A professor at the University of British Columbia says the institution must tell the public if it took any disciplinary action against psychology professor Stephen Porter after an investigation found he breached multiple university policies.
Dr. Porter, a globally recognized expert on forensic psychology, was temporarily barred from supervising students by the province's College of Psychologists, which said on Friday that he would be under regulatory supervision for 18 months.
In that time, Dr. Porter must address boundary issues and sexual harassment, among other things.
"It is my personal feeling … that the university should take a pro-active role in this process of ensuring that people have a better understanding of what is going on in a public institution," said Jan Cioe, a psychology professor at the university's Okanagan campus, where Dr. Porter also teaches.
Last year, UBC investigated Dr. Porter's conduct after four students came forward with allegations of harassment and the creation of an uncomfortable learning environment.
The investigation found Dr. Porter violated policies on conflict of interest and a respectful environment, reports into the allegations obtained by The Globe and Mail revealed.
The reports were given to two complainants two months after they made requests for them under freedom of information legislation. Changes made last year to the university's policies on sexual harassment and misconduct now automatically provide copies of an investigation and its results to every complainant.
Unless Dr. Porter agrees to have the university disclose whether it took disciplinary action against him, provincial privacy legislation bars the university from releasing that information, UBC said in response to questions from The Globe.
Contravening the legislation could lead to fines as high as $500,000, the university added.
Dr. Cioe contested the university's strict interpretation of the law, arguing the legislation provides exemptions for disclosure of information when it is in the general interest to do so. Maintaining secrecy about the investigation "sends a message that we are avoiding transparency," Dr. Cioe said.
"Transparency in these cases is absolutely essential."
He added that he has made his views on the need for transparency known to senior administrators, including UBC president Santa Ono. A decision to suspend or fire a faculty member is made by the university's president, who presents it to the board of governors.
Dr. Porter's case is the second to raise questions about how UBC addresses allegations of sexual harassment. UBC fired author Steven Galloway as chair of its creative writing department in 2016 after an investigation found "a record of misconduct." UBC announced that it had fired Mr. Galloway. The case is in arbitration.
The women who got the investigation reports said the process left them exhausted and ashamed. They said the investigator asked them about their clothing in class, and at a party attended by Dr. Porter which was the subject of a complaint, and also asked about their mental-health history.
One complainant said the nature of the questions made them feel that they were being investigated, adding that she was close to giving up her PhD because she felt disillusioned and distressed.
The two women said they fear harm to their careers if their names were published.
Dr. Porter is a well-known consultant and expert in psychology and law who specialized in psychopathy and violent behaviour, deception detection and forensic aspects of memory, according to a biography on the university's site.
The case can show others that it is possible to take action against an influential academic, Dr. Cioe said.
"The complainants that came forward have demonstrated incredible courage and character," he said.
"And hopefully what they are doing is setting an example for other students, faculty and staff who feel that they need to have their situation known but up until this point had not elected to do so."