Students came together May 22 to rally for the termination of Wayne State professor and head of the journalism department, Jack Lessenberry, following the release of allegations of misconduct with former and current female students.
Lessenberry stepped away from university involvement following accusations of having a history of misconduct with female students at WSU in an article published by Deadline Detroit on May 17.
President M. Roy Wilson decided to conduct an independent investigation using an outside entity. The investigator, whose name has not been released, has been given full authority to investigate accusations against Lessenberry.
Lessenberry has voluntarily stepped aside for the duration of the investigation.
Senior broadcast journalism student Patrick Gumbleton and former broadcast student Emily Krueger organized the protest to, “encourage [WSU] to take meaningful, and proper action against professor, lecturer and journalism area head [Lessenberry],” Krueger said.
“He is not the kind of person we feel should be representing our university, or the journalism program,” Krueger said. “It’s important the proper faculty and administration are aware of our strong feelings to have his teaching privileges revoked.”
Maryam Jayyousi, a junior journalism student, started a petition against Lessenberry on Change.org addressed to Wilson and a website, TimesUpWSU, dedicated to raising awareness about the allegations.
“Despite concern from students, the university has defended him at every turn,” the website stated. “We want Lessenberry fired and an independent investigation against all who enabled him to continue working at the university.”
Jayyousi said WSU did not take action when she reported being a victim of sexual assault near campus and this concerns her for how the university will handle the Lessenberry allegations.
“[WSU] did literally nothing as my rapist continued to float on through his life and education, I find it hard to believe that they’ll protect me or any other students from Lessenberry’s predatory behavior in the future,” she said.
Krueger said the university needs to take official action and that Lessenberry stepping aside for the summer term is not sufficient.
“You [WSU] need to announce, as a university, as an organization that you don’t stand behind this and you don’t support this and you need to suspend this person,” Krueger said. “We’re trying to get WSU to take action and to take responsibility for what’s going on and what has gone on for decades. They need to take Michigan State University as an example and they need to look at their predecessors instead of falling in line.”