Phi Theta Kappa director faces harassment allegations

The executive director of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society(PTK) is facing allegations that he sexually harassed two international officers in his organization, both students who have since left their positions.

Rachel Reeck and Toni Marek have alleged that they were victims of separate incidents of misconduct on the part of PTK’s long-standing leader, Rod Risley. Risley served as PTK’s national president when he was a student in 1974 and became executive director in 1985. The position of international officer is currently PTK’s highest student leadership post.

“Dr. Risley denies all the allegations,” said Phi Theta Kappa Board Chair, Everett (Kip) C. Johnson, Jr. in a statement on April 1. “He and others are fully cooperating in the ongoing investigation.”

Marek alleges that she was sexually harassed twice by Risley, once in the lobby of PTK’s headquarters in 2013, in Jackson, Mississippi, and again last year, when she says Risley ran his hand between her legs at a dinner for international officers. Soon thereafter, in January of 2014, Marek was dismissed from her position in PTK.

Reeck has also claimed that she was harassed by Risley last year, when she says he grabbed her and forcibly kissed her outside a PTK event in Minnesota.

Both students have alleged numerous other instances of verbal harassment by Risley towards them over social media, in public conversations, and in private. They have been building a case against Risley and his organization since January 2014, when Marek sought out internal help from high ranking officers in the organization. Both students have posted detailed testimony on the website they started to support their cause.

The Title VII claim that Marek filed in a Texas federal court against Risley and PTK was dismissed over the objection that Marek was no longer an employee of PTK, and therefore could not plead discrimination.

Risley is no longer commenting on this case, but according to Inside Higher Ed, he “denies the allegations” and claims that Marek is “retaliating” for being asked to resign from her position as international officer.

PTK boasts 2.5 million members across 12,500 chapters. Skyline’s own PTK chapter, Beta Theta Omicron, has been repeatedly recognized for excellence.

“One person’s actions, Executive Directive or International Officer, are not a reflection on the organization and the good work that Phi Theta Kappa members do,” Christina Case, who oversees the PTK chapter at Skyline College, Beta Theta Omicron, said in an email.

Skyline’s PTK chapter received the organization’s Regional Distinguished Chapter Award after scoring the most points in a year-long Honors in Action Project.