Communication department hosts meeting about suspended professor

Communication Department chair Jay Self and Truman State University Title IX officer Lauri Millot hosted a meeting Wednesday night to inform students about the charges brought upon communication professor Barry Poyner and the effects of those charges. 

On Jan. 10, an email was sent to all communication majors and minors at Truman State University regarding a department-wide meeting to be held on Jan. 15

“This is a meeting not just to explain how the department will be addressing Dr. Poyner’s absence, but also for us to listen to you and ensure that you are safe and aware of your rights and resources,” the email stated. “During this meeting, you will have a chance to ask questions of Jay Self, the chair of the department, and Lauri Millot, Truman’s Title IX Officer.” 

Poyner has been charged with one misdemeanor count of patronizing prostitution as of Dec 3.

Poyner, who has taught in the communication department for 30 years, is accused of offering to fill up an undercover Kirksville Police Department detective’s vehicle with gas in exchange for sexual acts, which is a class B misdemeanor of patronizing prostitution. 

Poyner was issued a summons to make his initial court appearance in Adair County Jan. 8, 2020. After being granted a continuance, Poyner pleaded not guilty Jan. 15, 2020.

“The University is aware of the situation regarding Barry Poyner,” University General Counsel Warren Wells wrote in a statement issued Dec. 13. “He has been placed on suspension and informed that he is not allowed on campus, cannot have any contact with student organizations or participate in any campus events or activities. The University is cooperating with law enforcement and will have no further comment while the matter is under investigation.”

Students, faculty and staff from a variety of majors attended the meeting, with most chairs being taken up and students standing in the back and sitting along window sills. Brenda Higgins, associate vice president for student health & wellness, was also available to answer questions.

Self said Poyner is on paid suspension from his position at Truman, where he will still be conducting research off campus. Self gave a summary of the charges against Poyner and how the University has worked to reassign classes Poyner was teaching and reassign students he was advising. 

Self said all of the classes Poyner was teaching for the semester have either been canceled or given to another professor. 

Millot explained the Title IX process, and the resources available for both parties when a grievance is filed.  

Self and Millot then opened the floor to questions from the audience. Students asked questions about what the investigation is over, what Poyner’s reassignment means and the future possibilities of the case. 

There was also a statement written by Dylan Phillips, a 2014 Truman alumnus, read by a current student at the meeting. In the statement, Phillips recalled his time at Truman as a student and as a faculty member and the rumors of harassment he heard about Poyner. Phillips also wrote that it is offensive the University didn’t fire Poyner when the allegations came out and it shows the University puts a higher price on its image rather than the safety of its students. After the statement was read students in the audience applauded. 

There was also an interest in the specifics of maintaining confidentiality while filing a Title IX complaint. 

Students asked if a complainant filed a report and wanted to remain confidential, will the accuser be notified and will there be further action taken in investigating the accused. 

“Someone coming forward … knowing that they want to remain confidential is coming to ensure they are supported,” Millot said. “You wouldn’t be coming forward saying that I want to be confidential and expect to have an impact on anything beyond that.” 

Poyner’s photo remains on the communication department website, and he remains a paid employee of the University. 

“Since he is still an employee and he has due process rights we cannot treat him any differently than we would any other employee,” Self said.

However, Self said when making the fall schedule he consulted University President Sue Thomas, who said to not schedule any classes for Poyner. The communication department was granted a search to replace a different communication professor for the upcoming semester. 

With the University’s investigation still pending any students, faculty, staff or alumni who have further information or would like to talk to Millot about resources are welcome to reach out to her at or at (660) 785-4354.