Education

University of Iowa associate dean appointed weeks after arrest

'I have taken responsibility for my mistake,' Roland Racevskis says

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)
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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s new associate dean for the arts and humanities was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and child endangerment on the same day he participated in a public interview on campus — and two weeks before he was chosen for the job.

But Roland Racevskis, 48, of Iowa City, told The Gazette on Friday afternoon that he’s working with his supervisor and taking responsibility for his actions.

“My position has been that I have taken responsibility for my mistake, and I feel that once I get through this process, I will be in a position to help others to deal with issues of addiction and depression, which I have experienced in my life,” Racevskis said. “This process is helping me get beyond that.”

Racevskis, according to a Nov. 19 criminal complaint accusing him of two counts of child endangerment and one count of operating while under the influence, “admitted to drinking to celebrate a successful job interview earlier in the day.”

The French and Italian professor was pulled over just before 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19, a Tuesday, near the South Dodge and East Burlington streets intersection in Iowa City. He had bloodshot, watery eyes, wavering balance and slurred speech, according to the complaint.

He reported having one beer earlier in the evening and was driving his 13- and 9-year-old children to their music lessons. Although Racevskis initially refused a breath test, he eventually did — showing a 0.139 blood alcohol level, according to the complaint. The legal limit to operate a vehicle in Iowa is 0.08.

During a search before his arrest, an officer found two cocktail bottles of Fireball in Racevskis’ pocket. He left the Johnson County Jail the next day on a $5,000 bond, and he’s scheduled for an arrangement on the charges Jan. 23.

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Two weeks following his arrest, on Dec. 4, the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences announced Racevskis — who first joined the UI faculty in 1998 — had been appointed associate dean for the arts and humanities. His first day in the new role was Jan. 1.

Racevskis was one of two finalists for the job. They participated in open forums on campus Nov. 18 and Nov. 19.

He previously served as chair of the Department of French and Italian; chairman of the Department of German; and associate director of the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

UI officials said they were not aware of Racevskis’ arrest at the time of his appointment. And, when hiring from an internal applicant pool, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences does not require a criminal-background check.

“Mr. Racevskis has since made his supervisor aware of the situation,” according to UI spokeswoman Hayley Bruce. “All employees of the university are expected to comply with the policies outlined in the operations manual, and individual personnel actions are considered confidential matters.”

Racevskis confirmed for The Gazette that he spoke with his supervisor, “who was willing to work with me through the challenges.” He said he’s now in a state of sobriety and is “very interested in moving forward and being able to help others.”

“I no longer have an addiction due to this circumstance and bad decisions, which I’m atoning for and doing all I can to make it right,” he said. “This allows me in my personal and professional life to help others.”

The broader university does have a policy requiring a “criminal background check at point of hire” for all merit, professional and scientific, and faculty positions “at the time candidates are selected for hire.”

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“The policy enables the university to refuse to hire any individual with a criminal conviction that relates to the position for which that person has applied in such a way that hiring the person would be judged an unacceptable risk,” according to the policy.

It’s unclear whether an arrest — before a conviction — would disqualify someone from a position.

Per the policy, however, job candidates are informed when applying that their employment “is contingent on a declaration of conviction history and a successful (criminal background check.)”

If an offer is made before completion of a background check, according to the policy, the candidate is informed that “employment is contingent on its successful outcome.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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