ASU Professor's Soured Affair with Grad Student Still Grinding Through Court
Pratt and his wife met with Decker, the criminology school's director, right after she discovered the affair, the report states. Decker soon met with with Kunzi in his office, where he informed her she had the right to file a grievance. She was taking one course from Pratt at the time, and Decker told her that Pratt had chosen to teach the remainder of the course online so he wouldn't have contact with her or any other student in the course. Decker also told Kunzi that he'd take over for Pratt in helping her with her research assistant job. She didn't say a word about harassment, Decker alleges.
Then, in May 2010, another instructor discovered that Kunzi had plagiarized part of her final paper in a "Topic in Quantitative Methods" class. He gave her an "XE" for the semester, representing "failure for academic dishonesty." The instructor didn't know about her affair with Pratt at the time, according to ASU.
ASU didn't drop Kunzi from its doctorate program -- and even accepted Kunzi's application to continue as research assistant and teach two courses scheduled for the spring of 2011. Decker gave Kunzi a "glowing recommendation" after she applied with the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections as a research analyst. Kunzi asked Pratt if she could list him as a reference for the job -- for which she was later hired -- and he agreed.
Kunzi could not be reached for this article, and neither Pratt nor Decker returned phone messages.
Pratt's still employed by ASU, but his ASU bio shows that he hasn't taught classes since this past spring. Family court records indicate he and his wife, who have one child, were divorced this year.
Kunzi married her boyfriend, who she claims also was harassed by Pratt and Decker while he was a fellow doctoral student at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. They now have two kids, says Kunzi's lawyer, Stephen Montoya.
Kunzi is seeking a monetary award in the case, Montoya says. But she and Montoya want to highlight the underlying problem -- how ASU deals with the issue of professors dating their own students.
The power imbalance in such a relationship inevitably causes problems, Montoya says. Students who want to do well in a class may find it difficult to rebuff a professor's advances. Once a relationship begins, ending it could be problematic depending on the timing of an important final or dissertation, he points out. ASU should have some sort of policy that discourages student-teacher affairs, he says.
"It's not a punitive regime we're advocating," Montoya says. "If you feel passionately for your student, then your student can drop the class."