professor resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations at University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MI – A University of Michigan professor is resigning after sexual misconduct allegations were recently brought to light.

Walter Lasecki, a professor in UM’s computer science and engineering program, is leaving his position, effective Aug. 30, officials said. Michael Wellman, CSE department chairman and professor, sent an email to CSE faculty, staff, post-doctoral and graduate students on May 28, saying Lasecki would have no in-person interaction with UM students effective immediately.

Lasecki allegedly engaged in unwanted advances, including groping and harassment, while at social gatherings and industry conferences, according to reports. UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said UM typically does not comment on personnel matters or investigations by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity.

Wellman followed up his email with a 19-page letter dated June 1 to the same CSE group, responding to questions and frustration from the CSE community regarding the Lasecki allegations and investigation.

MLive/The Ann Arbor News was sent a copy of this letter, which outlines mistakes Wellman said he made, including not taking a more proactive approach to regulate and monitor student interactions with Lasecki, not communicating measures being taken regarding those interactions and not engaging with CSE faculty more actively in the process of restoring trust and confidence in them.

“The bottom line is that our systems are not working well, and it will take collaborative effort to improve them,” Wellman wrote. “That means discussions where we don’t always agree, even though we share goals and moral status.”

A July 2020 investigation by UM’s Office of Institutional Equity determined Lasecki had not committed sexual misconduct or violated the university’s sexual harassment policies, according to Wellman. In his experience on several matters, OIE investigators are professional and seek the truth, Wellman wrote.

However, an independent investigation by the research group Association for Computer Machinery, done after the OIE investigation, found that Lasecki did engage in misconduct and banned him from ACM events for five years, Jim Ormond, ACM media relations specialist, said. Wellman said he knew of the ACM investigation but the organization had never notified him or any official at UM about it.

At the end of his letter, Wellman called on Lasecki to give accounts of his conduct to CSE and the broader community as a way to help with healing. Wellman also called upon himself to examine CSE’s and OIE’s handling of misconduct investigations to learn from this situation.

“Be as transparent as possible about what you learn,” Wellman wrote regarding OIE. “I know there are important limits to this, but consider how we might reasonably and creatively push the envelope on our policies given the compelling interests at stake and the environment we are in.”

Lasecki did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Members of the computer science community from across the country also have signed a letter calling on the academic community and UM to take action in response to the Lasecki case, including:

  • An independent entity reviewing UM’s OIE process.
  • Other universities and departments examining their own reporting policies and practices and committing to addressing sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
  • Professional societies committing to monitoring, aggregating and responding to reports of sexual misconduct at events.
  • Professional societies forming groups of trained student and faculty allies who are made known to attendees who may have less access to networked power.
  • Professional societies should stop serving alcohol at official events.

Lasecki is not the first faculty member in the CSE program to be accused of sexual misconduct.

In February 2020, Jason Mars, an assistant professor of computer science, resigned from his position as CEO of Ann Arbor-based AI startup Clinc after company management received claims of inappropriate behavior by Mars. He was not placed on leave from his position at UM at the time, and his employment status has not changed, Fitzgerald said.

In January 2021, computer science professor Peter Chen was placed on administrative leave after being arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child. His duties for the winter 2021 term were reassigned, university officials said in a statement.

UM has also dealt with more high-profile cases of sexual misconduct and abuse in the last year, including misconduct by former provost Martin Philbert and sexual abuse by late athletic doctor Robert Anderson. Separate reports from Washington, D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale found that university officials knew of misconduct by both Philbert and Anderson but did not take immediate action.


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