May 19—In response to a renowned retired Southern Oregon University professor's recent conviction for stalking a former student, the Ashland institution said it has removed the faculty member's name from an award and will continue to help the victim.
Joe Mosley, director of community and media relations, conveyed the university's position in an email to the newspaper on Monday — about a week after Paul Pavlich appeared in Jackson County Circuit Court to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of stalking.
"The university continues to gather whatever information may be available," Mosley wrote in an email. "Our focus in any situation such as this is to provide all the assistance we can to the victim or victims, and to take whatever steps we can to prevent future incidents."
Asked whether SOU gathering more information on Pavlich meant the school was formally investigating the improper relationship he had with the victim, Mosley said "we're not legally allowed" to talk about personnel issues.
"We can't talk about what's being investigated, what's not being investigated," he said. "We're looking at all information that we can gather."
Mosley could not elaborate about how SOU intends to help the former student, because such resource programs are by nature anonymous.
Mosley echoed a statement issued earlier by Susan Walsh, SOU's provost and vice president for academic affairs, who called the charges against Pavlich a "very serious matter for the university and our students."
Dustin Walcher, professor of history and political science, said the award formerly named after Pavlich, who taught at SOU from 1984 to 2019, was not renamed and instead now simply recognizes an "Outstanding Graduate in Political Science."
Court documents detailing the case and a victim impact statement are sealed, but now that the case is over, the prosecuting attorney on the case confirmed Pavlich's victim was a former student. For privacy and safety concerns, the Mail Tribune opted not to use that person's name.
Pavlich and the student engaged in an affair in 2020 and 2021, when neither were associated with SOU, according to prosecutors. Once the affair ended in the summer of 2021, records show Pavlich retaliated the following fall and winter, sending her dozens of emails she did not return; breaking into her home to steal items; and then trespassing to humiliate her at an Ashland-based business, where she worked.
As terms of a plea deal, charges that included a felony burglary charge and misdemeanor counts of theft, criminal mischief and criminal trespass were dropped against Pavlich in exchange for the guilty plea on the stalking charge. Under Oregon law, stalking is a Class A misdemeanor.
According to the May 12 judgment, Pavlich agreed to report to the county supervisory authority on June 7 and was sentenced to 20 days in jail, 18 months of bench probation. He also had to surrender any firearms; pay a $100 fine and some restitution; and have no contact with the victim, that person's property or workplace.
In his email, Mosley said SOU "does everything in its power to ensure that faculty maintain professional relationships with students," since a power imbalance exists between them. That is one of the reasons why The Conflict of Interests Specific to Consensual Relationships policy exists, he wrote. The policy was approved in early 2006, but can be revised at any time.
Mosley wrote that anyone who is concerned a potential violation of the policy may have occurred can reach out to SOU's Office of Equity Grievance.
He went on to write that, in addition to the consensual relationships policy, SOU requires that all employees must complete a sexual harassment training every two years.
"Our conflict of interest policy is very clear, and our mandatory training program is robust and frequently updated," Mosley wrote in an email.
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.