Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
Former University of Connecticut Fine Arts Professor Frank Noelker has been accused of sexual misconduct by approximately 20 women while teaching at UConn, dating back to 2003.
The women, who have chosen to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, all have stories of some form of sexual misconduct by Noelker, only some of which are substantiated by a 2018 Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) report that found him in violation of UConn’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence.
The report, dated December 20, 2018, turned the case over to human resources and management of Noelker to determine “an appropriate response.” It’s unclear what that response was, as Noelker remained employed at UConn for another 1.5 years, retiring August 1, 2020.
The leader of the group accusing Noelker of the misconduct said she first brought to light her allegations to UConn in 2017, but an investigation wasn’t launched until much later. In a March 2017 email obtained by The Daily Campus, School of Fine Arts Dean Anne D’Alleva notified Noelker of the allegations and set up a meeting with her, Noelker and OIE Director Sarah Chipman.
“I’m completely blindsided by this and my wife and I are stressed out of our minds,” Noelker wrote in a separate email to his union representative on April 12, 2017. “Also, if it’s ok with you my wife Laurie will come with me at 3:00 and to any other meetings.”
An anonymous victim said that she was under the impression an OIE investigation was being launched at this time.
“In January (of) 2017 I reported it to the University,” the victim said. “I’ve been in contact with them throughout and oftentimes I would ask for updates and OIE would say there were none, which is very frustrating.”
An OIE report from this was never produced, but acknowledged in the 2018 report.
“By way of background, OIE previously reviewed concerns regarding Professor Noelker which were raised in January 2017,” the report said. “The allegations raised at that time were similar to those included in the present investigation (i.e., unwanted and unprofessional interactions).”
This report, most notably, corroborates claims that Noelker asked a student if they liked the taste of semen, attempted to give a student a back massage at his home, hugged and kissed a student’s forehead at the end of a class, signed a text message to a student “xoxo” and would place his hands on students’ shoulders and backs during class lectures.
Furthermore, the report found that Noelker bought students under the age of 21 alcohol while out to dinner in New York City to attend photography shows.
“…there is sufficient evidence to support finding that on at least one occasion Professor Noelker purchased alcohol for a student or students who were under twenty-one years of age. OIE did not receive sufficient evidence to establish that Professor Noelker provided underage students with alcohol to the point of intoxication, or that Professor Noelker engaged in any otherwise inappropriate conduct with students during trips to New York.”
There are no public Connecticut court cases involving Noelker, despite the OIE finding that he provided alcohol to minors.
“I have a group of over 20 women who have been abused by the same professor over the course of 15 years,” one victim said. “We feel like the University hasn’t protected us. Unless we bring it to the media, it doesn’t seem like there will be any type of change.”
Allegations of misconduct by Noelker came to light publicly on the BIPOC at UConn School of Fine Arts Instagram page, which detail many accounts gathered in the OIE report.
The group leader said they plan to meet with UConn officials to demand change going forward.
When called by The Daily Campus, Noelker referred to the OIE report as “the gossip report” and directed all questions to his lawyer, who did not have a comment.
Luke Hajdasz is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.