Dixie State University’s official statement regarding the City of St. George vs. Varlo Davenport trial
July 14, 2016
With the conclusion of the City of St. George vs. Varlo Davenport trial, Dixie State University can now fully comment on the incident that occurred in Davenport’s introductory acting class in November 2014 without hindering legal proceedings.
First, Dixie State University would like to acknowledge Davenport’s years of service to the institution. During his time at DSU, Davenport made positive contributions to the university’s theater program as well as to students’ development. However, the public should be aware that at the time of the incident, Davenport was on probation for aggressive behavior toward a fellow DSU employee. Even though the jury found Davenport not guilty of a misdemeanor charge of assault, the decision to terminate his employment was based on institutional policies and DSU’s commitment to keeping students safe.
Dixie State University did not take part in charges filed against Davenport; that was a decision made by the victim, who was a minor at the time of the incident, and her parents. Dixie State University firmly stands by its decision to terminate Davenport’s employment at the institution. During Davenport’s faculty review hearing, he admitted to pulling the student’s hair for a long period of time. Furthermore, Davenport stated that this particular technique is not a typical physical restraint exercise. Student safety is a top priority at Dixie State University, and the institution will not tolerate inappropriate behavior of any kind toward its students.
During the trial, the defense presented evidence of the common practice of physical restraint exercises in acting classes. Defense witnesses stated that while using physical restraint techniques, it is standard to provide students with an explanation of such physical exercises and/or provide descriptions within their syllabi. The defense witnesses added that the restraints are not intended to be traumatic experiences for students and none of them presented testimony that they had ever pulled a student’s hair in the manner that Davenport did. DSU would like to clarify that Davenport had no mention of such techniques on his class syllabus nor did he ever provide verbal instructions before pulling the victim’s hair or ask for her express consent.
In the months leading up to the trial, the defense has made numerous false and inflammatory comments to the press and open court that misrepresented the university and its administration. These accusations were an attempt to take the focus off the assault charges and were an attempt at jury nullification.
The defense claimed that DSU did not cooperate with the defense’s discovery requests. However, Dixie State University has cooperated with every request from the court for information. Judge Read did not request emails related to Davenport’s administrative hearing; however, Judge Myers did, and the university immediately cooperated. The university believes the defense has abused the court system, particularly by filing a motion of contempt against President Richard B. Williams and calling for his arrest, and issuing subpoenas for the president and several DSU administrators to appear as defense witnesses. The university is pleased that Judge Myers saw through the unethical approach of the defense by denying the motion and subpoenas.
The grade the student received in Davenport’s class also became a point of discussion. Dixie State University cannot directly comment on these accusations, as discussing a student’s grades is a violation of The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The university can confirm that no improper actions took place concerning the student’s grade. The university can also confirm that the student didn’t receive any kind of offers or compensation in relation to the incident.
DSU is disappointed with the defense’s witnesses openly perjuring themselves in court, such as Davenport’s family member denying his relationship to the defendant when testifying on his behalf — which was admitted on the audio recordings of the faculty review hearing — and another witness denying personal relationships with Davenport. Additionally, several of the student witnesses stated that Davenport did not pull the student’s hair, which directly contradicts the audio recordings of the faculty review hearing and their own written statements.
Dixie State University respects the jury’s decision regarding the misdemeanor assault charge, but stands firm in its decision to terminate Davenport’s employment at the institution. DSU will always uphold policies and procedures that protect its students, faculty and staff.