‘Predatory’ university tutor stood down for sex misconduct
A "predatory" university ethics lecturer threatened to fail a young female student if she did not have sex with him.
Former provisional psychologist Michael Montalto has been stood down from RMIT after he made unwanted sexual advances towards several students between June and August, 2014.
Montalto, 24 at the time, also groped a student's breasts and exposed himself to her and asked students if they were still virgins during end-of-trimester drinks at the Lion Hotel on August 28, 2014.
The young women, all aged 18 and 19, were students at a second university Montalto taught at, but which cannot be named for legal reasons.
Montalto was found guilty of professional misconduct and deemed "not a fit and proper person to hold registration in the profession" after the allegations brought on by the Psychology Board of Australia were proven at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing on October 8.
Five female students, a male student, a staff member and the course co-ordinator all gave evidence against Montalto.
The Tribunal found Montalto "exploited a power imbalance by engaging and/or attempting to engage (including by the use of coercion) in a sexual and/or personal and/or social relationship with a person who was his student".
Much of his depravity was committed against a student over several months.
Montalto invited the student back to his RMIT office, offered her wine, placed his hand on her thigh, kissed her and asked her to remove her top.
He told her he wanted to have sex with her on his colleague's desk.
"I know you want me," he told the student.
In her evidence, the young woman said she felt anxious and unsure of how to remove herself from the situation.
"I had the sense that Mr Montalto could be short-tempered and I knew from my own experiences with him that he could be quite controlling," she said.
"I was unsure of how he would react if I tried to leave and I was conscious of the fact that no one else was around."
The student said Montalto was beginning to slur his words and appeared to be intoxicated.
Montalto later told the girl he would fail her or give her a lesser mark if she did not have sex with him or engage in sexual communication.
"Mr Montalto ultimately threatened that he would fail me if I did not agree to his requests," she said.
"I felt extremely anxious about the prospect of having to repeat the unit and risk having Mr Montalto as my lecturer again."
The creep tutor regularly sent "sexually suggestive" texts and requested "intimate and/or sexual photographs".
He would also call her often and late at night and pester her to drink alcohol with him.
Once he asked the girl to send his senior lecturer an email praising his lecturing.
He also asked her to engage in sexually explicit correspondence about another student.
This included a demand she write a sexually explicit fantasy story involving him, her and the other student.
On another occasion, Montalto said to the girl "see how much trust you have in me" and "see how easily I can make you do what I want to".
He also requested her to delete all text messages and call history between them.
At the August 28 end of trimester drinks, Montalto asked the girl to have sex with him and his girlfriend at a city apartment.
He also asked several other students at the drinks "very personal and intimate questions".
These questions included, "have you lost your virginity", "do you have a boyfriend" and "which sexual positions do you like".
He bought the students alcohol and kissed a student on her mouth.
The predator teacher groped a student's breasts, attempted to undo and put his hands in her pants and exposed himself to her.
Montalto denied the allegations, instead he claimed students at the university were known to circulate "inappropriate memes, messages and prank material".
He also claimed to have "no memory" of the incidents.
VCAT senior member Robert Davis said the tribunal was "unimpressed" with Montalto's evidence.
"We have formed the view that there is a solid body of evidence before us which suggests, that the respondent was trying to recruit his female students into having a sexual relationship with both him and his partner at their hotel room," he said.
"We were impressed with the evidence that the students gave, and such evidence was consistent and withstood cross-examination.
"We did not get the same comfortable feeling about the respondent's evidence.
"The best he could say were these witnesses were either mistaken or lying.
"In our view his behaviour was deliberate, predatory and opportunistic."
An RMIT spokesperson confirmed the university will launch its own investigation.
"In light of the VCAT decision, we recognise that misconduct towards students from another tertiary college may have occurred at an RMIT location," they said.
"The safety and wellbeing of our students is our absolute priority and we will therefore be standing down the individual from any future casual employment at RMIT and undertaking a full and thorough investigation."
Psychology Boards spokesman AHPRA chief executive Martin Fletcher said it was a "pleasing outcome".
"Mr Montalto was a provisional psychologist who abused the trust and power he had as a teacher for his own means," he said.
"That's a serious breach of trust, which is why we took him to the tribunal.
"We want the public to have confidence that psychologists are properly trained and qualified, and fit and proper people to practise the profession."
Montalto, who chose not to renew his psychology registration, will learn his fate on December 12.