Longtime marketing professor Gary Clark has retired from his position in the midst of an ongoing Title IX investigation into his behavior toward his students in the classroom.
Clark on Nov. 17 sent an email to SVSU administration announcing his immediate retirement in the middle of the fall semester.
Clark had been suspended from teaching weeks prior in response to a student complaint. On Oct. 23, students in Clark’s classes were informed of his suspension and introduced to replacement professors. At the time, students were told that the suspension was effective for the Fall 2017 semester.
In a statement, SVSU spokesman J.J. Boehm confirmed that the university was investigating Clark for comments made to at least one student either in class or in academic meetings, and that the investigation had fallen under Title IX due to the nature of the comments. Title IX is a federal law mandating that no one be discriminated against in the education system on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“That investigation is ongoing, but in light of Professor Clark’s decision to retire, it may be some time before it is completed,” Boehm stated.
Clark has been suspended at least once in the past. According to SVSU General Council John Decker, Michigan law bars the university from releasing disciplinary records of their faculty that are more than four years old. As a result, The Valley Vanguard is still unable to verify the nature of Clark’s previous suspension.
A Freedom of Information Act request for Clark’s personnel records revealed that on Feb. 25, 2014, Chief Diversity Officer Mamie Thorns sent Clark a disciplinary warning via email in response to student complaints over Clark’s in-class conduct. Thorns quoted students who alleged Clark had called them “dumb-ass students” in class. Clark was warned that the consequences for further misconduct could include suspension and termination of his employment.
An investigation into Clark’s student evaluations revealed a consistent pattern of students complaining about Clark’s treatment of students in class. Many complained of inappropriate language, public humiliation and insults directed at students.
The student evaluations also contained dozens of references to Clark’s tendency to invite his students to drink with him at local bars.
Clark, a Vietnam veteran with a doctorate in marketing and management from the University of Kentucky, began teaching at SVSU in 1991.
His marketing classes quickly gained a reputation for being some of the most challenging courses taught at SVSU. Many students valued his rigorous coursework and the real-world experience Clark imparted on them.
After Clark’s suspension became public knowledge, several of his current and former students took to social media to defend him.
“You learn the most real-life experience from his classes,” read a Facebook post by Alyssa Colbry, a marketing major who graduated in 2015. “He’s blunt, but honest. The three classes I took with him, including being a (teacher’s assistant) and conducting research for a conference, taught me more than any of my other classes.”