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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Title IX official removed from Antonio Callaway case had conflict of interest, UF report says

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) takes a pass reception 63 yards for the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the fourth quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.

(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) takes a pass reception 63 yards for the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the fourth quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.

19

December

After removing a Title IX official from a high-profile student conduct case, then firing him, the University of Florida has found that the official had “both a conflict of interest and lack of independence.”

An internal investigation revealed Chris Loschiavo’s “highly irregular and inappropriate” involvement in an unnamed Title IX case at UF. Emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show the case is that of Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who was accused of sexual assault and later cleared.

As director of student conduct and conflict resolution, Loschiavo oversaw student disciplinary cases and was named the hearing officer in Callaway’s case this summer.

But Callaway’s attorneys raised concerns.

They pointed to Loschiavo’s high-paid consulting work for the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. Loschiavo earned up to $6,000 a day for consulting on Title IX issues for NCHERM and had regular communication with the group's top officials. 

The complainant’s counsel, John Clune, served on the advisory board of ATIXA, the Association of Title IX administrators, which falls under the NCHERM Group umbrella. 

Given Loschiavo's involvement with the NCHERM Group, that created a conflict of interest, Callaway’s attorneys said.

And despite being a neutral hearing officer, Loschiavo was emailing advice to the complainant’s side, Callaway’s attorneys said.

“The university was allowing one individual to be the prosecutor, the investigator, the judge,” said Huntley Johnson, who represented Callaway. “The dean's office had run amok as far as they were having secret consultations with the attorneys for the other side. The conflicts between Mr. Loschiavo and Mr. Clune were egregious.”

Clune said Monday he had never heard of Loschiavo before working on the case. And he reiterated his own concerns about UF’s handling of the issue. After Loschiavo’s removal, UF brought in Jacksonville lawyer and Gators booster Jake Schickel to hear the case. Clune cried foul, but UF stood by Schickel, and Callaway was cleared in early August.

"That’s amazing,” Clune wrote in an email Monday. “They insert a UF football booster to judge a UF football player’s rape case, yet the conflict they care about is the part-time consulting work that an employee does for an organization that helps schools prevent and respond to campus rape.  UF might be the most tone deaf institution I’ve seen all year."

UF’s report goes into detail about Loschiavo’s work outside of UF. Among other issues, the university found that Loschiavo did not always take vacation time when he traveled for outside engagements. At least three times, Loschiavo traveled to teach at the Gehring Academy, sponsored by the Association for Student Conduct Administration, without taking vacation. 

ASCA is not affiliated with NCHERM. 

UF also found that Loschiavo was emailing with NCHERM officials while on the clock at UF.

One email from NCHERM’s founder and president, Brett Sokolow, admired the scope of Loschiavo's work for ASCA. 

“It has been an immense amount of work considering I have this other full time job, but I am fortunate in that I work for a very supportive supervisor at a very supportive university,” Loschiavo wrote in response. 

UF’s report also examines Loschiavo’s work on a specific conduct case. This part of the report is heavily redacted, owing to federal student privacy restrictions, according to spokeswoman Janine Sikes. But one section echoes the complaints from Callaway's attorneys that Loschiavo crossed a line in his communications about the case.

“...It was noted that Mr. Loschiavo remained active in the ongoing investigation, receiving details of the investigation and providing guidance to the Title IX investigator overseeing the case,” the report reads. “His involvement in the case after being selected hearing officer is highly irregular and inappropriate. ... As the hearing officer, if he was involved in decision making during the investigation, he would be deemed biased and unable to make a neutral decision at the conclusion of the case.”

It concludes that Loschiavo's continuing involvement in the case signaled a "lack of independence."

UF said no other employees were implicated in the investigation.

“We are not aware of any other concerns with ethics issues in Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution,” Sikes wrote in an email. She said Student Affairs will review the findings to see if UF needs to make any changes.

“We might consider, for example, that two people sign off on employee leave paid by a third party,” she wrote. “We believe this case was isolated but it is always good to review practices and procedures.”

Johnson, Callaway’s attorney, said the report came as no surprise to those at Johnson & Osteryoung.

“In some ways we think the university is making progress, and in other ways they’re dragging their feet,” he said. “The problem is, there are still positions held by people who I believe are corrupt in the dean’s office.”

Callaway, a sophomore from Miami, leads UF with 666 receiving yards and 966 all-purpose yards, despite missing one game with a leg injury. He became the only player in school history to score a touchdown five different ways in his career (passing, receiving, rushing, kick and punt returns).

The No. 20 Gators (8-4) play No. 21 Iowa (8-4) in the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

This blog post has been amended. An earlier version mischaracterized the relationship between NCHERM and ASCA. They are not affiliated with one another.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 1:08pm]

    

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