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Templeton denies harassment

Testimony concludes at Helena hearing

 

July 16, 2014

John Paul Schmidt

Former Montana State University-Northern Provost Rosalyn Templeton speaks Tuesday in Helena to the hearing officer about the allegations of sexual harassment against her.

HELENA - The final day of the Randy Bachmeier v. Montana State University-Northern hearing wrapped up Tuesday with former provost Rosalyn Templeton's testimony.

Bachmeier alleges sexual harassment from Templeton, but the former provost denied wrongdoing and said hugging and touching was a family tradition as a way of showing support.

Bachmeier is asking the Montana Human Relations Bureau to award him $100,000 in emotional damages, which he said were caused by Templeton, and $50,000 for economic damages, which he said he will experience because he will not be able to pursue any other position at MSU-Northern due to the retaliation he believes he will experience after filing the sexual harassment complaint against the former provost.

In the Commissioner of Higher Education office building in Helena, Templeton waited to be questioned at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

MSU attorney Betsy Griffing was first to question Templeton and she began by asking about her background, both personal and educational.

"My family was loud," Templeton said. "I was considered the quiet one."

Templeton, 62, said her family was an affectionate family - lots of touching, hugging and so forth - and that they were very religious.

She spoke of her son, daughter and grandchildren, telling about her daughter moving to Havre and how life became difficult for both of them after the incidents leading up to the hearing surfaced publicly.

"It's been incredibly hard," she said, adding that Havre is a very closely knit community in which she felt repercussions after information got out. Her daughter has also experienced repercussions after newspaper articles about the sexual harassment complaint and public hearing came out, she said.

Templeton moved to Havre in 2010 after being hired as provost at MSU-Northern. Before she moved, she worked at Marshall University in West Virginia, where she was a dean.

She said that within days of her beginning her work at MSU-Northern, knowledge of a scandal she was a part of at her previous university was spread to the faculty of MSU-Northern, and she found herself retaliated against from the beginning.

"It showed that faculty was hostile - some faculty," Templeton said.

Later in the hearing, Heenan asked her if it were true that 47 faculty members complained about her in 78 grievances while she was at Marshall, which she admitted was true.

She added that because the university was in poor shape when she arrived, she had to pursue changes that would make the faculty uncomfortable and frustrated. She said she was shocked by the state of Northern when she arrived.

Current MSU-Northern Chancellor James Limbaugh became her new supervisor in January 2012.

"He had a vision for the college," Templeton said. "It was dynamic. It caused a lot of stress."

She began an accreditation review of all the colleges and ended up cutting or putting into moratorium 33 percent of the courses at the university.

"We could no longer continue to run under-enrolled courses," she said.

An evaluation made by the staff of Templeton's performance showed that some people were uncomfortable with her touching them.

She said she did not look at the evaluation because there was a low return rate from the staff.

Templeton said the evaluation was obviously going to be negative if it was taken after she made such drastic changes in the university, thus she did not read the evaluation.

Templeton said that after Bachmeier filed a complaint against her, she kept her office doors open even when in private meetings because she did not want anyone to think that she had done something inappropriate.

She added that after the complaint was filed communication between her and the deans, to whom she is a direct supervisor, broke down.

In regard to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Education and Nursing Christine Shearer-Cremean's allegation that Templeton retaliated against her for supporting Bachmeier in the sexual harassment complaint, Templeton said it was because she did not agree with the way Shearer-Cremean did her job.

"If there was any anger, it was about her not being a dean," Templeton said.

College Chair of the College of Education, Arts and Sciences and Nursing Norton Pease testified that Templeton made repeated vulgar comments in front of himself and others at a meeting.

Templeton testified that she had made some of the comments, though she did not view them as vulgar.

Templeton was asked to describe Bachmeier's demeanor and said "he has a quiet personality," was reserved and spoke softly.

"He didn't want to bring a lot of attention to himself," Templeton said.

She said she thought he was an outstanding, model employee and felt there was no need to look outside the university when the dean of extended university position opened.

When Bachmeier became a dean, Templeton became his immediate supervisor.

Templeton said she only recalls two specific times where she touched Bachmeier, but that does not mean there were not more instances.

When Bachmeier received a verbal reprimand from Limbaugh, she touched him on the arm consolingly when he seemed emotional about the punishment.

"Because I saw that he was visibly upset," Templeton said.

The second time was at the dinner at Limbaugh's house, when she saw he was being teased for getting dessert. She said she touched his shoulder in a consoling way and told him he should have some.

Templeton said she never once saw and sensed Bachmeier drawing away from her or having any negative reaction to her touch and that she was surprised when she received notice that he had filed a complaint against her.

She also said during the hearing that she never saw anyone have a negative reaction to her touching them. She said the touches were tame and not uncommon in the workplace.

"In a work environment, there is touching in normal day-to-day activities," Templeton said. " ... I did not touch employees the way I touched family members," with affection.

Bachmeier alleged that Templeton retaliated against him after an April 30, 2013, meeting where she touched him and he asked her to "please stop."

Templeton said she does not recall the meeting or Bachmeier ever telling her to stop touching him.

Bachmeier said that the same day he asked her to stop, she came to his office with Shearer-Cremean and yelled at him for signing off on a travel form.

Templeton said she did not yell, but was frustrated and confused as to why he would do it and went to talk to him calmly. She said Shearer-Cremean said she needed to talk to Bachmeier as well and that once Templeton was done talking to him, Shearer-Cremean stayed behind to talk care of her business with him.

In Shearer-Cremean's testimony in June, she said that she had no idea what was going on that day and did not know why she was asked to join Templeton to Bachmeier's office.

Attorneys will have to wait three weeks for the transcript of the hearing. Sept. 5, their proposal for decisions are due and on Sept. 19, they may submit simultaneous replies to the proposals.

Hearing Officer Terry Spear will make his decision after he receives the simultaneous replies.

 

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