Jackie Cannon ’20
On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette released an article titled “Former Holy Cross student accuses professor of ‘inappropriate behavior’ in ’97,” which has since reignited the conversation about sexual misconduct on campus and prompted an immediate response from the administration.
In the Telegram, Jaime McAllister-Grande ’99 alleges that a College of the Holy Cross professor currently under investigation carried out “boundary violating and other inappropriate behavior” during the spring of her sophomore year in 1997.
The professor is not named, but the Telegram claims that McAllister-Grande’s statement coincides with the investigation of Professor Chirstopher Dustin, which was made public in January 2019 and would eventually prompt a historic sit-in at Holy Cross.
According to the Telegram, McAllister-Grande also alleges that she informed the current Provost and Dean of the College, Margaret Freije, of these allegations in 1997, when Freije was her class dean. The Telegram reports that two anonymous faculty members alleged that Freije had “led them to believe the college didn’t know of any accusations against Dustin prior to his 2017 appointment [to Dean of the Faculty].”
Three days after this story was released, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs S.J., president, sent a message to the campus community responding to the content of the Worcester Telegram article. This letter informed the Holy Cross community that the College “will launch a thorough and impartial investigation into this report. The focus of the investigation will be on what was communicated to Provost Freije, and whether she has acted appropriately and responsibly in light of any claims that may have been communicated to her.”
Fr. Boroughs then announced that Loren Cass, Dean of Experiential Learning and Student Success, will serve as acting Dean of the College as of Oct. 15 as Freije steps back from her “day-to-day oversight of the work of the deans” in order to prevent the investigation from interfering with the academic functioning of the College. Freije will continue her role in overseeing admissions, financial aid, and strategic initiatives, and continue as a member of the Executive Team.
Following the release of his message, Fr. Boroughs held an open meeting in the Hub on Wednesday, Oct. 9. Attended by numerous staff and faculty, as well as some students, this meeting provided a public forum for members of the campus community the opportunity to ask Fr. Boroughs the questions they had. Fr. Boroughs opened the meeting by reflecting on the “sacredness” of the relationship between faculty and students, and by reiterating that, in addition to protecting students, he also must protect the privacy of the parties involved.
Fr. Boroughs’s letter detailed that the investigation of McAllister-Grande’s allegations will be conducted by an expert retained by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. During the Oct. 9 meeting, Fr. Boroughs specified that this expert would be someone who has not worked with Holy Cross in the past, and they would report to the Executive Committee. Fr. Boroughs also shared that he would be recusing himself from the Executive Board’s appointment process for an investigator. This information was not explicitly stated in the letter.
When asked during the meeting, Boroughs did not elaborate on the timeline of this investigation, other than to state that the Board of Trustees was already working on retaining an investigator with experience in Title IX and educational law.
During the course of this meeting, several faculty repeated the call for an independent investigation, which members of the Faculty Assembly presented to the Board of Trustees last spring. At one point of the meeting, a faculty member shared that he believed such an investigation was necessary for rebuilding trust among the administration, faculty and staff, and students. When asked, Boroughs clarified that the decision to pursue an external investigation would theoretically be left to him, in consultation with the Board of Trustees.
Faculty members also expressed concern for how individuals could feel comfortable bringing forward new allegations when a high-ranking administrator with substantial power was accused of misconduct. One faculty member asked if Dean Freije would be sharing her side of the story at any point, to which Boroughs responded, “I don’t see how [that] can take place in a public forum.”
The meeting came to a close shortly after a member of the faculty raised a concern that she saw a “gap” between the investigation of the single incident raised by McAllister-Grande and the type of investigation required to understand the larger structures that created this environment. “I wanted you to know you’re heard and we will be talking further,” Boroughs replied as he brought the meeting to an end.
In the conclusion of his Oct. 8 letter, Fr. Boroughs stated that he would be addressing the community on Monday, October 21, and would be providing more information regarding this address in the coming days.