Holy Cross Students Stage Sit-in Outside President’s Office, “Demand More” Action Regarding Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Allyson Noenickx ’19


On Monday, February 4, dozens of students gathered outside the office of Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president in historic Fenwick Hall’s first floor hallway. The “Standing Up by Sitting In” demonstration was originally organized during a conversation among a diverse group of students who are concerned about sexual violence on the College of the Holy Cross campus.

Students gathered around 10 AM on Monday bearing signs expressing their frustration with the College’s response to a number of issues concerning transparency and sexual misconduct on campus. The demonstration also comes after Worcester Magazine broke sexual misconduct allegations concerning Professor Christopher Dustin last month. Many of the demands put forth by the group of students concern the College’s response to the allegations thus far.

In a statement to The Spire, the College responded to the student-led sit-in:

“We want our students to make their voices heard, and we appreciate that this issue is a serious one. Fr. Boroughs has already expressed his willingness to meet and have this important conversation, so the students can make clear their concerns and we can continue to work together on solutions.”

The students plan to occupy the Fenwick hallway until their list of demands is met in full. Fr. Boroughs addressed the students earlier this morning upon receipt of the demands. “We all agree that these are critical issues for us at the College of the Holy Cross and we want to work together with you to find resolution for them,” said Boroughs. “Some of the issues are complicated in various ways––some have to do with privacy––so we want to look into the implications and share some of those with you as well.”

Boroughs also said that the letter would be shared with members of the executive team and others who would work to formulate a response over the next several hours. No exact timeline was given as to when a response could be expected, but Fr. Boroughs assured that he would return to address the students as conversations unfolded throughout the day.

The following list of demands was delivered to Fr. Boroughs this morning at the outset of the demonstration:

In order to create a safer campus, these are our immediate demands (open to change):

I. A full acknowledgement from the College President that (1) for twenty months while Christopher Dustin was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, the college failed to alert the student body, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees of Professor Christopher Dustin’s misconduct and that (2) the College should not have allowed Professor Dustin to continue to interact with students. 
In future circumstances of faculty and staff misconduct, especially in cases involving students, the College shall take steps to remove said person from campus and prohibit any interaction with students.

II. The College must terminate their professional relationship with Christopher Dustin for his violation of the College’s sexual misconduct policy and mission statement pending the thorough and timely completion of the investigation he is currently undergoing. In the College’s own words, “sexual misconduct, in all forms, violates the sanctity of the human body and spirit and will not be tolerated within the College community,” and Professor Dustin’s behavior should not be an exception. 
Additionally, the Distinguished Teaching Award received by Professor Dustin in 2004 must be revoked.

III. An external audit by an impartial third party of the Title IX Office, its practices and officers, and the College’s policy surrounding sexual harassment and faculty misconduct. 
Dean Irish, due to his unique role as the Student Conduct Officer and his proximity to information about sexual assault on campus, must be placed under review with a signed promise by Dean Murray that the results of such a review will be publicly available to the fullest legal extent.
The Board of Trustees must be informed of any faculty under review for gross misconduct at the beginning of the review, and of any findings of any investigation. 

IV. A preliminary report from Philip Catanzano detailing a timeline of his investigation — published by March 1, 2019 — and a promise that the findings of the investigation will be made publicly available to the fullest legal extent upon its completion.

*IF the College is legally unable to meet any of these demands, we must be informed of such legalities in full detail. This information must be via writing in accessible language. 

**IF our demands are not met by the College by the completion of our sit-in, the student body of Holy Cross is prepared to continue.

Students have also organized performances throughout the day, sharing songs and poetry as they sit along Fenwick’s grand hall––mere feet from the College’s Admissions Office.

Update 2/4/2019 at 7:06 PM:

According to a representative of the College, “Fr. Boroughs and Dean of Students Michele Murray met this afternoon with students involved in today’s demonstration. They agreed to meet again on Tuesday to continue this important conversation.”

Student leaders from the sit-in reported that there were over 250 people participating in today’s sit-in at any one time. The sit-in, originally scheduled to last until all demands were met, is set to break at 8 PM tonight and resume tomorrow morning.

This is a developing story with more updates to come throughout the week.

View our complete gallery of sit-in photos.

Fr. Boroughs addresses students in the morning after receiving their list of demands. Photo by Hui Li ’21.
Student sign mocks the College’s motto. Photo by Jake Bucci ’21.
Students line the halls of Fenwick. Photo by Jake Bucci ’21.
Students gather in Fenwick’s first floor hallway as students perform with musical instruments, read poetry, and articulate their list of demands. Photo by Hui Li ’21.
Faculty and staff support students in sit-in. Photo by Jake Bucci ’21.
Students express their frustration with homemade signs outside the President’s office. Photo by Hui Li ’21.
Students sit-in with signage throughout Fenwick, expressing concern over a variety of issues on campus. Photo by Hui Li ’21.
Students crowd Fenwick hallway. Photo by Jake Bucci ’21.
Students share snacks and do homework as they prepare to spend the day in Fenwick. Photo by Jake Bucci ’21.
Students sit with signage throughout Fenwick. Photo by Hui Li ’21.

Check back throughout the day for more photos, videos, and developments.

Last update: 2/4/2019 at 7:06 PM

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