According to the News Tribune, this morning, Central Washington University put Washington State House Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) on paid leave, took his computer, and told him in a letter that he was under investigation. Manweller is a tenured professor of political science at the university. There's no word yet on why they're investigating him, and none is expected until after the investigation is complete, so stay tuned.
However, if you've been following the news about Manweller lately, you might be noticing a pattern:
Last week the Seattle Times detailed the findings of CWU's internal investigation into sexual harassment claims against Manweller. One woman said he traded high grades for sexual favors: "'Really didn’t have to do anything' to get an A 'if I gave him a blow job.'"
Another of his students said that Manweller invited her to a bar, asked about her boyfriend and her sex life, and then propositioned her and her friend for a threesome.
Yet another student said that Manweller sent her a series of "inappropriate text[s] and voicemail messages," asking her to leave her boyfriend and sleep with him.
Manweller denies all but admits to "saying something that was taken poorly" at the bar.
Those allegations stretch back to 2006, but the Times also describes a current "informal network of women in Olympia who prepare newcomers by warning them about spending time alone with Manweller."
With the haughty indignation particular to pricks who love to trigger the libs, a quality he's displayed in the past, Manweller has dismissed calls for his resignation and promises that his name will be on the ballot in 2018.
Since these accounts have resurfaced, the News Tribune has talked with his first wife, OraLynn Reeve, about changes in the way she views the couple's May-December relationship. The two met when he was a 28-year-old soccer coach at a high school in Utah and she was the 16-year-old soccer team manager. She calls the relationship "inappropriate," says he took advantage of her, and now believes he was grooming her to be his wife. He told the News Tribune the relationship was "perfectly legal" since they didn't get married until she was 18.
And then there's the report in the Times this morning about Manweller turning a work meeting with a former legislative staffer into a dinner date:
At one point, Manweller asked to meet with her to talk about her future, the woman said. They eventually planned to meet outside on the Capitol campus, but the woman said Manweller ended up walking them to his car and taking her to a restaurant.
The woman said she tried to keep the conversation at the restaurant focused on work, but she found Manweller steering the conversation toward personal issues. She said he asked about her dating life, if she was living alone and whether she could have kids.
Sounds like the same shit he allegedly tried to pull with his students. The story goes on:
The woman said Manweller didn’t say anything sexually explicit at their meeting but she found him to be flirtatious, making compliments and telling the waiter it would be 'up to this beautiful woman' to decide whether they would have dessert. After the dinner, she said Manweller put her coat around her and opened the door to his car for her to get in.
'When I first got home after the dinner, I remember thinking, "I think I just went on a date,"' she said.
Manweller said he doesn’t recall all the specifics but said he was only being polite.
'I held the door open and I put her coat on? Is that now harassment?' Manweller said.
Maybe not, but that's not really the point. The point is, not only did the interaction make her feel like she was being hit on, but this whole dinner was a waste of this woman's god damn time and energy. Manweller's cutesy appeal to an era when men innocently helped women into their coats obfuscates the other social practices he's borrowing from that era: making women jump through unnecessary hoops to gain power.
It starts with a little, seemingly innocuous power shift. Instead of granting her request to meet on her terms (in public, close to work), he chooses a different, more intimate location. Of course, she's not going to say "No" when he offers dinner. She wants advice/contacts from him, and if she says "No" then she's going to look ungrateful, or cold, or else fail to live up to some other bullshit expectation society has for women. In essence, he's taking advantage of his power to put her in a situation that gives him plausible deniability when she says, wait a minute, what the fuck?, as she did later:
At the end of the legislative session, Manweller texted to see if the woman wanted to meet for dinner again. The woman declined, texting back that she appreciated his help and advice but 'wasn’t comfortable when our last meeting turned into dinner.'
Manweller immediately responded that he wanted to meet her for dinner because he had a lead on a job opening the woman could pursue with a public-affairs firm. He said in an interview that it’s something he has done for many men over the years as well.
I wonder how many beautiful men he's let pick dessert.
This woman's story is an example of a shift in the #MeToo movement away from "false notions of virtue and victimhood," and towards a discussion of treating workers fairly, as Melissa Gira Grant describes in this excellent piece for the New York Review of Books:
I have noticed a drift in the discourse from violated rights to violated feelings: the swelled number of reporters on the beat, the burden on each woman’s story to concern a man “important” enough to report on, the detailed accounting of hotel robes and incriminating texts along with a careful description of what was grabbed, who exposed what, and how many times. What I remember most, from 'my story' is how small the sex talk felt, almost dull. I did not feel hurt. I had no pain to confess in public. As more stories come out, I like to think that we would also believe a woman who said, for example, that the sight of the penis of the man who promised her work did not wound her, and that the loss she felt was not some loss of herself but of her time, energy, power.
The investigation currently under way at CWU might have nothing to do with sexual harassment allegations, boundary issues, or staff mistreatment, but based on this long history of questionable behavior from Manweller, I wouldn't be surprised if it did.