The case of the City of St. George v. Varlo Davenport may be over, but matters are far from being settled.
After almost two years of evidence gathering, hearings, subpoenas and more, Davenport, a former theater professor at Dixie State University, was found to be not guilty of assault July 15. The overall tone of the comments from the community on the article regarding the outcome of the trial were positive for Davenport and his family.
“The relief of the burden has finally set in,” Davenport said. “You never realize how heavy a burden you’re carrying until you are released from it.”
The burden Davenport had been struggling under had been the charge of assault, which stemmed from a hair-pulling incident on a student during one of his acting classes. Davenport was terminated from teaching at DSU on February 24, 2015, after DSU President Biff Williams decided to overturn the decision the faculty board made to clear Davenport of wrongdoing. After the City of St. George took over the hair-pulling case, Davenport was charged with misdemeanor assault on April 21, 2015.
Davenport said is looking into clearing all of the connection of the misdemeanor charge from his name completely, by taking legal steps with his lawyer. However, he said is not sure he can ever teach again due to DSU’s actions.
The day following, on July 16 when Davenport was found not guilty, instead of the goodwill Davenport said he was hoping for, DSU issued a press release regarding the outcome of the trial.
“Who would hire me, with this popping up if you do a Google search of my name?” Davenport said.
He said in the wake of DSU’s press release regarding the outcome of his trial, he is concerned about his chances of becoming employed at all, should he choose to apply elsewhere.
DSU General Counsel Doajo Hicks said it was time for the university to speak, as it could not during the legal proceedings.
One of the points mentioned in the release was that Davenport was on probation “for aggressive behavior toward a fellow DSU employee.”
“I was not on a formal probation,” Davenport said. “I was working out issues informally with two colleagues, who I felt were not doing their jobs properly. This is per university policy on conflict resolution, so [DSU] should not be saying I was on probation.”
Davenport also said the complaint of his alleged aggressive behavior against another DSU employee was added on later when he could not defend himself.
The university would not comment on whether or not Davenport’s explanation of his informal probation was the case. Hicks said he was unable to comment on Davenport’s employment record under Utah law.
Also addressed by the press release was the honesty of the witnesses, who were accused of perjury. The press release claimed to have audio and written statements that disputed their court testimonies. However, these statements were not used in court to dispute the testimonies.
“The City of St. George had prosecuted the case,” Hicks said. “The university is just a third party who was just providing evidence to the defense attorney and the prosecutor. It’s on the city to ask for that information.”
Davenport said it was natural to have variances between the testimonies, as it had been over a year and a half since the incident occurred.
“For it to be otherwise would be unnatural,” Davenport said. “However, no one outright lied.”
Davenport also said the witness who purportedly lied about his relationship to Davenport did not. When Davenport first appeared in front of the faculty board that cleared him, Davenport had an uncle coming from Snow College to help back up Davenport’s claims that the techniques used in Davenport’s class were standard acting techniques. However, that relative never showed up and was also never in court.
In making the claim of perjury, the university was aware that those accused of it could pursue a lawsuit against the school.
“The university is always concerned with litigation,” Hicks said. “However, we have a duty to protect students, faculty and general public safety, and we have to ensure that we put out a message that we are going to ensure the safety of the general public.”
Davenport said he would prefer to talk to the school first before pursuing any legal action.
There were also many upset commenters when the The Spectrum published DSU’s stance on the trial.
“The majority of the response that we have received have approved of our actions and have backed the university,” Hicks said.
He said the university has continued to have a positive image in the community, and DSU is continuing to be a positive influence in the surrounding community.
To support this statement, Director of Public Relations Jyl Hall said, “We are welcoming a larger incoming freshman student class this year, and university events are very well attended by the community.”
Hicks said the uproar and negativity was local, but that the board of trustees and board of regents were in support of the university.
“Davenport was a small aspect, not unimportant, but one speed bump that we dealt with,” Hicks said. “Once the trial was over with, which I think everyone wanted finality on it, we’ll wait and see about a lawsuit.”
While the question of legal action is still unclear, Davenport said he still cares about DSU and the theater program. He said he may pursue legal action as a course to clear his name, as Davenport felt the press release denied him the chance to let things go and perhaps return to teaching.
“This week was the start of faculty meetings,” Davenport said. “And I miss it. Heck, I even miss graduation, and nobody misses graduation. But I do. I loved to teach.”
Davenport said with the damaged community relationships hanging over him, he and his family may have to relocate to get a fresh start.