University of Tennessee fires architecture adviser after reported abuse at former job

He's out

University of Tennessee fires architecture adviser after reported abuse at former job

Ayres Hall at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Nightryder84/Wikimedia)

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), fired academic adviser Lee Waldrep on December 21 after a damning expose revealed a persistent pattern of predatory abuse by Waldrep at the University of Illinois (UI).

According to a December 16 exclusive by the News-Gazette, investigators at UI discovered Waldrep had sexually harassed eight female students when he was employed as the administrator of undergraduate student services at UI’s School of Architecture. Waldrep resigned in August 2017, likely because the school was going to take disciplinary action.

A headshot of Lee Waldrep
Lee Waldrep (Courtesy the University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

According to the final 2017 report on Waldrep’s behavior, his pattern of abusive behavior was pervasive and continued even after investigators warned him to stay away from female students on March 14 of 2017. Eight complaints against Waldrep were lodged between March and April of 2017.

Besides groping students, giving them unwanted hugs and massages, and cornering students into intimate conversations, Waldrep allegedly harassed students via social media, texts, and calls to their personal phones. Waldrep provided students with academic counseling, helped provide recommendations to big-name firms, and liaised with student groups. Many of his victims reportedly feared speaking out due to the influence Waldrep could wield over their future careers.

“The conduct attributed to Dr. Waldrep did not consist of minor, isolated incidents,” concluded the UI’s report. “Instead, the evidence uncovered during the investigation revealed a pattern of behavior by Dr. Waldrep consisting of giving female students unwelcome attention and physically touching them, causing them emotional stress.”

After the News Gazette’s story came to light, the UTK placed Waldrep, who was serving as an academic advisor at the school’s College of Architecture and Design, on academic leave on December 17. At a morning meeting on December 21, Waldrep was terminated from his post.

According to UTK’s director of media relations Tyra Haag, the school ran the standard background checks on Waldrep but failed to contact the appropriate references. Waldrep had been employed at UTK since March 1, 2018, and according to school officials, had not faced any complaints of inappropriate behavior there. As of today, Waldrep is now barred from both campuses.