To the Wesleyan Community,

In a recent email to the campus community, Michael Roth wrote that, “In regard to Title IX, we are meeting with students and bringing in a consultant to review all our procedures and help us decide if we should use outside personnel to handle accusations of sexual misconduct involving students.” He also wrote, toward the end of that message, that “Students, staff and faculty desire and deserve a transparent, responsive, and respectful community” (emphasis added). We are writing to express our belief that the use of outside personnel to handle accusations of sexual misconduct is just as important for faculty members as it is for students. We strongly concur with a number of other campus groups that the University desperately needs an ombudsperson, a neutral adjudicator of complaints who can operate independently of the University administration. Currently, there is no neutral place for a community member to turn for help.

We have grave concerns about the gap between what the University promises to do and what it actually does in cases of harassment and retaliation. Were one of us to be sexually harassed tomorrow, we would have no confidence in the institutional structures that are in place to uphold and adhere to the law. In the case of a complaint against an esteemed colleague, we believe that the complainant would be at considerable risk of being silenced, blamed, defamed, and isolated. Treatment of a faculty member who makes a complaint depends far too much on factors outside their control. Specifically, the likelihood that contingencies such as one’s institutional location, position, and social and professional networks may influence the handling of the case undermines the capacity of the current system to provide justice.

Individuals who investigate and adjudicate harassment and retaliation cases must be able to pursue an independent judgment of the case, even if their findings may negatively affect the University’s reputation and financial interests. When those individuals operate entirely within the University’s administrative structure and receive salary and employment at the discretion of the University, a clear conflict of interest endangers the possibility of neutral judgment. We affirm that along with students and staff, faculty do indeed desire and deserve better than our current system. We call on the administration to repair this system by introducing truly independent review in all cases involving faculty harassment or retaliation.

Sally Bachner, Associate Professor of English

Hilary Barth, Associate Professor of Psychology

Douglas Charles, Professor of Anthropology

Mary Ann Clawson, Professor of Sociology

Christina Crosby, Professor of English

Norman Danner, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Susanne Fusso, Professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Daniella Gandolfo, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Matthew Garrett, Associate Professor of American Studies and English

Lori Gruen, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy

Mary Alice Haddad, Professor of East Asian Studies and Government

Patricia Hill, Professor of American Studies, History

Indira Karamcheti, Associate Professor of American Studies

Kehaulani Kauanui, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology

Katherine M. Kuenzli, Associate Professor of Art History

Constance Leidy, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Priscilla Meyer, Professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Christopher Rasmussen, Associate Professor of Mathematics

Joseph T. Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science

Mary-Jane Victoria Rubenstein, Professor of Religion

Irina Russu, Professor of Chemistry

Aradhana (Anu) Sharma, Professor of Anthropology

Anna Shusterman, Associate Professor of Psychology

Michael Singer, Professor of Biology

Joseph M. Siry, Professor of Art History, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities

Elise Springer, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Amy Cynthia Tang, Associate Professor of American Studies and English

Elizabeth G. Traube, Professor of Anthropology

Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology

Margot Weiss, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology

Ann Wightman, Professor of History, Emerita

Sarah Wiliarty, Associate Professor of Government

Carol Wood, Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics Emerita

  • Tom Kosakowski

    There seems to be some misunderstanding about the role of an Ombudsman. At most colleges and universities, Ombuds practice to four ethical standards: confidentiality, independence, neutrality, and informality. Ombuds therefore do not serve as a “neutral adjudicator of complaints”; but more like an embedded mediator and dispute resolution specialist. For Title IX matters, most Ombuds are exempt from mandatory reporting requirements and serve as a place for individuals to get information about relevant resources, policies and procedures. Ombuds can also give upward feedback about systemic issues and trends, including matters related to Title IX issues. By and large, however, Title IX matters are not a significant portion of the cases that Ombuds handle.

    • htor leahcim

      Yeah, portions of this seem rather misguided despite noble intentions – perhaps this is why so few faculty (relatively speaking) signed on to this statement.

  • Charles Williams

    It is naive to think that contracting out this responsibility will remove Wesleyan influence as long as Wesleyan is paying the bills. And while you are at it, lets contract out all administrative responsibilities.

  • Sickening

    What do you mean, there is no neutral place for a person to turn for help? Antonio Farias and his office are firewalled from the rest of the administration! I mean, yeah, they all serve on the same committees, and yeah, he works across the hall from some of them. But come on, he’s totally independent and unbiased!

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