Previously investigated professor will not teach, advise in spring


University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto met with faculty from the College of Communication and Information on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Tenured journalism professor Buck Ryan will no longer be teaching courses or fulfilling his duties as an adviser in the spring 2019 semester.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton declined to speak on the reason Ryan will no longer be teaching, but said a college’s dean reserves the right to decide what courses are taught each semester and what faculty are asked to teach those courses. 

Factors that may influence the dean’s decision “may include whether students sign up or register for a particular course, how do students evaluate the instructor in a course, or whether there are complaints about the instructor or faculty member,” according to Blanton.

But Ryan is contending that his inability to teach next semester is simply the result of the university’s “latest efforts to weaponize the Title IX office to smear me with false claims.”

A student, who asked that her name not be used, told the Kernel she had submitted a Title IX complaint to university officials earlier in November detailing inappropriate behavior from Ryan. The student said the officials in the Office of Institutional Equity and Equality took concern with the fact that Ryan had been texting and calling her outside of class time and on weekends, and even offered her tickets to a UK football game. When she declined the tickets, she said Ryan offered the tickets to another student in the class. 

The Office of Institutional Equity and Equality is the university entity that enforces the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

“It was something where a professor grooms you for success, but it always felt weird,” the student said.

Ryan told the Kernel that in his contact with the student in question he acted “not only appropriately but professionally at all times.”

“I received two football tickets I could not use and offered them to several students, male and female, as a courtesy. To think of that gesture in a negative light shows you how warped the university’s Title IX office is,” said Ryan.

It’s unclear whether this allegation has anything to do with Ryan no longer teaching classes. The Kernel contacted Mike Farrell, the interim head of the journalism department and Derek Lane, the interim Dean of the College of Communications. Neither commented on Ryan’s ceasing to teach.

Although Ryan will no longer be fulfilling his teaching or advising duties for the next semester, Blanton confirmed that Ryan is still employed as a tenured professor at UK.

But Ryan says that he is actually welcoming his break from teaching.

“I welcome the sabbatical from teaching in spring as the least the university can do to repay me for a lost summer fighting its false and defamatory claims in my Writing Baby textbook case.

UK had previously initiated termination proceedings against Ryan in May 2018 after an internal audit said that he profited from sales of his self-authored textbook that was required for some of his classes. Ryan was given an opportunity to resign from his post at the time, but declined.

At the time, Ryan claimed that university President Eli Capilouto was targeting him, and that his potential termination was “backlash” from a public interaction he had with President Eli Capilouto in 2016 concerning the university’s lawsuit against the Kernel. Ryan served as interim director of the Kernel in the early 2000s.

Ryan has taught at UK since 1994 and has previously served as the Director of the School of Journalism and Media. In recent years he has repeatedly taught Introduction to Journalism, News Editing, and The Joy of Writing to students in the school.

Ryan’s name previously appeared in the spring 2019 course catalog as the professor for those courses, but his name has since been removed.

In 2015, Ryan was the subject of an investigation conducted by the Office of Institutional Equity and Equality, stemming from allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct while representing UK as a visiting professor at Jilin University in China.

During that investigation, in October 2015 then-Assistant Vice President for Equal Opportunity, Patty Bender wrote in a letter that “more than a preponderance of evidence reveals that Mr. Ryan acted inappropriately in violation of the Discrimination and Harassment policy prohibiting inappropriate touching and language of a sexual nature.”

But in fighting this most recent allegation Ryan said he has provided the university with sufficient evidence to address “every one of the student’s unsubstantiated claims.”

“When the truth is told about my dealings with the Journalism 101 student in question, the story will spread fear among any professor on this campus who goes out of his way to help a student wanting to succeed,” said Ryan.