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Interactive Timeline


April 6, 2013: 2013-2014 International Officers (IO Team) are elected in San Jose, CA, at the Phi Theta Kappa Annual Convention.  The IO Team consists of Daniel Chitty (TX), Jesus Garcia (NJ), Toni Marek (TX), Rachel Reeck (WI), and Kaitlyn Worman (OR).


May 23, 2013: (First incident of sexual harassment) Ms. Toni Marek is touched on the buttocks by Dr. Risley in the lobby at headquarters in Jackson, MS. Ms. Rachel Reeck witnesses this event.


June 23, 2013: At the Philadelphia Honors Institute, the IO Team is informed that a female student is claiming to be in a relationship with Dr. Risley and is providing photographic evidence to attest to this fact. The IO Team reports this information to their International Officer Coordinator. The IO Team is instructed that the issue will addressed with Dr. Risley and to focus on their jobs as international officers.


July 31, 2013: The International Officer Coordinator resigns.


August 24, 2013 (after dinner): Ms. Reeck tells the IO Team that she feels targeted by Dr. Risley, due to a sudden increase of “Facebook likes” by him on her Facebook Album history and his postings about them. The IO Team discusses this new information, the touching incident in May with Ms. Marek, and the photographic evidence at the Philadelphia Honors Institute. Mr. Chitty, Mr. Garcia, and Ms. Worman express concern over the impact that this news would have on the organization and their job as officers. A decision is not reached, so the team collectively decides that, because they were not given a handbook, guidelines, or instructions for reporting this kind of behavior, they should not take any action - for fear of being fired.


October 26, 2013: Dr. Risley visits Madison to speak at C4 (Community College Completion Corps) event, also attended by Ms. Reeck. He requests that Ms. Reeck walk him to his vehicle to have a private conversation. Ms. Reeck asks an acquaintance to join them, but Dr. Risley reiterates that it is a “private” conversation.  


October 28, 2013: Inappropriate Facebook messages to Ms. Reeck start.


January 8, 2014: During the IO mandatory Winter Orientation in Jackson, MS, the IO Team meets Diedra Daws, Chief of Staff, for the first time. Ms. Daws explains during her introduction that she is the “brain of Phi Theta Kappa” and that Dr. Risley is the “face.”


January 10, 2014: Ms. Marek is sexually harassed a second time during a mandatory IO Team dinner. Dr. Risley rubs Ms. Marek’s bare right shoulder and arm multiple times. Finally, Dr. Risley reaches under the table with his right hand and places his hand between Ms. Marek’s legs and begins to run his hand up her inner thighs. Ms. Reeck witnesses this event, and Ms. Marek leaves the table. The dinner ends shortly afterward, and the team is driven back to their hotel. The IO team discusses Dr. Risley’s behavior. Ms. Marek plans to tell PTK’s Jennifer Stanford (Chief Student Engagement Officer) the next day.


January 11, 2014: The team is called in half an hour early. Immediately on arrival, Ms. Marek is called into Dr. Risley’s office. Ms. Daws and Dr. Risley explain that Ms. Marek has been suspended as an International Officer. Ms. Daws explains that Ms. Marek should choose to resign because the implications of a suspension would negatively impact her in the future. Ms. Daws also explains that Ms. Marek could face suspension from her community college for being suspended as an international officer, and that resignation would be the most favorable choice. Ms. Marek asks to speak with her Chapter Advisor to discuss her options. Ms. Daws and Dr. Risley refuse this request. Toni asks to use the restroom to collect herself, and Ms. Daws and Dr. Risley refuse this request. Ms. Daws and Dr. Risley explain that Ms. Marek is not allowed to leave the room until she signs one of the forms (suspension or resignation).


Meanwhile, the other IO officers are in the boardroom taking turns filming clips for Nerd Nation 2014. Mr. Chitty, Mr. Garcia, Ms. Worman, and Ms. Reeck are not allowed to use the bathroom alone or go anywhere without a staff member. Ms. Reeck asks where Ms. Marek is, and she is told that Ms. Marek is in a special meeting and would be joining the team soon. Minutes later, Ms. Marek is escorted out, and the IO is informed of Ms. Marek’s resignation.


January 11, 2014: Inappropriate text messages to Ms. Reeck begin.


January 12, 2014: Ms. Marek calls Debbra Esparza (the Texas Region Coordinator) to explain that she was forced to resign a day earlier. During this call, Ms. Esparza probes Ms. Marek in relation to any conflict that may have occured between Ms. Marek and Dr. Risley, to have caused the termination. Ms. Esparza explains that Ms. Marek can trust her, and that "this is a safe place," meaning the phone call. Ms. Marek finally confides in Ms. Esparza what had transpired with Dr. Risley. Ms. Esparza says, "this is what I needed to hear." Ms. Esparaza then explains that she will try and remedy this situtation and will call Ms. Marek back.


Ms. Esparza calls Ms. Marek later that night and explains that Ms. Marek must "hold her head high" and walk away from this experience. Ms. Esparza offers to help Ms. Marek with leadership skills, but states that Ms. Marek must leave the issue of her forced resignation in the past and move on.


January 28, 2014: (Dr. Risley’s Inappropriate Comments) The text in the picture below refers to “jars of jaminmy.” Ms. Reeck has no idea what that is and assumes it is an autocorrect typo. Whatever he means, Dr. Risley has something in his desk that he looks at every day to remind him of Ms. Reeck. After that text, Dr. Risley sees that Ms. Reeck has updated her profile picture on Facebook, and he texts her. The photo below shows the inappropriate nature of those texts. Dr. Risley’s text messages are in white, and Ms. Reeck’s are in blue. (Photo 1, to the right of this message)


February 26, 2014: Ms. Marek is served a cease and desist order by the law firm that represents Phi Theta Kappa. Click here to read the document.


March 30, 2014: (Dr. Risley offers Rachel his money and asks Rachel to lie) Dr. Risley asks Ms. Reeck to meet him at a C4 event in St. Paul/Minneapolis. Ms. Reeck indicates that the event doesn’t conflict with work or school, so she could attend. However, she cannot afford fuel to get there. Dr. Risley replies that he will give her money, personally, and to keep it confidential. Dr. Risley explains to Ms. Reeck that the C4 event is not official travel, so he tells her what story he will tell staff to justify her being there. Then he instructs her to lie about him inviting her to the event (and personally paying for her travel). Next he says that when she posts on social media to say that she attended of her own volition, and they just happened to meet up. (Photos 2 & 3, to the right of this message)


March 31, 2014: Ms. Reeck attends the C4 event in Minneapolis at Dr. Risley’s invitation. After she arrives, Dr. Risley tells Ms. Reeck to not tell anyone (friends or staff members) about the trip. This is also expressed in text messages the night before. At the end of the conference, Dr. Risley insists that Ms. Reeck drive him back to his hotel. She consents. On arrival, he offers her cash and attempts to put the money in the glove compartment. Dr. Risley requests a hug. Both parties exit the car, and then Dr. Risley touches Ms. Reeck and forcibly kisses her, with alcohol on his breath, outside his hotel in Minneapolis. Later, when Dr. Risley realizes that Ms. Reeck is very upset by the situation, he defriends and blocks her from his Facebook account.


April 2, 2014: Ms. Marek emails Jennifer Stanford (Chief Student Engagement Officer), Monika Byrd (Dean of Leadership Development and Service Learning), Susan Edwards (Dean of Academic Affairs and Honors Programs), and Cindy Carbone (Regional Coordinator Board Representative), and makes them aware that she was sexually harassed during her term as an International Officer. Ms. Marek informs them of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim she intended to file and asks for confidentiality and a full investigation into Dr. Risley’s behavior with students. The email states that, "I request that this email and the attached letter be kept confidential and only to be read and seen by yourself, [board members] Kip Johnson, Dr. George Boggs, Dan Bailey, and Dr. Walter Bumphus." Later, it is found that this email is distributed to other people within the organization. Click here to read the email.


April 2, 2014: When the IO team asked if Ms. Marek would be allowed to attend the Annual Convention, Jennifer Stanford said "legally we cannot stop her from coming to convention because she has done nothing wrong." Instead Mrs. Stanford indicated that security would be "beefed up" and that the team would have precautions in place so that they wouldn't have to answer any questions.


April 18, 2014: Ms. Carbone contacts Ms. Marek. Ms. Carbone tells Ms. Marek that, on behalf of the board, Ms. Marek is “being heard” and that the Board requests that the matter be kept confidential until after the International Convention in Orlando. Ms. Marek is told that the board will contact her concerning the matter after the International Convention. Neither Kip Johnson, Board Chair, nor any other board member ever contacts Ms. Marek after this call by Ms. Carbone.  


April 24, 2015: At the International Convention in Orlando, Ms. Marek seeks out the female student who, in June 2013, claimed to have had a relationship with Dr. Risley. Ms. Marek asks if the female student would be willing to help with her impending EEOC case and the female student agrees to help. The female student explains that she will be in contact with Ms. Marek after the convention.


April 25, 2014: Debbra Esparza (the Texas Region Coordinator) and Dr. Molly Clark Harris (the Texas Region Co-Coordinator) request to speak with Ms. Marek outside of the convention area, after a general session. Ms. Marek and her advisor meet with Mrs. Esparza and Dr. Harris. Mrs. Esparza explains that, while Ms. Marek informed her of Dr. Risley's sexually inappropriate bevahior, she failed to use the word "rear." Mrs. Esparza then claimed, that if Ms. Marek were to have used the word "rear," then the incident would have been reportable.


April 26, 2014: Ms. Reeck is cornered by Dr. Risley alone in a small room backstage. He asks her, “Have I ever been inappropriate with you?” Ms. Reeck asks that her advisors be present during this conversation. Dr. Risley refuses this request and immediately leaves the room.


April 28, 2014: Ms. Marek files a Title VII claim of sexual harassment with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Click here to see the document.


April 29, 2014: The female student that Ms. Marek spoke with on April 24 sends a Facebook message to Ms. Marek. The message reads:


"I am so sorry but I really cannot talk. I came home from conference to find out I have lost my job. I was asked to resign based on rumors and now face losing my house. I am sorry but cannot get involved with anything else and just desperately want to have my life be my own again."


June 5, 2014: The EEOC closes Toni Marek’s case, citing “no employee/employer relationship.” Ms. Marek receives a “right to sue” letter with this document.


August 2014: Dan Rooney and Amery Bodelson step down from their roles as advisors of the Beta Nu Chi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Western Technical College.


September 5, 2014: Ms. Marek files a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas. Click here to see the document.


September 26, 2014: Dr. Tom Butler (Ms. Marek’s college president) sends a letter to the board. Phi Theta Kappa responds to this letter on November 19, 2014. (This letter is currently confidential.)


December 13, 2014: Cheryl Gill (attorney) sends letter to the board on behalf of Ms. Reeck. Phi Theta Kappa does not respond to this letter. (This letter is currently confidential.)


December 23, 2014: Phi Theta Kappa files a motion to dismiss Ms. Marek's lawsuit. Click here to see document #1, document #2, and document #3.


January 12, 2015: Dr. Lee Rasch (Ms. Reeck’s college president) sends a letter of concern and condemnation to the Phi Theta Kappa board. Phi Theta Kappa does not respond to this letter until March 16, 2015. (This letter is currently confidential.)


January 20, 2015: Ms. Reeck files a Title VII claim of sexual harassment with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Click here to see the document.


January 26, 2015: Ms. Marek files a response to Phi Theta Kappa’s motion to dismiss her lawsuit. Click here to see the document.


February 6, 2015: Mrs. Reeck receives a 1099 from Phi Theta Kappa.


February 6, 2015: Phi Theta Kappa responds to Mrs. Marek's response to their Motion to Dismiss. Click here to see the document.


February 6, 2015: Phi Theta Kappa sends a declaration, signed by Ms. Saralyn Quinn (Phi Theta Kappa, Senior Director, Operations and Human Resources) to dismiss Ms. Marek’s lawsuit because Ms. Marek was not considered an employee of Phi Theta Kappa; therefore, Phi Theta Kappa is not liable for anything that happened to her. Click here to see letter.


February 13, 2015: Ms. Marek’s lawsuit is dismissed because the judge finds that she was not paid wages by Phi Theta Kappa, therefore Phi Theta Kappa is not liable for any harm or damages that Ms. Marek incurred. Click here to see the document.


February 18, 2015: An EEOC representative informs Ms. Reeck that Dr. Risley has received Ms. Reeck’s claim. The EEOC representative also indicates that Ms. Reeck will receive a packet of information to proceed with mediation.


February 19, 2015: Ms. Marek speaks via telephone to Dan Bailey, Chapter Advisor Representative Board Member, about Dr. Risley's sexual harrassment. Mr. Bailey tells Ms. Marek that he is unaware of any letters sent to Phi Theta Kappa on behalf of Ms. Reeck by her lawyer or college president. He also mentions that he is "vaugely aware" of Ms. Marek's allegations from April 2, 2014. Mr. Bailey requests documents pertaining to Ms. Marek and Ms. Reeck's respective cases so that he can forward it to the proper authority on the board of directors.


February 25, 2015: Dan Bailey informs Ms. Marek and Ms. Reeck that he "did forward your e-mail at the time it was received to Kip Johnson, chair of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors;  to Cindy Carbone, Regional Coordinator Representative to the Board;  and at the direction of Mr. Johnson, to the two lawyers representing Phi Theta Kappa in the investigation."


March 9, 2015: Ms. Reeck informs the EEOC that she would consider mediation if Dr. Rod Risley was immediately suspended from his duties as Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa, pending the results of an independent investigation. Ms. Reeck informs the EEOC that she does not seek monetary rewards.


March 13, 2015: Inside Higher Ed contacts Phi Theta Kappa and informs Dr. Risley that they are writing an article about the events on this timeline. Dr. Risley has no comment and refers the reporter to Kip Johnson and Walter Bumphus.


March 13, 2015: Dan Rooney and Amery Bodelson, Ms. Reeck's former advisors, send a letter to the Association of Chapter Advisors (ACA) with a request that the ACA recommend to the board that this matter be investigated. Mr. Rooney and Ms. Bodelson ask that a complete, independent, and transparent investigation into the allegations made by Ms. Reeck and Ms. Marek be conducted so that the truth be uncovered.


March 16, 2015: Dr. Rasch receives a response to his January 5 letter to Kip Johnson. Mr. Johnson explains that he "overlooked that [he] had not actually sent the letter that [was] drafted upon receipt" of Dr. Rasch's January 5 letter.


March 23, 2015: Ms. Reeck receives notice from the EEOC that her case has been transferred to Mississippi, and that her case will be investigated by the Jackson, MS EEOC office.


March 23, 2015: As of this day, InsideHigherEd and the EEOC (Jackson Division), have confirmed that Phi Theta Kappa, Dr. Rod Risley, and Mr. Kip Johnson have all refused to give a statement or speak on the record.


March 31, 2015: Inside Higher Ed publishes an article about Dr. Rod Risley and the allegations that have been made against him.


April 1, 2015: Kip Johnson releases a statement.


April 1, 2015: Ms. Reeck and Ms. Marek release a statement

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“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.” - William Faulkner

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