Wesleyan is Great, Unless A Professor Sexually Harasses You

Below is an article that I, Nico Vitti ’12, wrote and would like to share with the Wesleyan community. If you are not interested in reading the entire thing, here are my main questions about current university policy and protocol regarding professors who harass students:

Why is a student banned from knowing the outcome of an investigation of a professor who harassed them? Who is in charge of students’ physical and emotional safety in Wesleyan classrooms?

The article is below, and there’s more after the jump.

I was sexually harassed and discriminated against multiple times by a Wesleyan professor, and the administration has failed to follow through with my investigation or make me feel safe at Wesleyan.

Let me be clear: I’m writing and publishing this here on Wesleying because the greater Wesleyan community needs to know that the administration is completely unprepared to deal with a student’s reporting a professor for inappropriate behavior. Throughout the entire process of reporting the behavior and seeking justice, I have never wanted to place myself in opposition to Wesleyan’s administration. I love Wesleyan and have had rewarding relationships with many administrators in the past through activist projects and residential life programs. I would have liked to work with the administration, not against them. But the events of the past 6 months have made it impossible for me to stay silent about the way the administration has treated me since I severed my relationship with a professor who harassed me repeatedly over a period of two semesters.

The professor’s inappropriate comments began in the first class I took with him spring of my freshman year (2009), and escalated in offensiveness. I began to feel less safe as the weeks went on, prompting me to seek advice from my faculty advisor last spring (2011). I decided to confront the professor one-on-one, before the end of that semester, to tell him I felt uncomfortable when he made inappropriate comments to me, but he was never available to meet. I finally decided to end my relationship with him last semester, when he sexually harassed me after pulling me into his office during class (a class I took with him because he is the only professor at Wesleyan who teaches it). After that incident I reported the professor to my class dean, David Phillips, and withdrew from the class.

Dean Phillips promised me a replacement academic credit and that the university would take the accusation seriously. I wrote a statement explaining exactly what happened in preparation for the university’s investigation, which I was told would be run by the Director of Human Resources (HR), Julia Hicks and Rob Rosenthal (Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost). I submitted my written statement to Dean Phillips and trusted that based on how obviously inappropriate this professor’s behavior was, and what an obvious threat he is to my safety and the safety of his students still under his supervision, the university would take action. I suggested in my statement that he be fired immediately. When Sonia Mañjon (Vice President of Diversity and Strategic Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer) and Julia Hicks interviewed me as part of the investigation, both were sympathetic and assured me that the professor had clearly overstepped the boundaries of a professor-student relationship.

I was never informed of the outcome of the university’s investigation. As weeks passed after the interview with Julia Hicks and Vice President Mañjon, I wondered what had become of the professor, but knew he was still teaching since I ran into him several times around campus, prompting trauma-related anxiety symptoms. I did have an opportunity to make up the academic credit in a private tutorial with a professor in a completely different department, but was hurt and frustrated that no one had contacted me yet. I was informed by Dean Phillips that the professor in question would like to give me an apology letter if I would be interested in reading one. I was not.

Emotionally exhausted and headed toward finals week, I let it rest through the end of fall semester, and through the first few months of the spring semester.

In April I asked Vice President Mañjon for an appointment to discuss the outcome of the investigation. She agreed to meet with me, and told me that the case was taken seriously but that she couldn’t tell me what sanctions were placed on the professor because of confidentiality issues. She was also surprised that HR hadn’t followed up with me. I asked her what the confidentiality issues were, and she said it was both university policy and legal issues that prevented her from informing me. I asked her what policy she was referring to and she promised to email it to me. A weekend and a few weekdays passed and she still hadn’t sent it. I emailed her again, reminding her to send along the policy.

She responded by copying and pasting this section from the university’s policy on harassment and discrimination (link to policy) and vaguely mentioning state and federal laws about employee personal files: “When the investigation is completed, the person making the complaint and the person alleged to have committed the conduct will be informed, to the extent appropriate, of the results of the investigation” (emphasis hers). Vice President Mañjon copied Julia Hicks and David Winakor on the email. I had never heard of David Winakor and was not aware that he was involved in the investigation. With a quick Google search, I found out he is Wesleyan’s General Counsel.

Following that email, I set up a meeting with Michael Whaley (Vice President of Student Affairs) because, despite not being involved in the investigation, he had been friendly and honest with me in the past. Vice President Whaley told me that the general process for a complaint of harassment or discrimination against a professor is that a note will be put in the professor’s file but that because of tenure agreements professors are rarely fired on a first offense. I asked if my case was considered a first offense, even though the professor harassed me multiple times. He said he didn’t know. I asked Vice President Whaley who decides to what “extent appropriate” I would be informed of the university’s actions, and he said Vice President Mañjon, Julia Hicks, and David Winakor.

In a follow-up email I asked Vice President Mañjon, since she was one of the people who decided to what “extent appropriate” I should be informed, why she believed it was inappropriate to inform me of the investigation that I myself initiated. At the time of writing (May 25), she has not responded. I sent the email on May 10.

On May 13, I submitted a request through Dr. Jennifer D’Andrea (the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services and my personal therapist) that the professor in question not attend the commencement ceremony, as I did not want to be disturbed with the trauma-related anxiety symptoms his presence would cause on a day when I would be walking around campus with my family. Yesterday, May 24, I received a phone call from Dean Phillips. He said that he was sorry but he had been told to tell me that the professor in question would, in fact, be attending commencement. I asked who told him that, and he said Vice President Rosenthal.

That afternoon, I approached Vice President Rosenthal as he was leaving a meeting in Usdan and asked him why he was not going to ban the professor in question from commencement. Vice President Rosenthal said that since the professor has already been sanctioned, he is not willing to sanction the professor again. I explained that banning the professor would not a be punitive action, it would be directly protective of my mental and emotional health needs on a day when I should be allowed to move freely around central campus during and after the ceremony. Rob responded that, due to a special favor the professor has provided the university, he cannot be banned from the ceremony but if I told Rob where I was “going to be” during commencement, he would make sure the professor wasn’t near me. I told him this was unacceptable. Vice President Rosenthal said, “do what you need to do.”

What I need to do is make sure that the rest of the Wesleyan community knows how the administration is treating me, both in the hopes of seeing some kind of justice in my own case, and in the hopes that this doesn’t have to happen to any other students who have been or could be harassed by a professor. My questions now are: Why did both Vice President Mañjon and Vice President Rosenthal take so long in getting back to me (or never responded at all to my requests)? Why is a student banned from knowing the outcome of an investigation of a professor who harassed them? Who is in charge of students’ physical and emotional safety in Wesleyan classrooms?

Maybe if there is enough demand from students and faculty, and all the other wonderful people who care about Wesleyan, someone in the administration will answer.

I would really like to state the name of the professor here in order to protect my friends and classmates from his inappropriate comments and advances. But in order to protect myself legally I cannot. I believe the best I can do for myself and for Wesleyan is to make public the administration’s lack of commitment to the safety of their students, since they have denied my requests that the policy be applied fairly or changed. If it were, then maybe students would be able to make their schedules and attend class knowing that if a professor makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe, the administration would deal with the situation honestly, seriously, and effectively.

It pains me that it has come to this. I wanted to have some kind of resolution in time for me to enjoy the limited time I have on campus before I graduate on Sunday. I have been lucky to have extremely supportive friends, and family, and I’ve been able to trust several other professors for their advice. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think I can let this rest knowing that the administration is not being held accountable to the students they are supposed to serve.

  • jb

    It’s not just Wesleyan, it’s academia in general. I’ve experienced similar shit at a top ranked program in Nebraska and have since discovered that these issues are rampant throughout institutions of higher education. There is little recourse and they are never held accountable. I now believe that certain individuals enter academia because they know they’ll be able to get away with their deviant behavior. It makes sense since most of these professors are incompetent, insecure fools. The only way they feel powerful is by taking advantage of helpless students who are supposed to cater to their every whim. I say fuck that. I’m leaving my phd program, but am going to give them as much hell as possible before doing so. I’m talking to a lawyer and I advise others to do the same since we clearly do not get anywhere with school administrators.

  • A

    When I was at Wesleyan, a professor who was also my thesis advisor hit on me when we went to celebrate my thesis being handed in. He put his hand on my leg, kissed me, and slid his hand up my thigh and basically started fingering me. It was pretty lame and disappointing, not to mention a colossal misread of our relationship, and I guess it constitutes harassment, but I told him to stop, and he did. I was more surprised at his complet idiocy and self-destructive behavior than anything else.

  • A

    Hmmm.

  • USAVol

    Nico, thank you for sharing this traumatic experience. My wife has suffered the same offense and the school did less than Wesleyan. I pray they eventually do the right thing.

  • Concerned

    Do share the rest of the story with us, will you? You know we are all eager to listen and help.

    • Pick

      nah nico picked up his diploma and left town and threw that professor in front of a bus right before he did.  hope he didnt have a panic anxiety attack at graduation, being such a sensitive soul…

  • Guest

    Why would you assume that a professor would be “fired immediately” on the basis of accusations? 

  • Cellophone

    Nico, thank you for speaking up.  This is exactly why so many harassing incidents go unreported.  The concern is weighted so heavily on what the aggressor has to lose by BEING CALLED OUT, and barely at all towards the trauma they inflict.  

  • recent alum

    for those of you who say that the professor didn’t realize he was sexually harassing Nico, I want you to know that Wesleyan employees, including staff such as Reslife and volunteers for student orientation, have to attend a multiple hour workshop on sexual harassment that thoroughly outlines the legal definition and consequences– 

    • Debbie

      thank you, Recent Alum. This is so true. They are informed, the school has told them, but they bridge the boundaries.

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  • Pick

    Students seem to have a double standard.  On their tell all chat boards it is a cardinal sin to name a person specifically.    Yet they have no issues about throwing an administrator or faculty member in front of a bus.

  • Guest

    I feel bad for the administration.

    A student was made uncomfortable by a professor, the student complained to the administration, the professor was sanctioned somehow. That is the only information available to the readers of this article.

    Now the student complains that the actions taken should have included revealing the sanctions (legally confidential personal information), banning the professor from attending graduation, and terminating the professor.

    Readers,
    If you cannot imagine the reasons the administration might have had for not taking more extreme action against the accused, then you are not trying very hard. Sexual harassment is a firebrand topic, so many of you have joined in the blaze without thinking for a moment first. Is it reasonable for the student to make these demands?

    No one should have to feel unsafe on their campus; but the administration determined that the case did not merit removing the professor, so I am going to reserve judgment until I know more about the events. In the meantime, I can come to a few conclusions based on the evidence here:

    About the administration, I would conclude that they are in a tight spot. They took steps to address a professor’s inappropriate (behavior? comments?), and they cannot now legally comment further in their own defense. About Nico, I can only conclude that he reacted immaturely in refusing to read a letter of apology. About you readers and comment-leavers, I must conclude that you are too quick to throw stones. I hope my kids don’t want to go to Wesleyan, where you apparently do not learn to reason.

  • Just-a-thought

    There are too many bureaucrats at this school. They’re what’s driving up tuition, threatening the need-blind policy, and causing massive confusion and frustration in Nico’s harassment case

  • Reasonable

    Both the people demanding the professor’s crucifixion and the people blaming the accuser are being counterproductive. While I’m supportive of anything Nico needs to avoid a panic attack at graduation, including banning a professor, nobody other than he and the professor know what actually happened. Fortunately, we have a thing for situations like this.  It’s called a trial. There are laws against harassment, and while trials don’t always deliver justice, I’ll bet they do a much better job than angry mobs – and a lifetime status as a sex offender would damage the professor’s career even more than being fired.

  • http://twitter.com/mell42 Melanie Grace

    It seems what needs to be best resolved and grasped is this:
    “the greater Wesleyan community needs to know that the administration is completely unprepared to deal with a student’s reporting a professor for inappropriate behavior.”
    The statement of this article is not a problem of “what happened?” or “who did what?”. This is a report of a problem within the system itself.

    Apparently, students are not encouraged to report inappropriate, discriminatory, or strange behaviors to a designated department or individual. Should students report such episodes, there also does not appear to be a structure for resolving or investigating the reported events. These are large oversights, intentional or not. It makes me wonder if the student handbook addresses it at all.

    This IS information the current Weslyan community and any potential future community members should be aware of. Does one mind attending or supporting a 4-year degree program where the administration is not prepared to address out-of-line professors? Some might not care, but for others this is a high priority.

    Most schools make a big show of their security policies, psychological support, and care of students.  Remedying this issue may actually do much for admissions.

    • Guest

       Did you read this article, Melanie? It describes an administration that responded to a student’s complaint. The student was not happy with the severity of the administration’s decision, and would not be happy with anything short of FIRING the accused. Nico will only feel safe on campus with a trigger-happy administration. I would only feel safe on campus with an administration that reacts appropriately instead of “making a big show of” their policies.

  • What?

    I’m confused–

    1. You never actually confronted the professor or told him that his actions or comments made you uncomfortable because “he was never available to meet”? When did he make these comments then? Why couldn’t you just email him your grievances about his behavior, if it made you that uncomfortable?

    2. You demanded his dismissal–despite the fact that you never even let him know his comments offended you– after he wrote you a letter of apology that you didn’t even read? 

  • check yourself

    Everyone using “she” to refer to the author of this post: Nico is a dude.  Sexual harassment happens to men too. 

    • Food for thought…

      I also can’t help but notice that the majority (all but 2) of the comments referring to Nico as “she” are the negative victim-blaming comments, as well. 

      Examples from comments using “she”: 
      “a case of a girl being all weird about something really minor”
      “sometimes accusers are just crazy”
      “too much women = contentious / conceited bitches”
      “She probably also wanted other things like a better grade in the course”
      “how did she act around this professor, was she playing the lolita, the coquette to get exactly what she wanted?”

      I hope I’m not the only one that finds this correlation both significant and also extremely troubling. And I wonder if these commenters would have had something different to say if they didn’t simply assume that the poster was female. 

      • Also

         You are not the only one.

      • Respectful

        They are called trolls. They likely do not believe what they are posting, and they may not even be Wesleyan students. They post the most offensive thing they can imagine  because they enjoy watching you get upset. I’m sure those posters would tell you something very different face to face. If you sense a sarcastic tone, it is because I am surprised you did not realize they were trolls.

        • Sure

          Hahaha, good one.

  • Pick

    Not that it matters but is this accuser Male?

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  • Amonust

    i feel like we only have one side of the story…. “repeatedly sexually harrassed me” could mean that he raped you, or if could mean that he told you that you were pretty and asked you out for coffee….  obviously there would be very different repercussions for the two.  if it was a case of a girl being all weird about something really minor, then i think the school did a lot more than it even had to….  without all the details, and only the details from one side of the story, i don’t think we can accurately judge the school here.  and before the feminists freak out at me, yes, there are girls who will freak out and claim sexual harassment over being asked out.  there are girls who claim rape when they sleep with a guy while drunk, or even just because they regret it later.  if something serious really did happen, then my heart goes out to this girl, but i just don’t think we can form an angry mob with so little information….

  • 08er

    First off– this was very brave of you to send out, and regardless of the professor’s offense, your concerns need to be taken seriously, and the administration needs to act. Clearly, these events were traumatizing to you, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. That being said, for the safety of other students, and also so that other students can determine how they want to act, I think it’s important that the relevant details of the problem are shared. I understand that it might not be easy to relive the details, but there’s a lot of gray area covered in this letter. When the professor “pulled” you into his office, were you physically pulled (if so, that’s super scary!); when you say it was “during class” does that mean that it was in the presence of others? These details aren’t necessary for us to decide whether we support you in getting justice (we do!), but I think they are necessary in gauging how serious a threat this professor poses to others, and how much sanction they should receive. 

  • Pick

    Accuser said she was sexually harassed and discriminated against.   Well that to me sounds like things were not going her way after some time.    One really needs to sit down and draw a timeline of events to determine exactly what transpired.  Its obvious things were going her way for awhile and this is a young woman that likes things to go her way.  If the professor was so eager to get in her pants as she suggests than why was he never available for the office appointment she wanted.    She probably also wanted other things like a better grade in the course.  She didnt get them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/evanlweber Evan Weber

      wtf is wrong with you

    • Dizzee Gillespie

       Yeah so Nico is a guy.

    • Ari Finard

      has to be a TROLL – there LITERALLY can be NO OTHER EXPLANATION for this comment #howlittleithinkofPick

  • Pick

    Just to play the devils advocate, key words in the ‘well written’ letter observe

    “I finally decided to end my relationship with him last semester,”    We hear her side about the “inappropriate comments” but how did she act around this professor, was she playing the lolita, the coquette to get exactly what she wanted?  

    • Yousucm

      Playing the Lolita????? Fuck you this post is so fucking sexist not to mention Nico is a dude

      • Pick

        how sexist of you to assume that dudes cant play  the lolita  …

        • ’10

          Pick your nose

    • wtf is wrong with people

      NICO IS A GUY. Does that change your accusation of the author’s playing “the lolita”?

      This is not playing “devils advocate” or whatever bullshit excuse you’re giving for such a sexist comment, this is straight up victim blaming.

  • 2010-er

    Reading these comments, the silver lining that I can come by is that it’s so clear that Wesleyan students are 150% responsible for the school’s truly magical atmosphere .  Everyone is frustrated with the administration.  We try to avoid them, and when we have to deal with them, it always ends poorly.  Which makes is even more amazing that year after year the students are able to keep Wesleyan the unique, incredible place that it is.

    I’m really sorry, Nico, that you had this experience.  I think it’s clear that you have huge amounts of support in this matter.  But as I was fuming about the administration, this epiphany came to me and I thought I’d share it.

  • ’13

    Wesleyan students, there are times when I am disappointed in you for your narrow-mindedness.  My heart goes out to this student, but I invite students to be a little more critical, just a little more open to both sides of the story.  Far too often we have a mindset: “Fuck the administration!” or “Don’t let Justice Scalia speak because we do not share his conservative views!” We are perpetuating our own stereotypes when we fail to look at the bigger picture.
    Nico, I am truly sorry you were made to feel uncomfortable, and if all you say is true, I am equally disgusted by the administration.  However, I cannot help but question the severity  of the actions you claim on this post.  The “sexual harassment” you speak of is incredibly vague – which is why I remain skeptical.

    As a female and a minority, I have been continuously harassed all my life.  Men have made lewd comments to me on the streets; I have been stereotyped and marginalized in all kinds of institutions.  Women themselves have hurled shockingly negative insults at me.  I was once stalked on the subway returning home, and feared for my life.  There have been many, many times when I have not felt safe, but I remain optimistic because I have become a better and stronger person because of it.  I do not seek to persecute every person who has wronged me in my life, because I would spend a lifetime not living a life.  It’s easier to get through hard times when we learn to forgive both ourselves and others – but never forget.

    This is not to say we should dismiss severely traumatizing occurrences, but rather to reconsider how strong we really are, and what really constitutes “sexual harassment”.

    Wesleyan, we are passionate and intelligent, but far too often we let our passions get the best of us.  Nico, please tell us what he did to you, so we can assume a more nuanced position as students who remain unaware of all the details of this incident.

    Thank you.

    • ’14

      He hasn’t just “made her felt uncomfortable,” he given her the sort of anxiety that involves panic attacks. She doesn’t need to describe here exactly what he did to her in order to get my support. If there is an administrator on this campus who has violated her in some way and who poses a threat to the students on this campus then he should be removed. Wesleyan portrays itself as a school that values its students and in my two years here I have felt that 90% of the time, but mostly from its faculty, not its administration. This is not the first issue that the administration has shoved under the rug. I have had a friend who was verbally assaulted and discriminated against by a professor when she tried to come to him for help. She went to the administration in tears and the administration said “Maybe he had a point.” I know another girl who tried to get help with her work load because she was just diagnosed with a disease and they didn’t try to help her, they just simply told her she should take a semester off. But she wanted to stay and learn. I know a million stories where the administration doesn’t give a shit about its students’ education and personal safety. But even though those stories worry me and disgust me and make me incredibly angry, the one thing I always thought they had to crack down on was sexual assault. That should be something that there should be zero tolerance for on this campus. When you’re in a class, you are particularly vulnerable to the professor. You are in an inferior position and you have an inherent trust that your relationship will be simply educational. When a professor crosses that line, whether it be sexual comments, or making a pass at him or her, to full on rape, that should not be tolerated. It threatens the mental and physical health and safety of the student and that threat should not be able to remain on campus and prey on other students who DON’T EVEN KNOW that he has assaulted or harassed students in the past. The university should at least have the courtesy to reveal his name so that students can be aware of the threat and not simply live in fear that their professors possibly have a sexual harassment/assault history.

      • Amonust

        the professor didn’t necessarily do anything to give her that anxiety.  i once knew a girl who got anxiety and panic attacks when her boyfriend tried to hold her hand.  he was incredibly supportive of her, and lasted over a year.  eventually, she decided to try to give him head.  later, she felt so guilty about it that she told the administration it was rape.  he was expelled and his life was ruined.  point of the story is that sometimes people do bad things, but sometimes accusers are just crazy

        • Ari Finard

          this is not the same thing

  • captainobvious

    DAVID SCHORR

  • Carefully considering…

    Though I wouldn’t advocate you writing a play-by-play, I must say I find it very difficult from your description to understand the nature and severity of what this professor did to you. I’m sorry to hear that the university has handled the issue and communication with you in a more forthright manner. As to the exact sanctions and the commencement issue, to me that really depends on what the professor did, which I don’t have a sense of from this.

    • seriously

      I don’t really get why you need to know the specifics of the situation and I think you should reevaluate your claim that the “severity” of what happened determines the validity of Nico’s account. There is no hierarchy of experiences; scroll up to see Joseph’s above comment about the definition of sexual assault. The bottom line: you should believe Nico when he says that the harassment he experienced was traumatic. 

      • Guest

        Interesting point that harassment is in the eye of the harassed. I’m sorry for your emotional turmoil, Nico. Harassment is tough to deal with, whether it was intentional or just the result of insensitivity. But I’m not going to fire this professor for making you uncomfortable in a way that was obviously not criminal, especially for a first offense. It sounds like he needs counseling regarding his interactions with sensitive students, but hanging him out to dry sounds a bit extreme.

    • Ari Finard

      Not to mention (to build off of “seriously”), Nico explained that Sonia Mañjon and  Julia Hicks said that “the professor had clearly overstepped the boundaries of a professor-student relationship”.  Beyond that, the details of what happened are irrelevant.  Whether or not you personally think that Nico’s experience qualifies as sexual harassment is moot.  There are already laws in place that outline exactly what sexual harassment is.  I think the point of this article is to highlight the inadequate and inappropriate way the administration has been handling (or NOT handling) this “investigation”.  Nico does not feel safe on his own campus, and although he went through official channels to address this, he has continued to feel pushed aside.  Regardless of the exact details, this is problematic and not to be taken lightly.

      • Guest

        “the professor had clearly overstepped the boundaries of a professor-student relationship”

        This could describe a pretty wide range of offenses, from assault to asking for a ride to the airport. Yes, the details do matter. I agree that the situation is “not to be taken lightly,” but it does not sound like the administration did so. This student is not going to feel safe until the professor is fired, which the administration felt was too extreme for the details as they knew them.

        Look at how many of the commenters here have had an irrational gut-reaction to the words “sexual harassment.” Do you see all of the variants of “Share the name of the professor and crucify him”? We cannot let the accuser’s rights eclipse the rights of the accused. If you all don’t see the importance of that, then I guess the Inquisition is alive and well at Wesleyan.

        • ’10

          I’d cool it… I don’t think the “Inquisition” is alive and well at Wes, and I think it is a great sign that students err on the side of trusting one another- especially in cases of sexual harassment. I do wonder if Nico is being given the benefit of the doubt because he is male, since women are so rarely trusted when they are brave enough to speak out. Still, I respect your point that the “accused” has rights as well, and I don’t think students are oblivious to this. But if you have been a part of the Wesleyan community in recent years, there are many examples of the admin not doing enough to protect and defend students, whether against sexual harassment or mental health. Just as the accused should be “innocent until proven guilty,” the accuser should be given adequate mental health services and their (reasonable) requests accommodated until proven to be a liar (?) or “healed.”

  • worried ’13

    Share the name of the professor and crucify him

  • 2013

    I completely agree that the administration should have been more transparent and helpful to this student, and I believe that sexual assault should be dealt with seriously on this campus, but I could see how this could be a difficult situation. Not knowing the details of the professor’s situation or the particulars of the comments, it seems that it would have been completely possible for the professor to have no idea that his comments were making Nico uncomfortable. Maybe this lack of sensitivity on hist part is indicative of a general chauvinism that the professor holds, but I think it is totally possible that the professor believed that he had an innocent rapport with the student that included language that the student considered inappropriate, considering that it seems that Nico repeatedly took a class with him without the professor’s behavior changing. Additionally, Nico never expressed his discomfort to the professor directly, and never read the professor’s apology letter, so we do not known how this professor acted after learning of the harm his actions were causing.

    Don’t get me wrong. I deeply respect and support Nico in writing this post, and hope that it can lead to action that can support students who have gone through sexual assault issues. I think that asking the professor to not appear at graduation is completely fair as this is a moment that is for the students and not the professors. I also don’t think that it is a student’s responsibility to confront a professor directly or read an apology letter from someone with whom they wish to sever all contact. I do think, though, that the administration’s immediate response to sexual harassment cases with professors should not be immediate firing. I think stricter regulations should accompany awareness programs educating professors on the potential consequences of insensitive comments on a student’s mental well-being. I believe that a number of these cases probably come from situations where professors don’t know the lines that they are crossing, since the many ways that people can commit sexual harassment have only recently been identified, and are rarely discussed openly. There are probably also professors who knowingly abuse the power of their position to sexually harass students and they should be asked to leave the community for the sake of the well-being of the student body, but in our response, I think we need to acknowledge that this is rarely a black-and-white issue.

  • anon

    nico why don’t you tell us exactly what the professor did to you? i’m having a hard time believing it was as serious as you make it out to be based on the administrations reaction. i have had several past experiences dealing with the administration in sexual harassment or assault incidents and they took them all VERY seriously.

    • ’10

      You have had several past experiences dealing with the administration in sexual harassment or assault incidents? That’s extreme. Were they against professors? Because it sounds like that is perhaps the biggest issue here; the administration being unwilling to properly reprimand a colleague.

  • Erick Stanley

    I’m sorry if I’m too blunt. I understand the need to be politically correct and keeping identities confidential. but I simply don’t understand what’s going on. Thus, I just want to clarify in it plain language. 

    Is this a case where the male student is homosexual, and the male professor is making homophobic comments but then later physically harassing him? It doesn’t look like the classic pervy professor flirting with a female student.

    • Ashisu84

      Does that matter? Sexual assault is sexual assault regardless of the gender or sexual identity of either the victim or perpetrator.

      • yeah

        that’s true, but why shouldn’t we know? it makes the situation more real/vivid when more details are present. 

    • anonn

       born female.  can’t speak to anything related to identity though.

      • Kadenza Wijaya

         s

  • Angry

    This is awful, and if I were on
    campus I would rally to your cause in person. Since I’m not, I will simply say
    that this is totally typical of this administration. They are completely
    incapable, on all levels, of handing even the most minor of crises. Sexual
    harassment? Sweep it under the rug. Misappropriation of funds? Eh, the students
    will forget it within a month. Even things that happen on a regular basis, like
    suicide attempts and other major mental health meltdowns*, get hushed up and
    quietly forgotten, while the students are left to forge their own paths with
    little help (at best––at worst their actions are downright injurious) from the
    administration.

    I wish they would tell us this
    before you decide to come here. In the brochures, it’s all happy happy happy,
    we’ll help you find a job, we’ll give you just enough help to be independent
    without squashing your ambition, bla bla bla. In reality they give you nothing.
    In loco parentis my ass. If there’s one thing my years at Wes have taught me,
    it’s that if you need help, with ANYTHING, you go elsewhere. Doesn’t matter
    where; almost anybody can be more helpful than they can. By all means take this
    to the police! It may wind up dragging it out longer, but maybe somebody can
    finally give this jerk the slap in the face that he so richly deserves. Even if
    they can’t do anything, at least it will scare him, or the administration.
    That’s got to be good for something.

    *This happens way more often than
    you might think. Seriously, ask around. It’s scary.
     

    • Alumnus

      Re: Mental episodes, absolutely.  One of my roommates and best friends began to have mental issues one semester.  It escalated really quickly and when we went to the administration to try to get hir help, all the administration could say was, “Why didn’t you tell us before.  What took you so long?”  Instead of working with us, they wanted to place the blame on us for being unable to spot/accept the fact that our best friend was suffering immediately after the problem began.  After this meeting, nothing happened for almost a month.  Then one day a Dean came to our apartment, met with our friend, and he was sent home that very same day.  Still, no communication with the rest of us.  It was unbelievable.

  • Pick

    Sonia Mañjon just another roth tool without the ba&lls to stand up for what is right

  • Leak away

    I say leak the name of the professor, and let people start talking about him. To hell with the legal ramifications…you’re already out of there, help protect others from being future victims

    • Guest

       You are comfortable with destroying someone’s life for what might have been a misunderstanding?

      Please emigrate.

      • Becca ’12

        the professor’s advances were escalating. he absolutely knew that what he was doing seriously overstepped the respectful bounds that should be upheld by anyone but especially a person in a role of authority over the other. it is despicable and he should have to deal with repercussions, more than just a slap on the wrist

    • Debbie

      I agree totally!!!!

  • Wesleyan sponsors harassment

    It is unfortunate that in an academic institution the needs of faculty are valued above those of students, when it is students who are paying to receive an education. I think all students should take a cue from this, and not bother dealing with any on-campus administrator in cases of criminal activity, or any activity in which a student feels their safety is in jeopardy. Always deal with the Police first, and if one is brave enough, go as far as to inform the media. The only way to effectively deal with this issue is to shame the Administration as publicly as possible, even if you risk expulsion as a result. It’s one thing not to want to attend the class of a professor in whose presence you feel unsafe; it’s another thing for there to be a culture of intimidation that aids this harassment. At that point one can rest assured that the risk of being unable to graduate in the pursuit of a just resolution to the matter is acceptable. Shame on them

  • JC

    Dean Whaley is the most awful person to go to in incidents of sexual assault. I hope he goes to bed ashamed at night knowing all the rapists and sexual assaulters he has aided.

    Please put in a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, your Title IX rights protect you from sexual assault and harrasment and the university (since it accepts federal funds) has certain protocal they MUST follow, which it sounds like they did not. There should also be a Title IX coordinator at the University. But even in the event that the OCR doesn’t rule in your favor the pressure and pain in the butt that it is to be investigated by them is worth it. Also, the Middletown police (from when I dealt with them about 5 years ago- were AMAZING and much more qualified and treated me better than anyone on the Wes Administration).

    Here are OCR sexual assault resources
    http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/sexharassresources.html

    and where you can file a report.
    http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintprocess.html

    You DO have rights and the University is complicit in not allowing you to exercise them.

    • Clearly…

       … you only did half your homework. Sonja Manjon is the Title IX Coordinator at Wesleyan. And in defense of Dean Whaley, if you read the article above you’ll notice that he’s not really responsible for all this stuff…

  • ’10

    This is why, as an alumna, I have never donated to Wesleyan. The administration does far too much to protect professors and students who have committed a crime from facing the consequences of their actions. Throughout my four years I had friend after friend come and tell me that they had been sexually assaulted. In my senior year one of them felt confident enough to report, and after her assailant was banned from campus and graduation, the administration stepped in to remove these bans. When Wesleyan supports the victims of sexual harassment and assault instead of protecting perpetrators, when Wesleyan is a great place even if you’re sexually assaulted, I’ll be mailing a check.

    • ’15

      I don’t know donations work exactly, but I don’t think you should not donate for this reason – especially if that donation can go directly toward a student’s financial aid. This is particularly important in light of the changes in need-awareness in the decision process and the decline in endowment. 

    • Debbie

      Now is the time to share with others and do a common support for students. Overall, the school must be alright, but there are always those freaks, psychopaths, anti-socials who thrive on harassment. You all need to come together and organize to protect other incoming students. give them information, help them get lawyers, counselors, etc. and give them support.

  • Gabriel

    This is an incredibly brave and well written post. I wish I could say that your account was unique, but unfortunately I have heard of MANY other cases where the administration has utterly failed to effectively go after/prosecute sexual offenses or help a student who has suffered feel safe again. I for one find this utterly disgusting. It smacks of administrators covering the asses of co-workers and friends, so simply being to lazy to go through the process of firing someone for cause. Please don’t feel alone, the entire student community is with you!

  • ’12

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope that graduating seniors and current undergradutes will not leave the university adminstration alone until it has dealt with this issue. This is unacceptable, and the professor in question should obviously be fired.

  • Respectful

    If the Administration refused to take her seriously, this person – and anyone else with a similar experience – should go to the police. If she was lucky enough to get a restraining order on him, this wouldn’t be an issue, no matter what the administration thinks.

    Anyone want to boycott commencement? Because I’m not sure I’d be proud of receiving a diploma from a school that treated sexual harassment this way.

  • Concerned

    You are so brave! Wish you all the luck in the world.

  • Emily Brown ’12

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this, Nico. You are so brave and I hope that the Administration is held accountable for how horribly it has treated you. Sadly, this is not the first instance I have heard of a faculty member assaulting a student and facing no repercussions. It really disgusts me to see all the victim-blaming and red-tape shenanigans surrounding reporting at Wesleyan. 

  • Student ’13

    While I’m truly sorry that you had such a traumatic individual experience with this professor, I don’t think that your case can justify not allowing a her or him to attend graduation, when he or she may have worked with many other students who valued his or her input in their education. Inappropriate people aren’t necessarily bad educators, and while I certainly hope that the University reprimands the Professor who has harassed you in the way you say she/he has, I don’t think that they can make light of the positive contributions that she/he may have made in the process of educating many of your peers. I know this seems controversial to say–and I by no means endorse a light punishment–but the private nature of your problems with this professor should not impinge on his or her participation in public celebration of the graduating of many of his or her students.

    • another student’13

      while this is well written and articulated, this is unfortunately similar to saying that that you cannot justify asking a student who raped another student to leave campus because of all the positive contributions the rapist may have made to campus. I encourage you to take sexual harassment seriously. it’s not a private matter that that the author of this post deserves to keep to himself; it’s public, fucked up, and the author does not deserve this treatment. 

    • Ari Finard

      In my opinion, asking that the professor not attend graduation is the LEAST of requests that could be made.  Given that the professor transgressed Wesleyan sexual harassment codes MULTIPLE TIMES, the professor should be fired.  The professor would not be attending graduation if ze were fired.  Regardless of the positive contributions this professor has made (and I’m sure there are many), Wes should have a NO TOLERANCE policy when it comes to the safety of its students.

    • Lena Solow

      I didn’t have a traumatic individual experience with this professor and I still don’t hir at our graduation because I’m part of the Wesleyan community, and I don’t want that community to include people who sexual harass students. I don’t give a shit what else the professor contributed to the community.

    • Emily Brown ’12

      Comments like this are just evidence of how much of a rape culture Wesleyan really has. OF COURSE this professor shouldn’t be attending Commencement. When a professor ASSAULTS a student, the very very very least the Administration could do is bar them from this event, when they really should be fired. It makes me very sad to see a fellow student express this opinion. 

      • fuck the administration

        Agreed. Not only should the professor not be at commencement, but he should not be at Wesleyan.  Or, students should at least be made aware of who this professor is, as to avoid him if possible.   With that type of a threat to professional reputation, relations, etc., you would hope that even if the administration doesn’t do shit, the repercussions would be enough to have a professor not put themselves into that situation.

      • Guest

         this literally has nothing to do with rape..

      • Anon

         it’s HARASSMENT not ASSAULT and although they are both terrible things they are very different.  It’s kind of like the difference between shoplifting and burgalary

        • Joseph Cribb

          Sexual assault is a term used to describe an array of VIOLENT acts including but not limited to rape, attempted rape, age differentials which transgress statutory boundaries, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, domestic violence and ANY OTHER SEXUAL ACT COMMITTED WITHOUT CONSENT. That is the LEGAL definition and if you don’t believe it please consult the CFR.

          • LovestoTeach

            Thank you for sharing this very important story. Your situation is not isolated and I understand your anger and frustration. There are many such situations and the administrators of universities who hide the facts and coverup stories like yours.

            I was a professor at Towson University. Here is my story.

            I love teaching. It is a kind of ministry to young people. We excite them, we open doors for them, we talk about new ideas with them, get them engaged, give them opportunities to express themselves and have wonderful conversations. I love the possibilities.

            After a hard earned masters degree in graphic design and several years of industry experience often working 60 hour weeks, I accepted a position as an assistant professor of graphic design in the art department at Towson University in the fall of 2000. I was excited to enter this new chapter in my life. I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter.

            The art department consisted of 16 full time faculty and many adjunct faculty. The majority of the tenured senior faculty were men, seven. The majority of the nontenured faculty were women, nine. What people don’t talk about is how dependent the junior faculty are on senior faculty. The imbalance of power is far stronger than the power imbalance of faculty to student. A student wants a good grade to move on to the next class. He/she wants to graduate, to go to a good graduate program, and eventually move away from the university. The junior faculty must have the approval and support of senior faculty for promotion, for raises, and for a permanent position in the department. The support of senior faculty is critical every year and at every juncture.

            No one discusses powerlessness. No junior professor would ever want to admit that she is subservient to a male, but this is exactly where I found myself between the years of 2000 to 2006. In 2001, the most senior faculty in the art department began to body bump me in the hallways. He was 6’1 and I am 4”11”. He eventually got me into his office where he told me repeadedly that he couldn’t take his eyes off of me, and stated that if I didn’t sleep with him, I wouldn’t get tenure. I knew that this was not acceptable behavior and let him know that I wasn’t interested. I also knew that this was a clear case of sexual harassment. So, I reported the incident to my chairperson and to the Dean of the school. The Dean advised me to let him know that I am not interested and to do this in front of other people so that there would be an audience. She reminded me that harassers are known to bully when no one else is around in order to ensure that there are no witnesses.

            On the following day, in front of two other faculty members, I told him that I wasn’t interested in him and that he was to leave me alone. I asked him if he understood and he replied yes. On the following day, as I was leading my class into a computer lab, one of the faculty who had been present the day before (also a male senior faculty) assaulted me. He threw me up against the door and shoved something hard into my back. I fell. I took a moment to get my breath. Shaking, I walked to the art office and reported this to my Chair. I was being physically attacked, intimidated, bullied, and harassed. I thought that, surely, something would be done to these two people, that, some action would be taken. I had been harassed and assaulted. The law had been broken twice. I was in a state of shock.

            The institution launched a “so-called” full-scale investigation where all of the faculty in the department were questioned. I was told to keep quiet about it until it had been completed. Several faculty reported to me that this was not the first time these two had been in trouble. My own attorney interviewed every faculty memeber and found the same information and also found that these two senior faculty were best friends. But the insitutions findings reported that nothing had happened. In fact, they began to launch an investigation into my background. I was hounded, harassed, and totally ignored. Everyday, my student display cases had garbage stuffed in them. No one would sit next to me in faculty meetings and I was not invited to departmental gatherings. I became a pariah. Then, the faculty tried to end my contract. However, both professors continued to sit on tenure and promotion committees and to fully participate in the running of the department.

            I can’t even begin to describe my humiliation, embarrassment and the depression that followed. The non response from the university and the denial of all that took place coupled with their insistence that I keep quiet could not have been clearer. They were not going to take any action against these two professors. I couldn’t help but think of Penn State, the Catholic Church, and other instances were institutions became bullies and continued to perpetuate and enable illegal and unacceptable behavior. This incident would follow me to my next teaching job where I was blackballed by Towson University.

            Non-tenured professional women in academia don’t want to talk about these things. They live in fear that they will be next. Like dutiful daughters, they fall into lockstep with their powerful abusive ‘fathers’. They don’t dare question or complain. They are entirely dependent on these men for their future and their economic stability. How can one NOT talk about this power imbalance?

            So, now I ask, how do we combat institutionalized brutality against women? We talk about equality in the workplace, but how do we deal with inequality and violence against women when it happens? What advice do we give our younger female professors when such instances arise? Speak up and forfeit your careers or stay silent and compromised? I still have no answers.

        • Debbie

          It was assault, unwanted contact. it’s also negligence with the intent of causing emotional harm.

    • Debbie

      Unfortunately, this is not private, sexual harassment is a crime punishable and the degree of the offense can be a Crime or a misdemeanor, either is punishable. The professor and the school should have been respectful of the student’s concern and the professor should not have attended, but bullies are like that, they go over boundaries. For them boundaries are nonexistent and they escalate. Hence the fear he had from having to face him. He had all the right to make his request and expect that he should be protected. He is a man and knows men can be violent. Unwanted contact already was perpetrated when he pull him to his office, using force and his authority.

  • John

    too much women = contentious / conceited bitches

  • Irate

    literally FUCK the wesleyan administration. i’ll say it again and i’ll say it forever. fuck this bullshit school that doesn’t give a shit about its students AT ALL.

  • Lena Solow

    YES. Thank you Nico for your bravery and your strong words and for telling this incredibly necessary story. This is not an isolated incident people – many students are assaulted or harassed by faculty and are traumatized, shamed, and triggered by the university response.  Students need to DEMAND BETTER from the place that is supposed to be keeping them safe for these four years, and the university needs to STEP THE FUCK UP and ask themselves how they have created an environment where this not only happens, but is responded to in a completely inappropriate and probably criminal way.

  • Concerned

    This is fucked up, I’m so sorry…

  • Bus

    The administration is a collective mess whenever they have to deal with anything they find remotely icky. You will beat them. You are smarter than all of them combined.

  • ’10

    Good for you. This is a thoughtful and well-written account. I had to work closely with the Administration to resolve a sexual harassment case with a student, and while it was still a difficult and insulting process, I think they are more open to sanctioning students. It’s a shame, but not terribly surprising, that this “we’re progressive and accountable when it costs us nothing” administration can not do more for it’s own fabulous, king-making student body. I hope you get some peace of mind from your courage to step forward.

  • fuck the administration

    Who’s with me in working to add this to the list of things that the administration needs to be called out on next year?

    • ’14

       Or… now?