Former VP for Equity & Inclusion Antonio Farias and Interim VP for Equity & Inclusion Debbie Colucci
On Thursday, September 20th, Dean Mike Whaley sent an email out to the student body with an update on Wesleyan’s search for a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, following the departure of Antonio Farias last May when he accepted a job at the University of Florida. Whaley’s email announces that he and Professor Nicole Stanton will chair the search committee to replace Farias, and that they would like input from the student body on our “aspirations for the position.” They will be hosting a “group visioning exercise” for the job position description this Thursday in Usdan.
During his tenure on campus, Farias was a controversial figure among the student body. His job was to oversee the Office of Equity and Inclusion, whose mission is to “[provide] leadership and accountability to resolve systemic inequities for all members of the Wesleyan community.” Despite this lofty description, events on campus in the past few years repeatedly led students to call the priorities of Dean Farias into question.
This article has been the collaborative effort of kitab, Maya, and wilk.
Last night, the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe published the latest installment in their “Private Schools, Painful Secrets” series detailing New England private schools’ repeated mishandling of reports of sexual misconduct and assault involving administrators. The Globe article, titled “Educators accused of sexual misconduct often find new posts,” exposed more explicitly that one of these administrators turned out to be Wesleyan’s own former Associate Dean of Students, Scott Backer.
The Globe team focuses on how the lack of public accountability at private schools allows offenders to “rewrite their pasts,” going on to hold positions at other institutions. Administrations keep quiet to avoid scandal, more concerned with image than the wellbeing of their own and other students. The article makes little mention of our own administration, however.
Interested in structures of accountability at Wesleyan, we looked into the timeline of Backer’s employment and his role in the institutional structures already in place for reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct. What we found suggests that there are very few processes by which student and faculty complaints about administrative conduct can be heard or taken seriously.
That Wesleyan employed an offender for eight years–despite accounts from students that he was not doing his job properly–and then failed to be transparent about his “departure” from the university is an example of a broader pattern. The problem is larger than Scott Backer.