Yaron Eliav, an associate professor of rabbinic literature at the University, has finished his court-ordered probation after pleading no contest to the charge of using a computer to commit a crime in 2008. However, e-mail conversations and court documents obtained by The Michigan Daily show the University initially imposed restrictions on his professorship after the incident.
Eliav was involved in an incident in April 2008 when he responded to advertised sexual acts on Craigslist that were posted by a 22-year-old University Law school student. Eliav paid the student $300 for sexual acts. During the incident, the student allowed him to slap her buttocks but became concerned when he slapped her twice on the face. The student pursued Eliav in court after their encounter.
Eliav received a deferred sentence on Dec. 30, 2008 after pleading no contest to the charge of using a computer to commit a crime.
The student involved also received a deferred sentence after pleading no contest to the charge of using a computer to commit a crime.
Steve Hiller, deputy chief prosecuting attorney for Washtenaw County who was not involved in the lawsuit, said the case was dismissed in November 2009. He added that Eliav and the Law student successfully completed their probationary periods and “no longer have a public record of conviction.”
Eliav wrote in an e-mail interview this week that he and the Law student currently have no legal repercussions as a result of the situation.
“I wish to emphasize that the incident concluded without any legal consequences, for me or the woman involved; the only charge that was eventually brought to court against us — illegal use of a computer — was dismissed without conviction and without any criminal record,” Eliav wrote. “In other words, I was not found guilty of any wrongdoing.”
Eliav returned to teach on campus in fall 2009. As an associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Eliav is teaching two courses this semester — “The Land of Israel/Palestine through the Ages” and “Introduction to Rabbinic Literature.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Eliav currently holds a tenured position and is under no additional restrictions from the University other than what was originally enforced.
Eliav said he “deeply regrets” that the incident happened and hopes to continue to serve his students and the University to the best of his abilities.
“People make mistakes,” Eliav wrote. “Thankfully, as humans, we can take responsibility for our mistakes, learn from them, take the necessary steps to correct them and hopefully be allowed to move on.”
Around the time of the trial, the University conducted an investigation to see if Eliav utilized University resources while using a computer to commit a crime. A Dec. 28, 2008 letter from LSA Dean Terrence McDonald to Eliav, which was obtained by the Daily, outlined the findings of the investigation.
The letter cites police records in which Eliav confessed to using the alias Mark Tegels in his online exchanges with the Law student.
The University’s investigation found that Eliav also used University computers to view a Craigslist posting and to communicate with other Craigslist members about their personal advertisements.
The letter states that these actions were in violation of several University policies, including that faculty members should view their access to resources as a “privilege” and must use the resources “with respect for the public trust.” The policies also state that a member of the University cannot “assume another person’s identity or role through deception without proper authorization.”
According to the letter, Eliav violated these policies and violated conduct required by faculty under University policies, state and federal laws. Along with bringing negative media attention to himself, the letter states that Eliav’s conduct “damaged the reputation of the University and College.”
Eliav agreed to the University sanctions, according to the letter. He was required to resign from the Jean and Samuel Frankel Professorship in Rabbinic Literature and give up all salary and research funds gained from that position. Eliav also gave up his leadership position with search committees for new faculty in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University.
According to a Dec. 9, 2008 e-mail sent by Gary Beckman, chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, to LSA Associate Dean Derek Collins, the Department of Near Eastern Studies received signed letters and petitions from faculty members of Judaic Studies and Near Eastern Studies demanding Eliav’s removal from the search committees.
Eliav added that he thought the conduct of the University and the Department of Near Eastern Studies regarding the incident was “fair and measured.”
Fitzgerald said if an incident like this happened with another professor in the future, the University would respond to the situation depending on individual circumstances.
“I think in any situation like this the University would approach those unique set of circumstances and try to do what is best in those unique set of circumstances,” he said.
Other University sanctions included ineligibility for any chairmanship at the University for five years and Eliav’s resignation from the executive committee of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and his head fellow position in the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies. His resignation from the institute also meant he had to teach full time during the 2009-2010 school year in order to fulfill his professorship.
Eliav was officially removed from the Frankel Endowed Chair position on Jan. 26, 2009, and his appointment was relocated to Near Eastern Studies, where his salary was supported through the University’s general fund.
In a Jan. 30, 2009 e-mail, Collins wrote to Eliav that due to his resignation, Eliav would no longer be identified as “head fellow” of the research group on Jewish Material Culture nor as Jean and Samuel Frankel Associate Professor for Rabbinic Literature. A later e-mail clarified that Eliav would still be able to identify his sub-field areas of expertise.
Eliav requested a leave of absence unrelated to the sanctions for medical reasons, he wrote in the e-mail interview. He returned to teach at the University in fall 2009 after his leave of absence during the previous winter semester.
Collins’s letter also noted that this was the second time Eliav was brought before the University due to an incident of sexual misconduct. In 2006, an undergraduate employee of Near Eastern Studies filed a complaint against Eliav for inappropriate speech and physical contact, which was later decided to be unfounded.
While Eliav was on leave, the Program on Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity replaced the Program in Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman, until both were eliminated in March 2009. Both department programs were replaced by individual programs in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and advised by faculty members, including Eliav.
Eliav wrote that the set up of the programs was always informal and their dissolution was due to uncertainty in the department as well as his court case.
“At the time, with all the uncertainty involved, we felt it would be better to let it go and allow students to pursue their studies according to their individual interests,” Eliav wrote.