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West Point history professor removed for 'inappropriate behavior'

Sep. 9, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Col. Matthew Moten
Col. Matthew Moten (Army)
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He’s history.

The head of West Point’s history department was reprimanded and removed after an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed women in his chain of command.

The former department head, Col. Matthew Moten, was accused of attempting to kiss and touch female subordinates, as well as the wives of subordinate officers.

Lt. Col. Webster Wright, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, could not immediately provide details of which accusations were substantiated, but he characterized Moten’s actions as “misconduct.”

After a two-month investigation, Moten was formally reprimanded in late August, Wright said. Moten voluntarily resigned and is retiring without an honorary general’s star, which is customarily given to retiring department heads.

There was no finding of sexual assault and Moten does not face criminal charges, Wright said.

Moten’s alleged “inappropriate behavior” emerged in the school’s sensing sessions, and again during sexual assault and harassment response training, prompting an investigation at the school, Wright said. The command became aware of the allegations in June.

The investigation also delved into allegations Moten fostered a toxic leadership climate. Wright could not immediately confirm those allegations were substantiated.

A 1982 academy graduate, Moten had been the department head since 2006. He served as a legislative advisor to then-Army chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, and later as deputy commander of Dragon Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps and Task Force Dragon, Multi-National Corps, Iraq.

Col. Ty Seidule was named the interim history department head.

Moten’s removal is the third case involving misconduct at the academy that has emerged in recent months.

A noncommissioned officer at the academy, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon, was charged in May with filming numerous female cadets without their consent , sometimes when they were in the shower.

Academy leaders temporarily disbanded the academy men’s rugby team in May over an email chain that was deemed hostile and disrespectful of women. An investigation into the email chain remains underway, Wright said.

Moten is the father of a senior who was on the rugby team.

At the school’s commencement May 25, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the cadets that sexual harassment and assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” that “must be stamped out.”

Army Times was leaked West Point’s talking points and media plan for Moten’s removal. The two-page document called on the school not to issue a press release but to “shape this story by proactively approaching” a specific Washington Post reporter or the Associated Press.

Wright defended the move, saying the school typically issues press releases in cases where its personnel are criminally charged but not for administrative personnel actions.

“If [Moten] was subjected to any [military] charges, then definitely we would,” Wright said.

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