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'I regret my past behaviour,' says returning Brock professor disciplined for sexual harassment

Brock University professor David Schimmelpenninck apologizes for past behaviour following sexual harassment investigation and discipline.

David Schimmelpenninck makes a controversial return to teaching after 3-year absence

'I made serious mistakes and the university has disciplined me for them,' Prof. David Schimmelpenninck told CBC News. (Brock University website)

Brock University professor David Schimmelpenninck, who returns to the classroom this week after being disciplined by the university following a sexual harassment investigation, says he made some "serious" mistakes. 

"I regret my past behaviour, and if I could undo it, and the harm I caused, I absolutely would," said Schimmelpenninck in a statement to CBC News Monday. 

The comments come as Schimmelpenninck makes a controversial return to teaching, following a three-year absence from the classroom initiated at a time when the St. Catharines, Ont., campus was plagued with criticism resulting from a 2016 CBC News investigation.

I made serious mistakes and the university has disciplined me for them.- Prof. David  Schimmelpenninck

It revealed that Brock had warned a former student to keep quiet about an internal investigation that determined Schimmelpenninck gave her alcohol and tried to force himself on her sexually.

Last week, when the university confirmed that Schimmelpenninck would be returning to teaching this week, the professor declined to comment, directing media to the university's media relations office. He has since decided to speak out. 

"I made serious mistakes and the university has disciplined me for them. I know that some people will never accept me back at the school," said Schimmelpenninck. 

He told CBC News he had a "drinking problem" for a long time. 

"I have gotten help for my alcoholism and stopped drinking completely," said Schimmelpenninck. 

"Over the past three years, I have worked very hard to address my problems and done everything the university has asked of me."

A Dec. 14 decision from a labour arbitrator concluded that Schimmelpenninck should be allowed to return to the classroom "pursuant to the university's collective agreement with its faculty association," the university's administration said in a statement emailed to CBC Jan. 3.

Brock said Schimmelpenninck agreed to a set of conditions put in place for his return to teaching.

In a Jan.3 statement from the Brock University Faculty Association, president Michelle Webber said the administration investigated Schimmelpenninck's behaviour and "dealt with that behaviour in accordance with its applicable policies and procedures."

"Professor Schimmelpenninck has the right of every faculty member to teach, do his research, and participate in the service responsibilities incumbent upon every faculty member, in compliance with relevant university policies. Indeed, the administration will expect him to do so," said Webber.

Difficult chapter

The university said it appreciates that the 2016 harassment allegation was a difficult chapter for the Brock community.

"In the past three years, Brock has taken significant steps to develop its policies, procedures and resources to more effectively address human rights issues and to better address the well-being of everyone on campus," read the association's statement.

Schimmelpenninck is expected to return to teaching later this week at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. (CBC )

Following the investigation, Brock assembled a "human rights task force" of students, faculty, staff and members of the public who spent a year reviewing all policies and procedures dealing with sexual harassment, sexual violence and unprofessional behaviour.

Schimmelpenninck isn't expected to receive a warm welcome from some groups on campus. They have been meeting to discuss how to demonstrate their disapproval. 

OPIRG Brock, the Niagara-based chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, said it, along with other community members on campus, were meeting today. 

The tentative plan was to distribute leaflets outside Schimmelpenninck's first class this week, for students "who don't know about the situation," said Manchari Paranthahan, communications and action groups co-ordinator for OPIRG Brock.

Schimmelpenninck said he realizes not all has been mended. 

"I have devoted my life to being an educator, and my only hope is that I will be able to give back to the university community the best way I know, as an educator," said Schimmelpenninck.