Professor returns to campus following dropped charges
Following his arrest and brief leave of absence from Augustana, economics professor Reynold Nesiba has returned to campus and resumed teaching courses.
Further investigations into the sexual contact charges against Nesiba, originating from an incident Sept. 26, 2016, were dropped by the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney’s Office Jan. 5 after investigations uncovered inconsistencies in the evidence against him.
The South Dakota Democratic Party allowed Nesiba to retain his seat in the South Dakota State Legislature, where he will serve while teaching courses.
Augustana President Rob Oliver said he and administration are relieved Nesiba is able to return to his duties as a professor but understands his return may be uncomfortable for some.
“These are difficult issues,” Oliver said. “I think you can find yourself dealing with things you’ve never dealt with before, and when those kinds of circumstances come up, you try to be thoughtful and careful. I think we handled it as well as we could. He had some business to take care of, and he took care of it. And we gave him the time and space to do that, so that’s what’s important.”
Before his return, Oliver asked Nesiba to be patient and understanding to those who are uneasy about his return to campus.
“I think he is aware that people who might have been concerned about the event may need some time,” Oliver said. “So as he and I spoke, I asked him to give them the time, let them set that pace of how that happens. And we know it will take some time to restore a sense of normalcy, which we hope will come.”
Before his absence, Nesiba was the Augustana Democrats faculty advisor. During his leave the organization replaced him with an interim advisor, Jeff Venekamp, senior associate director of Campus Life.
President of Augustana Democrats Ryan Solberg said the organization is unsure if they will reappoint Nesiba or replace him.
“Dr. Nesiba is still going to be away from Augustana most of the time serving in Pierre,” Solberg said. “So that’s not a decision we felt we would be able to make until he’s out of the legislature and back full-time. And it’s not something we can review until we decide where we would like to go as an organization.”
Solberg said that, regardless of Nesiba’s future with the Augustana Democrats, the group is glad Nesiba could return to campus and still serve South Dakota in the legislature.
Until Nesiba returns to teaching full-time, his courses will function as an online and face-to-face hybrid, holding in-person classes only on Fridays.
Senior Leul Abebe signed up for Nesiba’s Economics 121 course. He said the class has run smoothly so far, but he did feel an “uneasiness” during the first few classes.
“I didn’t think he was coming back,” Abebe said. “He said in the first class that anyone who felt uncomfortable could come talk to him about it. I mean, I think it’s pretty great he’s back.”
Dr. Nesiba declined to comment on his reappearance in order to respect Oliver’s advice of maintaining a lower profile until things normalize, but he told the Argus Leader after his charges were dropped that he was “thankful that the process was carried out and that I’m vindicated.”