The College Responds to Alumni’s Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Organist

Allyson Noenickx & Jackie Cannon

Editor in Chief & Chief News Editor

Editor’s Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual misconduct.

On Aug. 24, The Boston Globe reported that the College of the Holy Cross and Oberlin College were cutting ties with acclaimed organist James David Christie amid allegations of sexual misconduct raised by five Holy Cross alumni. The Globe reported these allegations following interviews with the Holy Cross alumni, who described “lewd comments” and “unwanted touching” by Christie that allegedly spanned from 1994 to 2017.

Sean Redrow ’98, Brett Maguire ’02, Jeff Wood ’06, Jake Street ’10, and Jen McPherson ’13, all former Organ Scholars, informed the College of Christie’s alleged sexual misconduct in a letter to Father Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president. The letter, dated Aug. 3, was delivered to the College on Aug. 15, and received by Boroughs the following day.

According to the College, Christie offered his letter of resignation on Aug. 13, prior to the College’s receipt of the alumni letter. This resignation would not have gone into effect until the end of the month. However, after Boroughs received the letter, the College immediately placed Christie on administrative leave, and “barred him from campus and from interacting with College community members,” according to Fr. Boroughs.

The alumni described Christie as an “imminent danger” in their letter, writing, “several of us were sexually abused by Prof. Christie while we were Holy Cross students. All of us collectively witnessed, over the course of decades at Holy Cross, a clear pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior.”

In a comment to the Spire, Street spoke on behalf of the group, explaining why the alumni chose to come forward with the allegations at this time: “we came together over the course of the past several months as our understanding of our experiences at Holy Cross and elsewhere began to shift with the resurfacing of memories and traumas. We came forward out of an urgent need to protect current students.” The group approached the Globe after delivering the letter to ensure that the full context of Mr. Christie’s resignation would be clear.

Following the publication of the Globe article, Fr. Boroughs again addressed the campus community. He offered his support to the alumni and praised their courage in coming forward. Fr. Boroughs stated that he and the administration were unaware of the extent of the alleged misconduct, as described in great detail in the Globe, and that “the College will be aggressive and thorough in pursuing a full review of the issues and behaviors articulated in the Globe article.”

Street told the Spire, “we stand by the requests made in our letter to Fr. Boroughs: protection of students; care for all Organ Scholars affected, both former and current; and a dialogue with Holy Cross about the Organ Scholar program.”

As Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at the College for over 30 years, Christie worked very closely with Organ Scholars, recipients of Holy Cross’ prestigious, four-year, full tuition, organ scholarship. As stated by the Globe, “Some said the organist used his considerable artistic standing to manipulate and cajole students, dangling before them entrance to some of classical music’s most rarefied circles.”

In a Sept. 18 follow-up to his initial letter, Fr. Boroughs informed the campus of the administration’s response to the allegations, which includes an ongoing investigation and collaboration with the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP. Senior counsel Phil Catanzano has begun his process of meeting with faculty and staff, and is keeping the administration updated.

Additionally, the administration is working to “prevent future misconduct,” wrote Fr. Boroughs, through “the separate review of culture, structure and procedures at the College.” Fr. Boroughs encouraged anyone with information they feel is relevant to the investigation to speak to the Title IX office.

The College has a number of resources available for students in the wake of these allegations. The Chaplain’s office, the Student Government Association (SGA), and Fr. Boroughs have all detailed numerous resources available for students seeking support following this difficult news. Confidential sources include Health Services, the Chaplain’s office and the counseling center, while non-confidential reports can be made to the Title IX office at titleix@holycross.edu, or to Tracy Kennedy, the Holy Cross Title IX Coordinator, at 508-793-3336 or tkennedy@holycross.edu.

Photo by Hui Li

Read the alumni letter to Fr. Boroughs

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