BY JESSIE SPANGLER
Drake University is investigating associate professor of political science Mahmoud Hamad after a former student accused him of sexual harassment.
In a Facebook post on Nov. 10, former Drake student Nickey Jafari, who graduated in 2014, claimed that Hamad, her academic adviser during her time at Drake, harassed her beginning in 2011. She said he groomed her at first by complimenting her.
The allegation was first reported by the Des Moines Register Friday.
“His behavior escalated as time went on. I was very uncomfortable, and I remember walking out of his office and being like, that was weird,” Jafari, who is now in graduate school in Kansas, said in an interview. “In the (Des Moines Register) article, when I said I did mental gymnastics, I literally was like, is this cultural, is he just eccentric?”
Jafari said that Hamad asked her to call him “Dad” and asked her to sit on his lap in his office.
When Jafari told people, they responded saying that Hamad’s behavior wasn’t okay. But Jafari didn’t want it to turn into a “he said, she said” thing, she said, and didn’t think anyone would believe her. She started taking a friend with her to her meetings with Hamad, who, as her advisor, had to sign off on her Drake degree.
“So I just kept it quiet, and was like okay, what can I do to get through this? Just take Hannah with me to meetings, just graduate, just get out of here,” Jafari said.
Jafari decided to go public with her story six years later and said she is still upset at herself for not saying something sooner. She said she filed a complaint with the university in spring of this year.
“I’m just going to go public for two reasons – one was, I feel like if even one person sees that I’m doing this and feels empowered to do it the way I did when I saw Aly Raisman do it, that’s worth it,” Jafari said, referring to the Olympic gymnast who said she was sexually abused by the National Team doctor. “Even if nothing happens to Hamad, it’s worth it for one more woman to feel comfortable enough to speak out. Two, I want people to know about this in case there are either more victims because I’m not sure if I trust an institution to do the right thing and get rid of him.”
“We’re not there yet, where women are believed. Because what benefit do I get six years later?” Jafari said.
Dennis Goldford, chair of the political science department at Drake, said he was informed at the end of May that there was an investigation in process.
“I was not given a name of a department member,” Goldford said.
At the end of August, Goldford contacted the same office, to ask if the investigation was complete, and was told that it was still in process. Goldford was informed about the allegations against Hamad a few weeks ago by Joe Lenz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who told him the Des Moines Register was going to run an article about the professor.
“I was informed by the dean several weeks ago, as department chair, saying that there was going to be an article in the Des Moines Register,” Goldford said.
Goldford said he was never directly approached by a student “regarding any kind of issue like this.”
Senior Mitchell Klocke went on Hamad’s J-term trip to Egypt in 2017. He said he was questioned by Associate Dean of Students Joe Campos regarding Hamad on Sept. 26. Other students on the same Egypt trip were also contacted regarding Hamad.
“I would say that, in my opinion, that I think that there were some things that probably weren’t appropriate, just maybe things being said,” Klocke said. “I think that there’s a fine line when you’re professional, that you need to maintain a teacher-student relationship. It might not have been blatantly really terrible, but it was definitely inappropriate that we were often referred to as family and things like that, or like we were his children.”
Klocke said he has not been contacted about Hamad since.
“It was hard to determine what was really going on,” Klocke said.
Hamad is on sabbatical for the 2017 calendar year. He is not listed on the spring 2018 course schedule.
Drake has made the following statement in response to the allegation:
“Drake University is aware of the claims made by the former student against Professor Hamad. We take such allegations seriously and have strong policies in place under Title IX that are being followed. We have been working closely with the former student to address the concerns. However, because the process has not yet concluded, no further comment can be provided.”
The Times-Delphic emailed Hamad for comment Monday night, and he did not respond by publication time on Tuesday. He told the Des Moines Register that he denies the allegations.
When the University receives a complaint about a faculty member, Human Resources and the provost administer the complaint resolution process, said Drake Title IX Coordinator Katie Overberg.
“The University would first conduct an investigation and then, if there were a finding that our policy has been violated, the respective areas would continue the review process to determine what discipline is appropriate under the circumstances,” Overberg said in an email.
As with all complaints filed at Drake, retaliation is prohibited against anyone in the process and can request extra protective measures.
To find more information about how to report sexual or interpersonal misconduct, visit http://www.drake.edu/titleix/.