Allyson Noenickx ’19
On Tuesday, the College’s Faculty Assembly voted to request that the Board of Trustees hire an independent investigator to aid their ongoing review of faculty sexual misconduct cases, policies, and procedures at the College––a request that Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president had publicly denied mere minutes earlier.
The motion to bypass Boroughs and direct this request to the Board came after the Academic Governance Council (AGC), the elected leadership body of the Faculty Assembly, originally requested that Boroughs hire independent counsel to aid the AGC ad hoc Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct.
Boroughs formally addressed the ad hoc committee request for the first time on Tuesday before the entire Assembly. “I am responsible for our policies and our procedures and ensure that they are followed. I hire expert administrators who are accountable to me to carry these out appropriately. Rather than hiring an independent investigator who will also be constricted by our policies and law, I encourage you to bring your concern directly to the Board of Trustees to get our whistleblower policy,” said Boroughs in his address to the Assembly on the AGC mandate. “If anyone has an allegation to share, please bring it to either the Title IX office, Dottie or me and we will make sure it is looked into. And if you believe that I have done something wrong, then you may bring that to the Board to whom I report,” said Boroughs.
Not a moment later, faculty members were proposing just that––to bring their request for an independent investigator directly to the Board. Boroughs’ speech proved ineffective, as the motion was approved with overwhelming support––garnering 92 votes in favor, 20 abstentions, and 22 votes against.
The vote comes after weeks of pleading by several student, faculty, and alumni groups that Boroughs hire an independent investigator.
In February students at the College staged a two day sit-in following sexual misconduct allegations against Professor Christopher Dustin, who had been suddenly placed on leave. The student group submitted a list of four demands to Boroughs, which included 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.”
After the sit-in in early February, the AGC approved the establishment of an ad hoc Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct that would work to review three main areas: the recent case of Professor Dustin, procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty members, and Title IX policies, procedures, and operations. According to an email sent by the committee to faculty on April 2, it quickly became apparent to the committee that they may require the services of independent legal counsel to fulfill their charge. The ad hoc committee met with the attorney hired to conduct the Title IX policy review and determined that “the framework he proposed would not allow us to fulfill their mandate,” according to the April 2 email. After the committee was then denied permission to meet with attorney Phil Catanzano, who has been conducting a campus climate study since September, the committee requested that Fr. Boroughs appoint an independent investigator in a March 26 letter. A week later Boroughs delivered his reply to the entire Assembly––a stern no.
“We have been dismayed by both the delays in starting a process that would restore trust in the community and the shifting constraints imposed by the administration as we have tried to begin our work,” wrote the ad hoc committee in their April 2 email to faculty, prior to the announcement of Boroughs’ decision on their mandate. “We believe that an independent investigation offers the best chance of restoring trust, and we will continue to work with urgency towards that goal.”
This past weekend brought another request that Boroughs hire an independent investigator––this time from an alumnus. In a March 31 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Op-Ed (reprinted in today’s Spire), former Organ Scholar Jake Street ’10, who along with four other alums brought forward allegations of sexual misconduct against Organist David James Christie in August, urged that “an independent investigation is a logical step for the school to minimize fear and regain trust.”
Professor Jonathan Mulrooney, who proposed the motion at the Assembly, reiterated this need to regain trust. “We need to take steps to restore trust in the process by which we can renew our community’s commitment to protecting students from sexually predatory behaviors on the part of faculty,” said Professor Mulrooney to the Spire. “The current administration, however well-meaning its intents, has clearly moved toward legal shelter rather than toward moral responsibility, and that requires a strong faculty response.”
Following the Assembly’s overwhelming support of the motion, Fr. Boroughs offered a statement on Wednesday: “As a community, we are working hard to review our culture, policy and procedures to address the needs of our community and prevent future sexual misconduct. That work continues. We have also made every attempt to assist the faculty committee working on this issue. That committee had asked the College to hire a separate attorney for the committee, in addition to the two attorneys with substantial Title IX experience from different firms that the college had already hired and offered to have work with them. Tuesday, I told our faculty I did not think that another attorney was necessary. If our Board of Trustees believes we need additional measures, we will certainly work with them as needed.”
The College hired attorney Phil Catanzano, senior counsel at Holland & Knight, to undertake a review of the culture, structure, and procedures at the College to prevent future sexual misconduct in September, following the Christie allegations and Globe story. On March 1, Fr. Boroughs also announced that the College had engaged Daryl Lapp, partner at Locke Lorde, to facilitate a review of the Sexual Misconduct Policy and how it operates in practice.
Both Lapp and Catanzano report directly to Fr. Boroughs. As of April 2, the AGC ad hoc committee had not received permission to meet with Catanzano, according to the email sent by the committee to faculty.
Professor Miles Cahill, Speaker of the Faculty, expressed his dissatisfaction with Boroughs’ handling of the decision thus far. “I was not told of the president’s decision until I heard it with everyone else at the faculty assembly meeting. I also did not know the president made a statement to the media until I read it in the Telegram. I am deeply disappointed with the way the president has characterized our work and recommendations, both in his faculty assembly statement and in his statement to the press. I chose not to respond to the Telegram reporter because I believe it is more productive to work in dialogue directly with each other rather than through the media. Our committee has tried to work with the president in good faith to find a way to reestablish trust in our community. I do not find his statements or the venues he has chosen to communicate them furthers this end. Our committee will meet and provide an appropriate and detailed response in the near future.”
Cover photo by Hui Li ’21.