Jackie Cannon ’20
During their first assembly of the year on Tuesday, October 22, members of the College of the Holy Cross faculty voted to endorse the statement made by the Academic Governance Council (AGC) ad hoc Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct that renewed the call for an independent investigation, which was first made by the faculty in April.
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the ad hoc committee Vickie Langhor presented the details of the motion to the faculty assembly. The motion itself was for the faculty assembly to endorse the statement made by the ad hoc committee, which had already been endorsed by the 14-member AGC that represents faculty interests. The ad hoc committee’s statement was read by Professor Langhor as follows:
“The members of the faculty assembly call upon the President of the College to authorize a comprehensive, independent inquiry, to identify the cultural, operational, and organizational factors that allow incidents of faculty sexual misconduct to occur, and go undetected and/or unaddressed for decades. The full final report of the inquiry shall be shared with the campus community.”
With 148 votes in favor, 11 abstained, and 10 opposed, the motion passed with overwhelming support following nearly an hour of discussion during which around a dozen faculty members spoke in support of the motion or posed questions about the details of the investigation.
This is the same call for a comprehensive, independent investigation which the faculty made last April, and which the Board of Trustees would eventually turn down after deeming such an investigation not to be “necessary or appropriate” in August, according to the Worcester Telegram. During the April 30 faculty assembly, however, the faculty voted to keep faculty sexual misconduct on the agenda for every assembly until an independent investigation was carried out.
The Oct. 22 motion was prompted in part by the Board’s decision not to pursue an independent investigation, faculty disappointment with the report by Phil Catanzano into the culture, structures, and procedures of the College, and recent allegations by alumna Jaime McAllister-Grande ’99 that she reported concerns of a professor’s “boundary-violating” to her class dean, current Provost and Dean of the College, Margaret Freije, but did not feel the appropriate action was taken by Freije.
Rev. Philip L. Boroughs S.J., president, addressed McAllister-Grande’s allegations in an Oct. 8 letter to the campus community, and during an open meeting on Oct. 9 in the Hub. On Oct. 20, Fr. Boroughs sent a follow-up letter regarding an independent investigation in which he stated, “I am open to such an investigation and would like to discern carefully and thoughtfully with representative members of the community what that might look like.”
During the course of the faculty assembly, the ad hoc committee shared that they have already begun these conversations with Fr. Boroughs, and that the call for an independent investigator would not be in opposition to the actions Fr. Boroughs has taken so far. Instead, it would be a “marker” of what the faculty assembly would like to see with this investigation, and as an opportunity for the faculty to democratically express if they agree with the direction in which the College is moving.
As specified by the ad hoc committee, while primarily focused around sexual misconduct alleged of Professor Christopher Dustin and former Artist-in-Residence James David Christie, such an investigation ideally would “leave room” for new information about other cases to be presented as well. The investigation would not be into the specific acts of potential misconduct, but instead the factors that may have allowed sexual misconduct to go “undetected and/or unaddressed for decades.”
Speaking on behalf of the ad hoc committee, Langhor also emphasized that part of this investigation should “address whether or not individuals within the Holy Cross administration […] may have become aware of any allegations or reports of sexual misconduct or related inappropriate behavior by Professors Christie or Dustin during their tenure at Holy Cross, what information they received, and what if anything they did in response.”
As Fr. Boroughs announced in his Oct. 8 letter, an investigation will be conducted to inquire if Provost Freije “acted appropriately and responsibly in light of any claims that may have been communicated to her” regarding McAllister-Grande’s allegations. However, the investigation proposed by the faculty differs in that it would not solely focus on any one member of the administration.
During the course of the assembly, the ad hoc committee and individual faculty members who spoke in support of the motion emphasized that they viewed an independent investigation as a means to rebuild trust among the administration, faculty and staff, and students while preventing the re-traumatizing of survivors that may arise with each new public allegation of misconduct. Likewise, Fr. Boroughs concluded his Oct. 20 email by stating that he is committed to taking “important steps” towards “healing, rebuilding trust, and becoming the community that we want to be at Holy Cross.”
Fr. Boroughs will again address the community on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 2:30 p.m. in the Hogan Ballroom, during which he will “provide an update on the question about an independent investigation,” as well as answer other questions members of the Holy Cross community have raised.