A well-known photojournalist will not be teaching this fall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after a Title IX harassment complaint was filed against him and the university issued a finding that the conduct complained of had occurred.
A student at the university filed the complaint against Bill Frakes, a former Sports Illustrated staff photographer and the 1983 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year competition. The university’s office of institutional equity and compliance told the student that it found by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent had sexually harassed the student by making unwanted sexual comments about her, and in doing so created a hostile environment for the student. The university also stated that it would take appropriate corrective action.
The university, when asked by the NPPA for information about a Title IX harassment complaint at their journalism college, issued this statement through email:
“Visiting Professor Bill Frakes’ appointment was to run through the fall 2017 semester. However, Prof. Frakes is not teaching any courses at Nebraska this fall.”
Citing confidentiality regarding personnel matters, the university did not comment further. Through Title IX procedures, a person accused of such conduct has the right to a hearing in such matters.
“The final hearing has not taken place. The university has directed that the process be confidential and I intend to honor that request,” Frakes said, in response to a request for comment from the NPPA.
The complaint was filed by Calla Kessler, a student at Nebraska, with additional remarks by at least 10 other students, including photojournalism majors at other universities who have worked with Frakes. Both female and male students submitted statements that they witnessed some of the alleged behavior.
Kessler, who came forward to NPPA and asked to be identified, recently raised the issue in a private Facebook group for women journalists, describing her situation without identifying the professor she was having problems with. The conversation started by Kessler launched an extensive discussion in which other women discussed the ongoing problem of harassment and discrimination in the journalism industry. In July, the NPPA board revised its code of ethics to state that it is an ethical violation to engage in harassment of colleagues, subordinates or subjects.
“I am hoping this conversation opens doors for people who have been in even worse situations than me,” Kessler told the NPPA.
On his personal website, Frakes is also credited with teaching at the University of Miami, the University of Florida and the University of Kansas as an adjunct professor and lecturer. The site also claims he has lectured on photojournalism and multimedia at more than 100 universities.