A University of Washington investigation found that a professor had “inappropriate sexual contact” with a 17-year-old girl who was in an early-entrance program for young students that he was overseeing, the university said Wednesday.
The investigation also found that the professor, John D. Sahr, had a relationship with a graduate student that violated policy against conflict of interest, said university spokesman Victor Balta. The misconduct toward the 17-year-old student occurred a few years later, when Sahr was interim director of the Robinson Center for Young Scholars between 2008 and 2010, Balta said.
The university issued a statement on its investigation Wednesday in a highly unusual move, as schools usually do not publicize the results of internal investigations into employees, even when the misconduct could rise to the level of a crime. The statement refers to the “seriousness of the allegations” in stating that Sahr is banned from campus and interacting with students indefinitely.
Sahr, an electrical engineering professor who also teaches courses for other university departments, did not immediately respond to attempts to reach him for comment. He began working for UW in 1991 and previously served as an associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs.
The University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office, which investigates complaints of misconduct by employees, concluded its investigation into Sahr Tuesday, Balta said. The office will now prepare a written report for Provost Mark Richards, who has the authority to start the lengthy disciplinary procedure for removal of tenure and termination.
One of the former students contacted the university police department and SafeCampus, a UW resource that allows people to speak to safety specialists anonymously, in February, Balta said. He said Sahr was immediately placed on home assignment and was not permitted to interact with students or be on campus.
Balta said the investigation took eight months because this case in particular had a “significant amount of evidence” to review.
The last time UW issued a public statement on an investigation into an employee was after Buzzfeed reported in 2016 on sexual harassment and misconduct investigations into professor and Ebola researcher Michael Katze, who was fired in 2017.