IOWA CITY, Iowa — A University of Iowa law professor who testified on behalf of a conservative colleague alleging she wasn’t hired because of her conservative viewpoints said the school is retaliating by falsely suggesting he was under investigation for sexual misconduct.
Mark Osiel, a 20-year veteran of the university, testified Tuesday at the federal trial of law school writing center employee Teresa Wagner, a Republican who said she was repeatedly passed over for teaching jobs because of her conservative views and activism.
Osiel testified that Wagner had helped edit his book manuscripts and that she had great talent as an editor. The case is being closely watched in higher education and legal circles because of longstanding allegations of political bias at left-leaning law schools.
While Osiel was on the witness stand, assistant attorney General George Carroll said that Osiel had recently faced a misconduct investigation after someone complained about hearing sexual grunting noises coming from his office at the law school. Carroll argued that information was relevant because it went to Osiel’s credibility.
Osiel, 57, testified that the noises were from him taking part in exercises suggested by doctors to treat medical ailments.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Osiel said he does not believe he was ever under investigation. He said someone did express concern about sexual-type noises coming from his office last spring to an associate dean, but that he explained that it was him doing exercise “which can cause me to emit some sounds which resemble that.” Osiel said he thought the matter was over and was never informed of any formal investigation.
“Raising this issue, which is legally irrelevant to the testimony that I was providing, shows how low the university will stoop in retaliating against its employees of 20 years,” said Osiel, who has written extensively about legal responses to mass atrocity. “The university is manufacturing something for the purposes of the trial.”
In an email Thursday, Osiel said he has been subjected to “unwarranted, unsubstantiated accusations of harassment” by the university. He said he was considering legal options, including a lawsuit for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He said his medical records would prove that he had arthritis in his hip and that physical therapists at university of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics required him to perform certain exercises.
A law school spokesman declined comment.
Wagner’s trial continued in federal court in Davenport on Thursday, with the school putting on its defense. Wagner claims that liberal faculty members passed her over for jobs teaching legal writing because of her prior work for the Family Research Council and the National Right to Life Committee, which oppose abortion rights.
School lawyers have claimed that Wagner was passed over after botching a question during a job interview, which she denies. Osiel said it’s up to the jury to decide whether Wagner faced bias.
“In my testimony, I said that I have a very, very positive view of her skill as an editor, which is what I hired her to do,” he said.