School clears UCF doctor of sexual harassment, though he gets mentoring from boss

'These limited instances fall short of the legal requirement that the conduct of concern meet the threshold of severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive to constitute Title IX Sexual Harassment.'

A University of Central Florida (UCF) physician is getting one-on-one mentoring sessions with the medical school’s dean following two complaints about his behavior, including allegations that he invited nurses to join him at nudist attractions, records show.

The complaints were filed last year against Dr. Virgil Dawson, a 69-year-old assistant medical professor who has worked at the University of Central Florida since 2014 and is paid $215,000 a year. For both complaints, the school determined Dawson did not violate any school policies, according to a pair of reports on the investigation’s findings completed this summer.

He did not have any prior complaints in his personnel file, UCF spokesman Mark Schlueb said.

Dawson did not respond to a request for comment this week.

In July 2021, one person anonymously contacted UCF’s IntegrityLine ethics hotline and said Dawson was making inappropriate comments to nurses and acted flirty.

“One example was an unsolicited invitation for a nurse to join him and his wife at a private nude beach. Another nurse has experienced other verbal sexual innuendos and just plays along to make the day ‘easier,'” the complaint said.

The UCF Office of Institutional Equity investigated Dawson and “followed up with current and former nursing staff and determined that the alleged conduct, even if credited as true, would not violate UCF’s prohibition of discriminatory harassment due to a lack of severity or pervasiveness,” according to a report finished in June 2022.

The anonymous complaint also brought up allegations about Dawson’s behavior with female patients.

“The State Insurance Program conducted an independent investigation into allegations involving (Dawson’s) patient care and reported that the allegations involving patient care and quality were not substantiated,’ the UCF report said.

Schlueb said there was no written report produced from the insurance program’s investigation.

The second complaint against Dawson was filed about three weeks later when a woman whose name was redacted contacted the UCF Office of Institutional Equity in August 2021.

The woman said she and her UCF colleagues were at a pub to celebrate her birthday. 

The woman said Dawson told her the beach she recently visited had a section that allows nudity. Then Dawson invited the woman to join him and his wife at a Kissimmee nudist resort, the woman’s complaint said.

UCF determined Dawson didn’t sexually harass the woman, according to the school’s findings.

“It is clear that this conduct understandably caused you discomfort and distress. However, these limited instances fall short of the legal requirement that the conduct of concern meet the threshold of severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive to constitute Title IX Sexual Harassment,” said a report was also completed in June 2022.

But the report noted Dawson “is in a position of authority in his capacity as a physician indirectly supervising nursing staff as well as in his role as the Director of UCF Health.”

“This heightens the power differential between (Dawson) and subordinate staff members in the clinic. Accordingly, OIE referred this matter to management of the College of Medicine to address the underlying conduct to ensure that the behavior is discontinued,” the report said.

Following the school’s findings, Dr. Deborah German, the dean of the UCF College of Medicine, started “holding regular meetings with the physician to provide mentoring in communication and leadership,” Schlueb said.

“UCF found he did not violate sexual harassment policies. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t benefit from advice from his supervisor on workplace communication,” said Schlueb who declined to provide details on when Dawson began these mentoring sessions with German, how often he meets with her or what the sessions are specifically covering.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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