An anonymous group of faculty is opposing a job candidate at N.C. State University's College of Education — a professor who was ousted from his previous administrative post at Ohio State University amid a financial misconduct audit.
The faculty candidate, Terrell Strayhorn, apparently was interviewed at NCSU this week. He left Ohio State last year after questions about his travel and an audit that showed improper payments of up to $200,000 for outside speaking engagements while he was director of the university's Center for Higher Education Enterprise. Multiple media reports said Strayhorn had been fired as center director last year, placed on leave and eventually left his faculty position at the university.
Taking the unusual step of emailing the legislature and UNC system officials, the NCSU faculty group sent a letter via email on Tuesday that said, in part: "(W)e are ashamed and embarrassed that he was brought to campus for an interview. We object to the presence of an individual known for abusing his position and his graduate students. Please intervene with Dean Mary Ann Danowitz and the search committee chair, Alyssa Rockenbach, and put a stop to this madness."
The letter was signed by "faculty" but it's unclear who or how many professors were behind it.
Danowitz did not respond to a request for comment, but the university issued a statement regarding Strayhorn's interview. It said: "A faculty search committee in the College of Education decided which candidates to invite to campus to interview for the position. No hiring decision has been made at this point. Before any hiring decision is made, the college will do its due diligence in conducting thorough reference and background checks."
Strayhorn has been a popular and impassioned speaker about student success in college, and in particular, about how students from underrepresented groups need to have a sense of belonging to thrive and graduate. He gave a TED talk on the topic called "Inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Belonging."
The professor and researcher could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But earlier this year, Strayhorn published a long defense on the website Medium, titled, "An Open Letter to Create Closure: Why I Left Ohio State."
He insisted that he left Ohio State on his own volition and said the allegations against him were unsupported. "I worked extremely hard — and successfully — to balance my responsibilities as a university professor and center director with a growing national speaking portfolio," he wrote, adding that the Ohio State audit found "no willful violations of policy."
He said after an "incredibly difficult" and "psychologically exhausting" few months, he decided it was time to leave Ohio State and find a new academic home. He wrote that he could have stayed to fight the accusations that he "took cash" for speaking, as opposed to earning a respectable honorarium.
Published reports have said Strayhorn was accused of inappropriate conduct with an employee, a former doctoral student. According to a 2017 story in the online publication Inside Higher Ed, there was insufficient evidence to support a prohibited sexual relationship between Strayhorn and the employee but Ohio State found that there was "the appearance of favoritism and possible conflict of interest related to the student." The story also said there were questions surrounding the way Strayhorn represented his qualifications, listing on his resume a master of law degree that he had not completed.
Strayhorn, who is African-American, said he was proud of his work at Ohio State, including overseeing four black male students who earned Ph.D.s in 2015.
"The facts have always been on my side," Strayhorn wrote in his Medium post. "But I recognize that a good controversy doesn't always concern itself with facts. And no matter how much you wish to be treated fairly, and equitably, judged on the basis of your own merits and contributions, some of us are positioned in the world such that we will always be presumed guilty before proven innocent."
Strayhorn's Twitter account lists him as the founder and CEO of a company, @dogoodwork LLC. A website says he is available for speaking engagements.