Winona State University (WSU) released limited data Friday about the dismissal last fall of former dean of the College of Business James William "Bill" Murphy. According to university officials, Murphy's employment was terminated because of "inappropriate" contact with a number of adult students.
Following his termination, Murphy's union filed a grievance asserting he was entitled to more than $33,000 in severance pay. According to the settlement agreement reached between Murphy and the university, WSU will deposit $3,500 into Murphy's health savings account, along with $1,600 he will be paid in the event he is denied additional benefits that he may be entitled to under the agreement. The agreement said Murphy would be allowed COBRA insurance coverage. He was not awarded severance pay.
Murphy was fired in September 2012 after an investigation was completed into allegations of sexually-explicit contact with students. The Winona Post requested public information about the dismissal at that time; however, because of the grievance process, the university was unable to release data on the issue until now, said WSU Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications Cristeen Custer.
"The inappropriate interaction appears to have been directed at a small number of adult male students, primarily in the College of Business, and involved highly personal sexually-orientated discussions and, in some instances, requests to photograph the students in various degrees of dress," read a letter from WSU President Scott Olson to students, alumni and faculty that was sent Friday.
Custer said an outside investigator examined Murphy's office, including his computer, a camera, and any other device capable of storing data. The investigation showed that at least 16 students were subject to the "inappropriate" contact from Murphy, confirmed Custer, who said if other students come forward, the university has resources to help.
"If you believe that you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or other inappropriate sexual conduct, we strongly encourage you to report the behavior to the university's Affirmative Action Officer," wrote Olson in the letter. "[W]e want you to know that the university has a variety of support services available to students at no additional cost, including counseling, advising, and tutoring, and we encourage any student—for whatever reason—to seek out these services if needed."