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University President Steps Down In Face Of Controversy

October 21, 1987

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Drexel University’s president announced he is stepping down, ending months of turmoil over his leadership and allegations of sexual harassment against him.

William S. Gaither, 54, informed the board of trustees in a letter Tuesday that he would not seek reappointment. The board had been scheduled to meet today to consider his contract, which was up for renewal.

Gaither, who has denied sexually harassing three women employees, made no mention of the allegations, instead citing differences during his 3 1/2 years in office over ″issues of change as well as leadership style and direction.″

The faculty, faculty council and seven deans at the 12,000-student university had repeatedly called for his ouster.

Issues such as turning Drexel into a research school of national repute sparked dissent, as did big tuition increases, budget cuts and lack of faculty involvement in decision-making, said Charles Morscheck Jr., secretary of the faculty council.

Last spring, a female employee filed a complaint alleging Gaither had reached under a table and touched her knees during a business dinner in Toronto.

After Gaither apologized, saying it was not meant as an advance, the woman dropped her complaint. Subsequently, two other female employees who have left Drexel also accused Gaither of harassment.

Gaither, former dean of marine science at the University of Delaware, said he would serve until an interim successor is appointed, probably today, according to Drexel spokeswoman Elizabeth Gemmill.

The faculty boycotted a convocation in a protest against Gaither earlier this month, with only nine of 457 full-time professors attending. The student newspaper charged that the faculty members were ″acting like babies.″

A review of Gaither’s performance by a panel of outside educators was expected to figure heavily in today’s vote. The trustees, who voted 10-9 in June to keep Gaither pending review, were the only ones to receive the report.

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