Jack Lessenberry, head of Wayne State’s journalism department, resigned from WSU on June 22, a WSU spokesperson confirmed.
“I concluded that I could no longer be effective in the current environment, and decided the best thing to do was retire, so that my colleagues, who I deeply respect, could get on with plans for the fall semester,” Lessenberry told The Detroit News.
In May, Lessenberry voluntarily stepped away from all university involvement while an investigation regarding allegations of misconduct with female students was being conducted. Since then, Lee Wilkins, chair of the Department of Communications, has been teaching Lessenberry’s summer course.
The investigation, which is being administered by an independent third party, is still ongoing despite Lessenberry’s resignation and is expected to wrap up within the next few weeks, WSU Director of Communications Matt Lockwood said.
Lessenberry said he had plans to retire from teaching in May 2019 upon the expiration of his contract with the university.
Delainie Wheeler, a junior broadcast journalism student, was scheduled to take a class with Lessenberry this upcoming fall semester.
“I’m so thankful that so many intelligent, strong students spoke out against his actions,” Wheeler said. “This situation, though horrible, has undoubtedly brought together so many journalists in the Detroit community and made it a more welcoming market to work in.”
Lucas Bell, a junior print journalism student, said the Lessenberry situation has been difficult because of the professor’s reputation in the journalism field and his power among colleagues.
“It hurts to hear that somebody that so many students in our program idolized was responsible for hurting some of my female classmates,” Bell said. “I have faith in the rest of our wonderful journalism faculty, and I know that the program will continue to produce the same level of high-quality journalists that we have become known for.
“It is important moving forward that our program leads the way on making sure that this does not happen at [WSU] in the future.”
Lessenberry did not answer phone calls from The South End.