Victoria Williard Title IX sexual harassment DSU dixie state universityDixie State University is in the news again for yet another controversial incident involving many of the same administrators and cohorts as have been involved in almost every other case against the embattled school. The Salt Lake Tribune reported a story May 30 about a former student who alleges the school mishandled a Title IX complaint she filed. Victoria Willard alleged sexual harassment and other misconduct in a formal complaint filed in 2016 that detailed incidents spanning over a period beginning in 2014. She also now alleges that the school retaliated against her for making the complaint and may have illegally abused Title IX authority to do it.

This should come as little surprise as the school is accumulating quite a track record of abuses to civil liberties and the carrying out of personal agendas under color of law and sovereign immunity.

Willard was granted a conduct hearing, not for her own case to be heard but rather for the case that was arbitrarily and capriciously brought against her in response to her complaint. In fact, during this hearing, she learned of at least one other charge she was unaware of and had the unbelievable experience of having one of the men she filed a complaint against sit in and testify against her during the preceding.

And the outcome was predictable. They expelled her without due process under color of law but, in an odd but familiar pattern, gave her a bachelor’s degree — as some sort of proverbial olive branch, one can only assume.

A news story is governed somewhat by describing who, what, when, and where and avoiding opining on the matter. The nature of news reporting being as such, Alex Stuckey did a fine job of reporting the facts of the case as they are at present.

But here, I will opine if for no other reason than to ask some hard and relevant questions pertaining to the story.

Questions like why DSU has only had a Title IX office since 2015 when the legislation has been around since 1972. We are talking about a public university here, one that wishes with much fervor that it could be seen as equal among its peers. And how many Title IX issues has the school handled or mishandled?

Questions like how the school’s Title IX coordinator, Cindy Cole, also acts in the capacity of associate general counsel to the school. Would it not be a conflict of interest for the investigation of a Title IX case, whereby culpability by the school in the incident could be discovered, for the school’s attorney to conduct said investigation?

And how exactly is it legal for the school to use the content of a Title IX complaint by a student to make a Title IX complaint against her? (It’s not.) And incidentally, how many women has the school either fired or administratively removed since President Biff Williams took the job? According to one source on campus, that number could be over 30.

But perhaps the most glaring question of all is why the administration arbitrarily gave her a degree that she had neither completed nor asked for if they were in fact expelling her for disciplinary reasons.

The school has a track record of of making outside-of-the-norm deals with people to persuade them leave quietly (former history professor Joel Lewis, for example). But in this case in particular, it was not just a monetary settlement; it was an erroneous and false declaration of academic accomplishment made by a university — not an honorary degree for work completed and honored in a field but simply a payoff.

This smacks of a guilty conscience.

And that is perhaps where the focus of this story needs to be. In fact, Willard stated that regardless of what one thinks about the allegations the school haphazardly brought to bear against her, the point is how it handled it. How it has always handled it. And how it will continue to handle it if it is not exposed.

There is an old saying from the intelligence world stating that when questioned, one should admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter accusations. A close look at several of the cases currently against the school reveals that this is precisely the school’s modus operandi with the added advantage of a corrupt and paid-for police force and a complicit board of trustees and regents, local city government, and justice court to carry out its misdeeds.

The insinuation that the school was retaliating is not novel. It is relevant because there is evidence to support such a claim.

Beneath an ominous barcode painted on a drop-down portion of the ceiling in the very performing arts building where Willard once took classes resides a quote by George Orwell. It says, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Willard telling the truth about the goings on at the school, particularly in regards to how it handles the civil liberties and Title IX protections afforded all students — but especially women — got her nothing short of a retaliatory response, one that robbed her not only of her freedom to pursue an education at this or any public university but also of her dignity. This expulsion is permanently etched on her record, leaving her with only one recourse: to seek remedy under the law, a process that is arduous, lengthy, expensive, and emotionally and physically damaging.

What can be ascertained from this, however, is that this particular woman may well be one who will not simply go away as many others do when faced with the seemingly insurmountable odds of seeing justice done. No, this one might be up for the fight. And between her and a few others, a reckoning for those at the school who persist in this behavior may be forthcoming.

See you out there.

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Dallas Hyland is a professional technical writer, freelance writer and journalist, award-winning photographer, and documentary filmmaker. As a senior writer and editor-at-large at The Independent, Hyland’s investigative journalism, opinion columns, and photo essays have ranged in topics from local political and environmental issues to drug trafficking in Utah. He has also worked the international front, covering issues such as human trafficking in Colombia. His photography and film work has received recognition as well as a few modest awards and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Based in southern Utah, he works tirelessly at his passion for getting after the truth and occasionally telling a good story. On his rare off-days, he can be found with his family and friends exploring the pristine outdoors of Utah and beyond.