WKU photojournalism grad accused of sexual misconduct, harassment

A screen capture of the website for WKU’s Mountain Workshops. 

Sexual harassment allegations surfaced after a prominent photojournalist who graduated from WKU left his job at National Geographic in December, according to Vox.  

Patrick Witty was accused of sexual harassment in 2017 by several women at National Geographic, where he worked at the time, according to Vox. The women alleged he abused his power to behave sexually towards women he worked with, including freelancers.

The women asked National Geographic’s human resources department to launch an investigation, but the department had already started one in October 2017.

Witty left his job at National Geographic that December, according to his Linkedin profile. The statement National Geographic gave to Vox did not specify the reason for his departure. The Vox article details accounts of several women alleging inappropriate and harassing behavior.

One of the incidents mentioned in Vox’s story occurred at a party following the end of WKU’s Mountain Workshop in Frankfort in 2015, according to a post on Medium by Jennifer Dupuis.

Dupuis, a freelancer who is not affiliated with WKU, alleged Witty invited her to his hotel room then repeatedly tried to follow her to her hotel room on the last night of Mountain Workshop despite attempts to avoid him.

James Kenney, director of the Mountain Workshops and photojournalism professor at WKU, said in a statement he had not received any complaints about Witty’s behavior.

“We abide by WKU’s Title IX policy, which is posted on our website, and I announce at the beginning of the workshops that any concerns should be voiced so they can be addressed,” Kenney said in the statement.

Kenney said Witty participated in the workshops as a coach in 2011 and as a video storytelling participant in 2015. Dupuis also participated that year, according to her article and her work on the 2015 Mountain Workshop webpage.

Kenney said “sexual harassment and misuse of power or position” are not allowed at the Mountain Workshops, and any concerns will be addressed.

After leaving the workshops, Dupuis received several Facebook messages from Witty, which she includes in the Medium post.

“You might see this and think, that’s innocent. Yes, sure it is. You might’ve read the above story and thought, well, nothing really happened. Well, that’s what I thought too, when I was 22 years old. However, I never forgot how dirty I felt typing back to him,” she said in the Medium post. “At that time, I didn’t want to lose an important contact. I didn’t want to risk damage.”

Several other women have also come forward. Photographer Sofia Jaramillo told Photo District News she “reported Witty to a member of the Eddie Adams Workshop faculty for an incident of harassment that occurred at the workshop in the fall of 2015.”

In a statement published by the British Journal of Photography, Witty said he was “deeply sorry that some of my past behavior has been hurtful to women.”

“With firm conviction, I deny that I’ve ever engaged in any behavior that amounts to sexual aggression. I also strongly deny ever insinuating that I would give someone professional help – or withhold it – on condition of sexual favors or romantic interest,” he said in the statement.

Witty graduated from WKU in 1996 with a bachelor of arts in photojournalism, according to the WKU Alumni Association and Linkedin. The Alumni Association newsletter recently featured a profile another publication had done on Witty.

His resume includes jobs with the New York Times, Time Magazine, Wired and National Geographic, according to Linkedin. He has been self-employed as a producer, editor and photographer since the beginning of 2018.

News editor Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Emma on Twitter at @_mccain_emma_.