ATHENS, Ga. -- A prominent University of Georgia researcher must schedule visits to his own office and can no longer make personnel decisions affecting members of his research team after he was found in violation of UGA’s harassment policy.
Paul Roman, an expert in substance abuse treatment, created a hostile work environment for female employees, and retaliated against one of them after she filed a complaint about his behavior, UGA officials found.
“In particular, there were mutually corroborating reports of your making comments to individual employees or in group settings, directly or by innuendo, of a sexual nature or that were otherwise demeaning to women or otherwise inappropriate within the context of the (Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment) Policy,” former UGA Director of Equal Opportunity Stephen Shi wrote in a letter to Roman last May.
Roman holds the title of Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and earlier this year was named a Regents Professor, one of the University System of Georgia’s highest academic honors, which includes a $10,000 raise. He is director of the Center for Research on Behavioral Health and Human Services Delivery, a part of the William A. and Barbara R. Owens Institute for Behavioral Research, and has brought in more than $33 million in grant funding to UGA over the past 25 years.
Roman appealed the decision and his punishment, but UGA President Michael Adams denied the appeal.
“It is clear that the policies and procedures of the university were followed in your case and that the sanctions imposed are appropriate and not unreasonably harsh based on the circumstances,” Adams wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to Roman.
“Taken together, the evidence establishes by a clear preponderance that (Roman) has engaged in conduct over a relatively long period that has not only been unpredictably irrational in terms of the behaviors involving expressions of extreme anger, frustration or other strong and visible emotion, but (violated UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy),” Shi wrote in a separate memo. “Numerous employees spoke of their high levels of anxiety over coming to work each day due to the unpredictability, and according to some, increasingly demonstrative bullying ...”
Shi also said Roman was more negative toward female staff members than males — a charge Roman denied. If women received more negative comments, it is because most of his senior scientists over the years were women, Roman said.
“I do not agree with the assertion that I sexually harass the staff of my shop,” Roman wrote to Shi following a May meeting with the Equal Opportunity Office director.
Roman also denied threatening or demanding apologies from a woman who had talked with investigators in Shi’s office about another worker’s previous complaint about Roman’s conduct. The woman and Roman at one point had a loud confrontation or argument, overheard by other workers in the center.
“My sole concern was with a pattern of duplicity that was beginning to accumulate and which I found to be unacceptable,” Roman wrote to Shi.
UGA released the letters and other documents under an Athens Banner-Herald open records request.
At one point, Roman suggested in the presence of workers and others that a woman present in the lab for a job interview could be the “entertainment” for someone’s bachelor party, Shi wrote.
Roman said he didn’t recall that ever happening.
UGA officials spelled out new rules for Roman following the university’s investigation. He is allowed to visit his office in Barrow Hall two days a week and must give research scientists who work with him 24 hours notice of any other visits to Barrow Hall. Roman’s hours were not restricted for his second office, which is in UGA’s Baldwin Hall.
Now, meetings with the research staff also must be scheduled regularly, with a printed agenda, according to rules for Roman laid down by Garnett Stokes, the former dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Meetings with his senior research scientists must be group meetings, and only on the days Roman is regularly scheduled to be in Barrow Hall, according to the rules laid down by Stokes.
Administrators also told Roman that his emails must be strictly about work and professional matters, and that he must send copies of emails to other administrators in the Franklin College and in the Institute for Behavioral Research. Roman was also ordered to take an anger-management course.
The sociologist is also prohibited from making personnel evaluations about three research scientists who work on his research team except in consultation with outside administrators.