The Miami University community is stunned following the indictment of former associate professor, Kevin Armitage.
Armitage was charged Tuesday in the U.S. Western District Court in Kansas City, Missouri with one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
Armitage, who was a professor of individualized studies in the Western Program, is currently being held in the Caldwell County Jail in Kingston, Missouri. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000, according to court records obtained by The Miami Student from the Western Division of Missouri’s district court.
“Miami is appalled and shocked to learn of these allegations of illicit sexual behavior. Any conduct that would harm a child is especially abhorrent,” Miami spokeswoman Claire Wagner said. “Under no circumstance is this type of unlawful behavior tolerated by our campus community.”
When asked for comment, Western program director and botany professor Nik Money directed The Student to Wagner’s statement, as did several other Miami faculty members.
The FBI arrested Armitage on Wednesday, May 30, after he showed up to a restaurant on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Armitage expected to meet the cousin of a 14-year-old female named Crystal, who he had allegedly planned to have sex with, in exchange for $100 after arranging for the liaison on a website called usasexguide.
An FBI agent posing as the girl’s cousin exchanged private messages with the former professor, who went by the username “CletusTheYokel” on the site. Armitage also had 576 postings involving prostitutes under that pseudonym in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Ohio and Tijuana, Mexico according to an FBI affidavit obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The FBI agent immediately took Armitage into federal custody for questioning at the Kansas City FBI office.
Taylor Hicks, a junior and Western minor, had Armitage for his Western 201 class last fall and visited his office hours throughout the past school year.
“Initially I was in disbelief,” she said. “There’s no way this is Kevin Armitage. And then when I opened the article and saw his picture I was sick to my stomach.”
Armitage was placed on an “interim suspension” from Miami on Wednesday, June 13, after the university learned he had been arrested by the FBI and he subsequently resigned from the university the same day, according to records from Armitage’s personnel file.
This was not the first time Armitage faced disciplinary action from Miami. The university reprimanded him two years ago, for a “violation of guidelines and policy.”
Armitage violated Sections 3.6, 5.3 and 5.4 on “Policy Prohibiting Harassment and Discrimination…Professional Ethics and…Statement of Good Teaching Practice” in addition to violations of “Miami University’s Domestic and International Travel Guidelines.”
President Gregory Crawford sent Armitage a Presidential Letter of Reprimand on Dec. 12, 2016, which warned Armitage that “this type of behavior must not occur again” or he would face “additional disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination.”
The letter indicated that Armitage was ineligible for “any merit salary” increase for three academic years, barred from “overload, summer, or winter term employment” for three years and “study abroad/study away course” for six years. He was instructed to “develop and execute a learning and improvement plan” with Crawford and the Office of Ethics and Equal Opportunity (OEEO).
All of this information has stunned students, faculty members and community members alike.
Armitage was a tenured professor who lives in Oxford. He holds a position on the board of Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice.
His wife, Helen Sheumaker, is a professor of American Studies at Miami, and they have a teenage daughter.
“I genuinely respected this man and now I think, ‘what’s his daughter going to think?’ Hicks said. “I’m furious for [his family]—people don’t realize their decisions aren’t just their decisions. And at this point it seems like anything is possible and I don’t mean that in a good way.”
Sarah Siff, a visiting assistant professor of journalism at Miami, was a graduate student at the university in 2011 studying history when Armitage served on the committee for her thesis.
“[Kevin] was helpful and he willingly served on my thesis committee, and I always considered him someone who was a good scholar for Miami to have in its stable,” Siff said. “It’s a loss in intellectual terms to have him gone from the university, but if the allegations are true, it’s appropriate that he’s left.”
While Siff was shocked by the charges Armitage faces, she was surprised to see so many of her colleagues condemning him on social media, specifically Facebook.
“I’m always surprised by people who say, ‘oh what a creep,’ or ‘I can’t believe I worked alongside him,’ because he hasn’t had a trial yet,” she said. “Another thing a Miami faculty member pointed out is how quickly Miami has purged its web pages of Kevin in all forms. At some level, I think you have to ask yourself whether his intellectual contributions are tainted by his criminal activities or are they not? Do we think about them separately from this crime that he’s accused of?”
Siff also raised the question of whether or not Armitage spent his time on the usasexguide site pursing liaisons during the research trips he conducted as a professor that were partially funded by the university.
Patti Newberry, area director and senior lecturer for Miami’s journalism program, worked with Armitage on two committees, one of which was the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer in 2014.
“Kevin aligned himself with progressive-oriented causes,” Newberry said. “He was energetic and well-informed. It’s quite shocking to think about the professional divide between his career and his personal persona.”
American Studies and history professor, Peggy Shaffer, started a GoFundMe for Shuemaker and her daughter.
“They need our help. Helen has decided to stay in Oxford. Helen will be a working single parent with a lecturer’s salary at Miami University. She wants to stay in her house and support her daughter, allowing her to stay close to her friends,” Shaffer wrote. “She is confronting a wave of expenses—lawyer’s fees, cost of living, schooling…Please consider making a donation to let them know you care and to allow them to create a secure future for themselves.”
The page has raised over $9,000 of its $10,000 goal in the first two days of being posted.
Armitage was initially represented by public defender, Carie Allen, and is currently being represented by Christopher J. Angles.
Requests for comment from Sheumaker and Angles have not been immediately responded to.
Check back to miamistudent.net for further updates and information regarding this story.
This story was updated for clarification and additional information regarding Armitage’s lawyer at 1:01 p.m. on June 30, 2018.