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Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, Is a Close-Knit Community; Some Say Too Close

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Jane first was drawn to Barrett because of its strong sense of community. She enrolled in the school in 2012.

Her story unfolds in her blog post, interviews and e-mails with New Times, and a pile of documents she provided to the government in a Title IX complaint against ASU. The documents include Jane's personal e-mails and text messages as well as copies of e-mails she received from ASU detailing the investigation into and eventual dismissal of Dr. Joel Hunter.

Hunter, a Barrett faculty member since 2008, admitted to the university and to New Times that he violated ASU's professor-undergraduate relationships policy before his contract was dropped.

On his personal website, Hunter lists the many awards he won during his time at Barrett, including accolades for teaching excellence, academic service, and faculty mentoring.

Since he left the school, Hunter also has posted a lengthy student tutorial on how to succeed in Barrett's difficult freshmen seminar course. "It is best to err on the side of formality," he wrote in a late September post focused on how to best communicate with one's Human Event professor. These professors are "incredibly friendly and funny, yes," he writes, "but they are not in your peer group."

It seems hindsight is 20/20.

By the end of Jane's fall semester in Hunter's Human Event class, she and the professor had grown close.

In December 2012, Hunter e-mailed Jane, asking her to interrupt a meeting so it wouldn't drag on. "Plus, I would get to see one of my favorite Human Event students twice in one day," he wrote.

Jane signed up to take Hunter's class again in the spring.

By January 2013, the two began getting together regularly for meetings and meals. Soon, they were texting, and by early February, their texts hinted at a sexual relationship.

Some texts reference a trip the two took to a local park, where Jane says Hunter provided her with alcohol and massaged her, suggesting that doing so would be easier if she didn't have clothes on. They spent the afternoon kissing.

A few weeks later, Hunter texted Jane about 2 a.m. from a Harry Potter conference he was attending in Albuquerque:

Joel: get your ass to albuquerque now dammit. I just closed down the hotel bar with a harry potter student of mine who will not, i'm sure of it, sleep with me. All alone am i . . .

Jane alleges that Hunter shared with her sexual fantasies about other Human Event students and said he'd fallen in love with a student before.

The two went on to have a covert sexual relationship -- aside from the clear violation of policy, Hunter was married with children -- having sex in cars, in Hunter's office, and in parking garages around campus. Jane says Hunter gave her extensions on schoolwork because of their relationship.

In their talks, interspersed with innuendo, was conversation about Jane's future.

Texts from the day after their trip to the park:

Jane: How is my letter of recommendation coming? :)

Joel: It'll be done this afternoon.

And an hour later:

Joel: Letter submitted electronically. They won't be able to give you the scholarship quickly enough . . .

Jane: You mean I don't get to read it? Noooooooooooooo

Joel: I'll share it with you later. It's totally hot.

Then, in April of Jane's freshman year, Barrett Professor David Conz committed suicide shortly after his teaching contract was dropped. Conz's dismissal was linked to a relationship with one of his Human Event students. Jane says Hunter made out Conz to be the victim of an unfair administration and began expressing fears about losing his own job.

A text conversation in the days that followed:

Jane: I know you didn't want a hug, but are you ok? I don't think I've ever seen you look so sad.

Joel: Im ok. Shook up, sad and feeling vulnerable. Life.

In May 2013, Jane and Hunter had sexual intercourse in a motel.

The spring semester came to a close, and Jane fully expected that she and Hunter would resume their relationship when she returned for her sophomore year. The two even texted occasionally during the summer.

But when Jane returned to campus in August, she says, Hunter told her he'd learned that their affair was risky after a discussion at a Barrett faculty retreat. He abruptly broke off the relationship.

"One thing my professor said to me when he ended this affair still sticks out to me," Jane wrote in the closing of her Title IX complaint testimony. "He had no idea that what he was doing was wrong or even against the rules, because it was so common for Barrett Honors College professors to be involved with students that all of the honors faculty saw it as normal."

Hunter declined to be interviewed, and New Times isn't aware of what he is up to today. On his personal website, he says he is a married father of three.

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Ashley Cusick
Contact: Ashley Cusick