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Ont. university says professor fired over 'unethical' sexual relationships with students

McMaster University is seen in this photo from Google Street View. McMaster University is seen in this photo from Google Street View.
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An associate professor at McMaster University has been fired after its board of governors found that he engaged in “unethical, inappropriate and in some instances exploitative” sexual relationships with students.

In a news release issued Monday, the university shared the outcome of what it described as a “difficult situation” involving Scott Watter, who taught psychology, neuroscience and behaviour at the post-secondary institution west of Toronto.

“This decision is on the grounds that his conduct and pattern of behaviour involving students was an abuse of his position as a faculty member, amounting to a serious and fundamental breach of trust,” McMaster president David Farrar and board chair Jane Allen said in a joint statement.

In 2020, Hamilton police charged Watter with sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm in connection with an incident involving a student in 2017.

Watter was acquitted of the charges, documents released by the school following the decision show, but an internal investigation into the allegations against him continued.

According to a senate committee tasked with hearing the case against Watter, the professor engaged in a sexual relationship with a graduate student who he knew was “engaging in self-harm,” used a dating website to meet two graduate students whom he had sexual relationships with and used more than $4,000 in research grants to hire one of those students.

The committee found that Watter’s actions amounted to a violation of the university’s code of conduct and conflict of interest policy, and that his removal from faculty was the “only reasonable outcome.”

“Removal of a faculty member is not a decision that is made lightly but it is critically important that the university is able to act to safeguard the safety of our students and all other members of the campus community, and to uphold the high standards of our institution,” McMaster said. 

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