On the morning of May 7th, President Boroughs offered our community a 20-minute address regarding faculty sexual misconduct and related challenges we have faced this year. The intention of that address, as stated in his original invitation, was to outline how we can move forward as a community. In light of that address and in light of subsequent conversations among faculty members, it is clear that we remain at a standstill.
In August 2018, our community first learned about allegations that James David Christie had engaged in sexual misconduct with several students. By the time the Worcester Magazine printed a story in January 2019 about Chris Dustin’s alleged sexual misconduct, many of us were already frustrated by our administration’s unwillingness to answer questions central to this brewing crisis.
When were President Boroughs and Provost Freije first informed of formal or informal allegations against James David Christie and Chris Dustin, and what were the timelines of those investigations? Why was Chris Dustin allowed to maintain a powerful role while being investigated for an alleged violation of the sexual misconduct policy, and why was he permitted to teach and advise students even after leaving his position as Dean of Faculty? What steps were taken to address community safety? Were there official sanctions? What were they? Who made them? How were they determined and enforced? How and why did they differ from other cases? Were all of the allegations pertaining to Chris Dustin fully investigated?
We recognized from the beginning that legal constraints might prevent President Boroughs and Provost Freije from addressing some, but not all, of these questions. That is why we have asked for a public accounting of the specific legal justifications for withholding particular kinds of information. We have not yet received such an accounting.
At the same time, we recognized how difficult it must be to lead an institution at a moment like this one. We worried about jumping to conclusions. We worried about responding in anger rather than with reason. That is why we opted for a fact-finding approach.
We requested in January that the Academic Governance Council form an ad hoc subcommittee to investigate our concerns about faculty sexual misconduct. Once this committee had exhausted all internal venues for addressing these questions, they asked our president to contract an independent investigator. He denied that request.
The faculty assembly voted in early April to request that the Board of Trustees hire an independent investigator to examine patterns of faculty sexual misconduct; identify cultural issues, policies and practices that have enabled misconduct to occur; evaluate the integrity of administrative actions to implement and enforce our sexual misconduct policy; and report its findings to this community. The Board has committed to engage “an independent process,” though it is not yet clear what, exactly, that process will entail.
This is not to say that our administrators haven’t been working diligently to take steps forward. They most certainly have. They hired Phil Catanzano of Holland & Knight, LLC in September to conduct a review of culture, structure and procedures at the College to prevent future misconduct. They convened a Sexual Respect and Conduct Planning Group as well as a Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Committee. It was also recently announced that an external firm will review the structure and resources of the Title IX office this summer. We are grateful for these efforts and we remain optimistic that, with clear and strategic planning, these efforts will bolster our community’s ability to prevent and adjudicate sexual misconduct in the future.
And yet, to our knowledge, none of these initiatives will answer central questions about the administrative actions that led us to this moment of crisis–a blindspot that, without sufficient attention, will incapacitate our best efforts to move forward.
So, where might we go from here?
Mr. Catanzano has completed dozens of interviews within our community since he began his investigation. However, he only reports orally to the President, and our requests that Mr. Catanzano share his findings with the AGC ad hoc committee were denied. It is our understanding that administrators at many other institutions—including Oberlin College where James David Christie was also on the faculty—have asked their investigators to share written reports of their findings with selected stakeholders in order to take accountability for their actions and rebuild trust. We ask that our administrators do the same.
Our administrators will soon search for a new Director of Title IX Initiatives. The process by which this search is conducted is also a critical opportunity to restore trust and confidence. We ask that our administrators partner with faculty representatives from the Academic Governance Council (or their designees) and student representatives from the Student Government Association (or their designees) so that they are active collaborators in designing the arc of the search process and making hiring decisions. We further ask that the arc of the search process and a tentative timeline of these events be communicated clearly and transparently to the entire campus before the process begins.
President Borough’s Tuesday morning address was premised on the idea of moving forward. That is what we want as well. Nevertheless, we cannot do the work that is needed to move this community forward without a clearer accounting of what went wrong in the past and how we will move forward as active co-creators of the future.
This has been a difficult year and we are proud of the work we have done to seek a safer campus for our students and ourselves. We will persist.
Florencia Anggoro, Associate Professor, Psychology
Charles A. Baker, Associate Professor Emeritus, Modern Languages and Literatures
Nancy Baldiga, Professor, Economics and Accounting
Cristina Ballantine, Marlon Professor in the Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science
Alo C. Basu, Associate Professor, Psychology
Rob Baumann, Professor and Chair, Economics and Accounting
Sahar Bazzaz, Professor, History
Renee Beard, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Robert Bellin, Professor, Biology
Noah Berman, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Anne Blaschke, Visiting Assistant Professor, History
Laurie Ann Britt-Smith, Director, Center for Writing
Danuta Bukatko, Professor, Psychology
Miles Cahill, Professor, Economics and Accounting
Lauren Capotosto, Assistant Professor, Education
Rosa Elena Carrasquillo, Professor of History
Stephenie Chaudoir, Associate Professor, Psychology
Judith Chubb, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society, Political Science
Christine Coch, Associate Professor, English
Danilo Antonio Contreras, Assistant Professor, Political Science
Daniel J. DiCenso, Assistant Professor, Music
Joshua Farrell, Professor, Chemistry
Geoff Findlay, Associate Professor, Biology
Ara Francis, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Helen Freear-Papio, Lecturer in Spanish, Director of FLA Program
Robert H. Garvey, Associate Professor, Physics
Debra Gettelman, Associate Professor, English
Tom Gottschang, Professor, Economics and Accounting
Robert L. Green, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Daina Cheyenne Harvey, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Jumi Hayaki, Associate Professor, Psychology
Caroline Johnson Hodge, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Andrew D. Hwang, Associate Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science
Alvaro Jarrin, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Ellis Jones, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Denis Kennedy, Associate Professor, Political Science
Katherine Kiel, Professor, Economics and Accounting
Laurie King, Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science
Nadine M. Knight, Associate Professor, English
Alice L. Laffey, Associate Professor Emerita, Religious Studies
Elizabeth C. Landis, Associate Professor, Chemistry
Mary Lee S. Ledbetter, Professor Emerita, Biology
Ann Marie Leshkowich, Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Todd T. Lewis, Professor, Religious Studies
Tat-siong Benny Liew, Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies, Religious Studies
Alison Bryant Ludden, Associate Professor, Psychology
Aditi Malik, Assistant Professor, Political Science
Allegra Martin, Director of College Choirs
Victor Matheson, Professor, Economics and Accounting
Shawn Maurer, Professor, English
Sara Mitchell, Associate Professor, Biology
Jonathan Mulrooney, Professor, English
Elizabeth O’Connell-Inman, Lecturer/Director, Spanish
Debra J. O’Connor, Associate Professor, Economics and Accounting
Edward T. O’Donnell, Associate Professor, History
Julia Paxson, Associate Professor, Biology
Oliver de la Paz, Associate Professor, English
Sarah Petty, Associate Professor, Chemistry
K. N. Prestwich, Professor, Biology
Kolleen Rask, Professor, Economics and Accounting
K.J. Rawson, Associate Professor, English
Kristina Reardon, Associate Director, Center for Writing
Stephanie Reents, Associate Professor, English
Paige Reynolds, Professor, English
Cristi Rinklin, Professor, Visual Arts
Timothy Roach, Associate Professor, Physics
Gareth Roberts, Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science
Mary M. Doyle Roche, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Susan Rodgers, Professor Emerita, Anthropology; Distinguished Professor Emerita, Ethics and Society
Maria G. Rodrigues, Professor, Political Science
Claudia Ross, Professor, Chinese
Constance Royden, Professor, Mathematics and Computer Science
Virginia Ryan, Lecturer, Montserrat
Jodi Rymer, Lecturer and Director of Biology Labs
Scott Sandstrom, Associate Professor, Economics and Accounting and Prelaw Advisor
Jorge Santos, Assistant Professor, English
Thibaut Schilt, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures
Bianca Sculimbrene, Associate Professor, Chemistry
Gary Senecal, Visiting Assistant Professor, Psychology
Ann Sheehy, Associate Professor, Biology
Janine Shertzer, Professor, Physics
Brit Smith, Director of Study Abroad
Cynthia Stone, Professor, Spanish
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Murray Professor of Arts and Humanities, English
Karen L. Turner, Distinguished Professor of Humanities Emerita, History
Madeline Vargas, Professor, Biology
Helen M. Whall, Professor Emerita, English