Associate NMSU Dean Steps Down During Investigation Into Porn

LAS CRUCES, N.M.

 An associate dean at New Mexico State University has given up the post while officials investigate allegations that he e-mailed pornography to others at the school.

“Larry Olsen, associate dean of the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University, voluntarily relinquished his position as associate dean pending the outcome of the investigation regarding allegations made within the college’s department of health science,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.

John Moraros, a faculty member whose contract was not renewed last month, said that shortly before that decision, he confronted an NMSU official about pornographic images the official sent him by e-mail and asked him to stop. Moraros said the official told him he would make Moraros disappear from NMSU.

The Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story Thursday that according to the addresses on two e-mails, Olsen was the sender.

Olsen, who has been at NMSU since 2001, said he could not comment.

University Communications said NMSU had no further comment on the ongoing investigation.

The allegations of pornographic e-mails surfaced as part of a controversy over NMSU’s decision not to renew the contracts of Moraros and his wife, Yelena Bird, tenure-track faculty members in the health science department.

Moraros said the contracts were not renewed after the couple complained about the e-mails and about another department official making offensive remarks about minorities.

Department head James Robinson has temporarily stepped down amid the allegations by Moraros and Bird, who contend they are the victims of racial discrimination. Bird is a native of England who is Black, while Moraros is of Greek and Hispanic descent.

Moraros said Olsen had been sending him inappropriate e-mails since 2004. Moraros and graduate student Freedom Cheteni said they’d been exposed to a number of pornographic e-mails from Olsen.

They also said they recently filed complaints with the university. Moraros told the Las Cruces Sun-News that he gave printed copies of the e-mails to the university’s Institutional Equity Office.

“I gave them proof that they found incredibly offensive,” Moraros said. “I don’t trust the university, that’s the bottom line.”

Senior professor Satya Rao, who has been with the college 13 years, said she saw at least two “reprehensible” e-mails from Olsen’s administrative address.

“I saw explicit … pictures of sexual organs and absolutely tasteless sexual content,” she told the Sun-News.

Moraros, who said he considered the e-mails harassment, told the Journal he’d asked university officials several times to examine Olsen’s computer.

“They asked me for proof. … I give them a copy of one of the e-mails, and then all of a sudden, they couldn’t see me anymore,” Moraros said. “That’s when I was forced to go external.”

Cheteni said he saw the e-mails because one of his responsibilities as Moraros’ graduate student was checking Moraros’ account and responding to university e-mails.

“I just thought it was inappropriate,” Cheteni said. “I mean, for God’s sake, it wasn’t his personal e-mail. … It was coming from an NMSU address, and that’s what I was looking for when I was doing my work.”

He said he asked to be relieved of the duty of checking e-mail because of the pornographic e-mails.

Robert Buckingham, the College of Health and Social Services’ most senior faculty member, has called for reconsideration of Moraros and Bird’s contracts. Buckingham, who belongs to the promotion and tenure committee, said the committee reached unanimous consensus at its Jan. 31 meeting in favor of renewing the couple’s contracts.

A day or two later, Buckingham said, Robinson decided against the contracts.

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