Posters Call to Reject Sexual Predators

unnamed

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:

________

The information about Title IX investigation and adjudication comes from an interview with Title IX coordinator Debbie Colucci, conducted by kitab in November 2016.

  • wes staff member

    As a staff member of the Weselyan community who has heard rumors from students about the activities posted on the fliers, I am bemused as to why this topic has not gotten more attention from the administration and from students on campus. There are no comments or discussion taking place on this topic. If there is more of an outcry over the behavior of faculty it will draw more attention. Just posting the fliers and then letting the topic disappear as easily as removing the fliers just makes it a flash in the pan angry response. If these accusations on the poster are real, then we have a real problem Wesleyan- why is there not an open conversation about this? If a member(s) of an athletic team were so implicated the admin would be all over it, why is it not the case with accusations against faculty members? This is the time to get to the truth of the matter and ensure that all students are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and not have to worry about sexual harassment from professors who have control over their grades and careers.

    • art student

      fully agree- as a student who works close w/ d. schorr though it’s really scary to speak out. he’s the only professor who teaches printmaking, graphic + typography, so if you want to take those classes you have no choice but to work with him. Furthermore, he has a temper and has been known to give students poor grades based off of little more than having a poor relationship with him.

      • Wes Alum ’77

        I am a Wes alumnus, class of 1977. Yes, quite a long time ago. I was amazed to stumble upon this and related conversations. That is because I had similar issues with David Schorr’s conduct as an undergrad. One of my najors at Wes was Studio / Fine Art, and I was in Schorr’s Calligraphy and Typography classes, and he also served as faculty advisor for my senior project (as my concentration was in graphics there was no choice of advisor then; it was Schorr or no one). I had felt uncomfortable with Schorr’s advances and innuendos for much of the time I was his student. However, as a then-closeted gay male (1970’s, remember…), I was loathe to make an issue of it. Instead, I avoided being alone with him, especially in his office, as much as possible. In my senior year, having then recently come to grips with my sexuality, I happened to mention my discomfort with Schorr and his behavior to another art major and was surprised to hear that he, a straight male, felt similarly, had had similar experiences. We together requested a meeting with John Paoletti, then the chair of the art departnent. We each related to Paoletti our experiences and discomfort wuth Schorr’s sexual advances but were told by Paoletti that “without proof, nothing could be done”. With that – how could we prove anything in the absence of witnesses? – the other student and I dropped the issue and did not follow up further. Perhaps we should have, but each of us had only a few months left before graduation and our conversation with Paoletti made it clear that pressing the point would be futile. In those days, there was no specific forum to voice harassnent concerns. I recall vividly that Paoletti seemed more disgusted with us for raising the issue than with Schorr for causing it, despite it having been reported by more than one student… his take seemed to be along the lines of, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, get over it. I add this comment to advise that Schorr has been acting innappropriately and making sexual advances for over 40 years now. It’s time that it ended.

  • Interested

    I’m being serious here, but can the author provide examples of when “the activism around how the University handles sexual assault and harassment” has tangibly “changed” “University policies regarding Title IX proceedings?”

    • kitab

      While the university is often reluctant to credit student activism, referring instead to student advisory committees, when they credit students at all, many of the changes that have happened over the past few years have followed periods of increased student organizing. Activism isn’t monolithic, and different kinds of efforts (Take Back the Night, websites like silence-is-violence.org, introducing WSA resolutions, working with administration) have different results, but I think it’s fair to trace some of the changes that have happened back to students’ efforts.
      In the spring of 2014, for example, a WSA resolution was passed that would remove program housing status from any housed fraternities that did develop plans to co-educate by the end of that fall. Though the administration views WSA resolutions as “recommendations,” the following school year saw policy changes that led to DKE and Beta losing their houses and Psi U coeducating. See here for more info.)
      A student forum in the fall of 2014 wrote the panel investigation and deliberation guides, as well as sanctioning guidelines that are now used in university Title IX proceedings. The Title IX office was also in conversation with students who organized the Speak Out against Sexual Violence in December 2014.

      • Interested

        Okay. I agree that ResLife and Greek Life have changed, but disagree that any form of activism has substantively changed university investigation, deliberation, or sanctioning policies. I assure you the school did not allow a student forum to write Title IX policies regulated by an enormous amount of Federal guidance. I think you are giving the administration WAY too much credit for token gestures designed to placate students, and I say this as a criticism of the university (not students).