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Monty Cook ’86, who left his job as senior vice president and editor at The Baltimore Sun last spring to head an innovative online news project in UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, resigned from the school Tuesday after he was found sending sexually related instant messages to a female student.
The matter was reported Wednesday on the website reesenews.org, a student-led launching pad for experimental digital newsgathering, dissemination and audience research. Cook had been executive producer of the Reese Felts Digital News Project, named for the 1952 alumnus who donated money for the project.
In making some details of the matter public, the school’s dean, Jean Folkerts, explained in an e-mail: “Normally in these circumstances our only official comment is that this is a personnel matter. However, the chancellor has authorized me to relay the nature of the situation to assure you, the students, and the public that the University and the School take swift action in these situations.”
Reesenews reported that its sources said that “conversations of a sexual nature occurred between Cook and the student over G-chat, an instant messaging service provided by G-mail.”
The site also reported that several members of faculty received copies of an e-mail sent in May that included the text of an explicit alleged G-chat conversation between Cook and an unidentified woman. The e-mail was sent by the woman’s husband, and its stated purpose was to end a relationship between Cook and the man’s wife. Folkerts was one of the recipients.
Reesenews reported that Folkerts declined to take action against Cook in that case, saying it was not her place to intervene among consenting adults.
A Nov. 15 letter from Folkerts to Cook states that Cook had told her that the former boyfriend of an undergraduate student was upset about “sexually explicit text messages you had sent to the student.”
Folkerts stated in the letter that she met with the student, who told her of interactions with Cook and “shared explicit electronic messages that seem to indicate you initiated and fostered an amorous relationship with the student” that violated UNC policies on faculty-student interaction.
Folkerts initially placed Cook in an “off-campus assignment” and forbade him to have any communication with the student. Cook subsequently resigned.
Assistant Professor Don Wittekind has been named interim executive producer of reesenews.