Barry Poyner, former communication professor at Truman State University and elder at Kirksville Church of Christ, was sentenced to 120 days in the Adair County Regional Jail. The ruling has since been suspended and Poyner is now serving 24 months of supervised probation after pleading guilty to a Class B misdemeanor of patronizing prostitution on July 27, 2020.
After a tip was shared with the Truman State Police Department that Poyner was harassing male students on a dating app called Grindr, the Kirksville Police Department set up an undercover profile on the app. On Dec. 3, the undercover officer was contacted by “DILF” which was later identified as Poyner through address verification. Poyner offered the undercover officer gas and an Arby’s gift card in exchange for sexual favors. The officer agreed to meet Poyner at a gas station before any sexual favors occurred. When Poyner arrived at the gas station and was approached by police, he fled the scene only to be pulled over a few blocks later.
Poyner was put on suspension and prohibited from interacting with students or entering Truman’s campus as the University led an investigation in cooperation with local law enforcement.
The communication department held a conference during which Lauri Millot, Truman’s Title IX compliance officer, and department chair Jay Self were available to answer questions that students had regarding Poyner’s case, and how to get help through the Title IX office as needed.
If a student ever feels unsafe or harassed there are many options for them to get help.
“The sooner we know something, the more we can help,” Millot said. “We have resources and we are available to help.”
While Truman works to keep all of its current policies in compliance with Title IX, there are already policies in place to protect students from discriminatory conduct, Millot said. Truman is not currently working on any new policies as a direct result of Poyner’s actions
Students should always call 911 if they are in an emergency situation. Students are also recommended to confide in a trusted professor, faculty or staff member. All professors are mandatory reporters and will alert Millot of the situation. She will then meet with the student and discuss possible options. If the student wishes, the University will begin an investigation. If a student does not feel comfortable talking to someone, there is a complaint form available online at www.titleix.truman.edu.
During the communication conference, Self said the department was granted permission to search for a replacement for a different professor. Over the summer, the communication department lost an additional two professors. Communication professor Mark Smith retired from his position and professor Chris Outzen left Truman to teach at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Self said students whose classes were supposed to be taught by the professors who left had to be shuffled into another section of the same class, told to take a similar course to fulfill the requirements or were advised to take the class during the next available semester.
The communication department is not looking for any new professors to fill the empty positions.
“The budget is not allowing for searches just yet,” Self said.
The department is expecting to have fewer sections of some communication classes, but only one or two classes will disappear from the schedule for the coming semesters.