HARRISBURG — A divided state appeals court on Friday reinstated the firing of a Slippery Rock University sports management professor for sexually explicit talk with students during a night of drinking in Madrid three years ago.
The 2-1 Commonwealth Court decision said an arbitrator erred last year in ruling the school acted improperly in dismissing Robert "Robin" Ammon Jr.
Ammon asked the students at a Madrid bar how many sexual partners they'd had, claimed to have had more than 100 himself and said one woman would be his favorite student if she performed oral sex on him, according to the majority opinion.
Neither Ammon nor the lawyer for his union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty, returned phone messages seeking comment Friday.
Ammon "was shocked and upset at hearing these allegations" when confronted with them by a female student after they had returned to the United States, wrote Judge Patricia McCullough.
He blamed his behavior on being intoxicated, apologized to a group meeting of the students, and told a university dean about it.
"He did not understand why the students were upset and claimed he was just joking," the judge wrote.
Ammon had been reprimanded in 2006 for sexual harassment of a student and agreed to resign if that conduct occurred again, McCullough wrote.
He was fired in July 2010.
The union won his reinstatement through a grievance, as the arbitrator concluded the university administration had engaged in "procedural indiscretion and substantive irregularities," including a failure to issue a complaint to him as required under the collective bargaining agreement.
McCullough wrote that the arbitrator did not determine Ammon was prejudiced procedurally because he self-reported the issue, and the judge said there is no basis to conclude Ammon did not get a "reasonable and fair opportunity to defend himself."
"The implications of allowing public university employees to violate not only the trust of the students and employers, but also the general public, contravene longstanding public policy," McCullough wrote.
Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the State System of Higher Education, said Ammon had been on administrative leave pending the appeal, which could be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
"As of right now he remains out of the classroom, and we're pleased with the court's decision to uphold the university's decision to terminate him," Marshall said. "We believe it was the appropriate action."
About 9,000 students attend the school, which is about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh.