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YSU Panel investigates use of computer for porn



Published: Sat, March 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Habat came to the university in 2000 as a special assistant to the president.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A top Youngstown State University administrator is the focus of an investigation into alleged misuse of a university computer to access pornographic Web sites.

A three-member panel is investigating an allegation that John Habat, vice president for administration, violated university policy regarding use of a laptop computer, university officials said Wednesday. The allegation contends the computer was used to view pornography.

Habat, the third-highest ranking officer at YSU, earning a salary of $129,500, has denied the allegations.

Dr. David C. Sweet, university president, said he was informed of the allegation Feb. 19 by a faculty member. That faculty member, he said, had received reports from elsewhere alleging that Habat had misused the equipment.

"We have been in other difficult circumstances," Sweet said, referring to ongoing financial issues. "The incident is obviously impacting a number of individuals, but it isn't impacting the ongoing work of the university."

Panel to investigate

Because Habat is an administrator, Sweet said, he chose to appoint an independent panel to look into the matter. Heading the panel is Dr. James Morrison, chairman of YSU's psychology department and former chairman of the YSU Academic Senate. Others are Dr. Darla Funk, a professor in the Dana School of Music, and George Letchworth, retired director of YSU's Counseling Center.

Sweet said the panel has confiscated the laptop computer. He has requested a report by March 24. Morrison declined to comment.

In a statement prepared by the university's Office of Marketing and Communications, Habat said he welcomes a fair and impartial investigation.

"I deny that I used my university computer to access inappropriate Web sites at any time," Habat said.

He also said in the statement that there are many ways in which unauthorized people can use a computer inappropriately without the owner's knowledge.

University policy

YSU's policy regarding the use of university computers states that any users must comply with federal, state and other applicable laws as well as university policies, procedures and regulations regarding "obscenity, child pornography and indecency."

Personal use of computing resources is not prohibited if it does not interfere with university responsibilities and is in compliance with other university policies. Employees violating the policy are "subject to disciplinary action," the document says.

The policy protects "academic freedom and freedom of expression."

Sweet said law enforcement officials have not been called because there is no reason to do so.

Habat came to the university as special assistant to Sweet after the president was hired in 2000. He was promoted to vice president in June and received a raise of more than $9,000. His duties include supervision of human resources, labor relations, police, planning and government relations.

Habat's ties to Sweet go back more than 20 years, and the two worked together when Sweet was dean of urban affairs at Cleveland State University and Habat was executive assistant to then-Cleveland mayor George V. Voinovich.




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