Early this morning, posters like the one above appeared around campus, calling out institutional protection of sexual predators. Many were removed shortly thereafter, but as of mid-morning, some remain.
The posters follow increased anger with the administration last semester for a variety of institutional failures. In particular, students and faculty alike have criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the firing of former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer and, before that, the Title IX complaint filed by Associate Professor of Classical Studies Lauren Caldwell, which states that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a fellow professor. Last October, more than 200 students at a town hall meeting reached consensus to push for the removal of Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and University President Michael Roth from their positions at the University. That same month, over 30 professors issued a statement to the Argus, calling for independent review of sexual assault cases at the University.
Much of the activism around how the University handles sexual assault and harassment over the past few years has focused on student cases. University policies regarding Title IX proceedings, as well as ResLife and Greek life, have changed as a result. There has been less success regarding faculty cases, largely–as the posters point out–due to ways in which existing policies work in favor of powerful faculty members.
Current Title IX processes “follow the respondent” (the person accused of misconduct), meaning that accusations against a faculty member, whether brought by a student, other faculty member, University employee, or non-Wesleyan-affiliated person, are handled according to the existing protocol for faculty. Though work is underway to get faculty input for a new complaint process, at the moment, if a complaint is filed against a current faculty member, Title IX coordinator Debbie Colucci and someone from Human Resources will conduct an investigation similar to the student investigation process. A statement of complaint is taken, at which point the respondent is notified and given enough information to be able to provide a responding statement. Neither party can see the other’s statement until the investigation is complete.
The investigators then interview any potential witnesses for both parties, collecting and taking notes on additional information about the reported incident. Witnesses include people either party saw or spoke to shortly before or after the event, or, in the case of ongoing alleged abuse, friends or others who can attest to patterns of behavior. Any other information or evidence the complainant or respondent wishes to provide, including online correspondence, can be collected at this time. After the investigation is complete, Debbie and her co-investigator will write a final report with a conclusion about whether or not the Discriminatory Misconduct and Sexual Harassment One Policy has been violated, which is turned over to Academic Affairs. Though sanctioning recommendations are sometimes made, once the report leaves the Title IX Office, the Office no longer has control of the outcome.
The professors on the poster are all well-established Wesleyan professors. David Schorr has been an Art Studio professor at Wesleyan since 1971, and teaches a variety of courses including printmaking, typography, and graphic design. His Wesleyan faculty page boasts multiple fellowships and details various collections where his work is held. Andrew Curran is a French professor and began at Wesleyan in 1998. He served as the Dean of the Arts and Humanities from 2011 to 2015, and in 2015, was appointed as William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities. It was during his tenure as Dean of the Arts and Humanities that he allegedly harassed former Classics Professor Lauren Caldwell, who was at Wesleyan for 10 years before leaving this semester. Michael McAlear began at Wesleyan as a Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in 1995. He has previously served as department chair for MB&B and has served as Marshal of the Faculty during commencement since 2011.
For further reading:
- University Plans to Conduct Title IX Assessment with Victim Rights Law Center
- Prefrosh Open House: A Day of Student Protest
- Beyond Scott Backer: Accountability at Wesleyan in the Sexual Misconduct Judicial Process
- Fisk Posters Call Out Administration
- From the Argus: “Letter to the Editor: Faculty Sexual Harassment Cases Require Independent Review” (10/31/2016)
- From the Hartford Courant: “Wesleyan Settles Professor’s Sexual Harassment Lawsuit” (9/14/2016)
- From the Argus: “Professor Files Complaint Against University in Federal Court” (2/26/2016)
- Here’s How the Administration Treats Students with Emotional Support Animals
- Wesleyan Is Great, Unless a Professor Sexually Harasses You
The information about Title IX investigation and adjudication comes from an interview with Title IX coordinator Debbie Colucci, conducted by kitab in November 2016.