Opinions

Moving Forward: Faculty Respond to Boroughs’ Address on Sexual Misconduct

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

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