On Thursday, Dec. 12 the law firm representing 24-year-old University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student Caycee Bean; Hale, Skemp, Hanson Skemp & Sleik, held a meeting with the media.
On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Elgin was accused of sexual misconduct by Bean via social media. On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Bean and her legal team released a personal statement regarding sexual misconduct.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Elgin resigned from his position at UWL. Wednesday, Dec. 11, Elgin’s attorney Cheryl Gill released a statement on behalf of Elgin saying that he became a victim in this process and decided not to meet with Chancellor Gow because his sick leave was at risk and that UWL faculty should be afraid of other students making “bogus claims.”
At the press conference, Bean discussed Elgin’s statement, other women that have come forward and UWL’s level of transparency.
In response to if Bean saw Elgin’s statement, Bean said, “I saw that, and it just made me feel like I refuse to continue to be victimized by Joel and his attorney. His attorney’s words were meant to hurt and intimidate me and many others who have come forward. Joel’s response is a textbook case of why so many victims don’t come forward. I feel like I’m here today to let these victims know that you no longer need to feel intimidated and I want those victims to know that the amount of community and student support has helped me overcome the fear that has kept me quiet all these years, which is the fear that he is still trying to instill in others. I just want them to know that it’s okay and you can come forward and we’re here for you and the community is here for you. It’s time victims are heard and I am not intimidated by him.”
In Elgin’s statement, his attorney described the other women that have confided in Bean as “minions.” Bean said, “I laughed when I read that, it is so ridiculous. These girls are not my minions, I do not know these women. These are complete strangers, they’re coming through in my inbox and my messages and even in my request messages, I do not know these women. I am not Facebook friends with them, these are complete strangers and have just heard the word of this guy finally being caught and they have a story to share.”
Bean mentioned that there have been faculty and other students who confided in her with similar experiences with Elgin, including a former student from 17 years ago. “This isn’t just recent stuff, he [Elgin] has been doing this for a very long time and has been getting away with it. There have been around 23 people that we have written down in our own investigation notebook, but there have been so many more than who have come forward and said I believe you, I’ve had this professor before and I’ve seen how he has acted in the classroom and this does not surprise me. There are so many people who are not surprised by these claims and have shared their stories with me.”
Chancellor Gow sent out an email alerting UWL students and colleagues about Elgin’s resignation, but Bean said the length of the investigation and the process needs to be changed. “I just think that this screams loud and clear that there needs to be a change with how UWL is handling these kinds of claims and situations and reports. The first time I came forward with my story to UWL was exactly the same as the second time. So that just shows that there is something broken within the UWL system that needs to be changed and I don’t know if it’s the way the system is working, or if it’s the people who are pursuing the way that the system works.”
Transparency at UWL has also been a conversation among the UWL community, as many UWL students did not know what was happening with Bean’s case until she posted on social media.“They [UWL] said they were going to be giving me updates all along throughout the investigation and I never received any updates, at least in the first investigation which is why I came out the way that I did because it was not fair that they did not tell me anything that was going on. They said that they were going to tell me when they told Joel Elgin that he had been approached about this investigation and I was never told about when he was approached. There is a lot more that UWL could be doing to be transparent,” said Bean.
Throughout this investigation, UWL students have come forward with support, including senior Kendra Whelan who protested at Hoeschler clock tower every day with a poster reading, “UWL Protects Predatory Professors” until Tuesday, Dec. 10 when Elgin resigned. Bean recognizes this support and is grateful for the role that UWL students have played.
“I want to thank all of the students first of all because I felt so much support and that has helped me a lot through this whole process. I want victims to know that it’s not easy, I’m not going to lie, and say that it is easy. People have been like ‘oh you’ve been so strong, you’re a hero’ and it has been uncomfortable for me to hear that because I have struggled a lot and it is not an easy thing to do but I want to thank the community and especially students for believing in me and supporting me because that is the only thing that has helped me get to this point is feeling supported. I just want people to know that you can be heard if you believe in it and want people to know, you can find a way to make it happen and you can make a difference,” said Bean.
In Gow’s email, he included the possibility of an open forum. Bean said that she hopes that Gow answers student’s questions and describes how the system works and why the first investigation was concluded without a solution.
After Bean went to social media to share her allegation, she explained that there was a positive effect to her dialogue and eye-opening experience. “This was positive in the way that Joel Elgin is no longer at UWL, he is no longer with students, I don’t have to walk on campus and see him with a group of girls and feel sick to my stomach. I know that he is just gone. It has also been eye-opening in the fact that you think that this University is here for you and that they are here to protect you, but really there is something wrong with the system. I was not heard the first time and that was a huge eye-opening experience for me and there needs to be a change in the system,” said Bean.
Elgin resigned from his position as a Professor and Chair of the Art Department on Tuesday, Dec. 10, and Bean will not be pressing charges against Elgin at this time. Bean said that this was the outcome she was expecting. “I was kind of expecting this outcome, just because I know that he knows he is guilty. I would have been surprised if he was going to try to fight it because if he was innocent, he would have been fighting. So I kind of expected him to retire, but it is a letdown in the fact that he still gets all of his benefits potentially. But ultimately, I am satisfied that he is not on a campus anymore and hopefully he never will be again,” said Bean.
Before writing the Facebook post about her allegation, Bean expressed that she felt angry after meeting with an employee from human resources at UWL and wanted the public to know that Elgin was still teaching on campus, regardless of her allegations. “After the first investigation was finished, I had a meeting with John Acardo of HR at UWL and he was further discussing the email that I put out there for everyone to read, and he pretty much stuck to that email and didn’t tell me any other information and told me that Joel Elgin has been instructed to stay away from me. As I walked out of that meeting to my car, I crossed the street with Joel Elgin. I looked down the street and he was crossing the street at the same time I was. I was so furious that I got in my car and I just sat there until I finished writing and then I posted it. It came from a feeling of just feeling so betrayed and upset and not heard that no matter what even happened from that post, I wanted absolutely everyone to know about this man. If UWL wasn’t going to get rid of him, I felt like I needed to tell the world because I knew what he was doing and I knew that I was not the only one.”
The UWL email alert system which is in place to send campus-wide emails when events happen on or off-campus that impact students did not alert students about Elgin until Gow met with the UW system legal counsel, and then again for Elgin’s resignation. Bean commented on the email system, “I feel like there should be a standard on what type of events happen that need to be alerted right away to students, and I feel like this is definitely an event that needed to be to be alerted right away to students. I just got a message from a girl who is a freshman this year and that had him [Elgin] in a class and she said ‘thank you so much, you put your post out on a Thursday and I had a one on one meeting with him the next Friday’ and she knew that because of my post, not because UWL sent out an email. Obviously there is more room for change that UWL needs to fix and needs to make their students feel safe.”
Bean also touched on how this experience will influence her future after UWL. “All of the messages that I received from other women who have gone through sexual violence was extremely overwhelming for me. I read some really terrible stories, and this is a real issue going on in our country and the world and I feel like I will carry those women with me in my heart every day. To know that this is happening to so many women is disgusting. That is why we need to put it out there and we need to be coming forward because I had no idea that this was happening to so many women. I received so many messages. The first I did not put my phone down for eight hours because I got a message every minute. It is disgusting that this many women have a story to share and these women need to be heard. I will never be the same in that way, I have so much compassion for these women.”
Bean said that it is not easy for women to speak up about this subject because of the emotions associated with it. “Some people say ‘well how come you have waited this long to come forward with this story, if this happened, why didn’t you report it right away?’ But if you look at statistics of this it is very common for victims to not come forward right away and it takes them some time to process what has happened. The other women who have come out to me, this all happened to them a few years ago as well and when it happens you go home and it is so much to process and it just takes a while. It can be difficult to come forward and find proof and make people believe you that this really did happen even though it happened a while ago and that is why I am so lucky that other women this happened to reached out to me and came forward with me. I am so thankful that they came forward with me, it is not an easy thing to do.”
Bean ended by saying that her experience does not stand alone and the system must evolve. “Joel Elgin may have retired, but I feel like there is more that needs to be done. This isn’t over yet. UWL needs to do change the system and they need to take a step back and take a hard look at what happened with this case and realize that I was swept under the rug and they did not take my case seriously and my case was the same the first report to the second report, it was the same story. So why were there two different outcomes, this is alarming and something needs to be done,” said Bean.
The Racquet Press will be updating the UWL community as this story progresses.