Sexual misconduct cases are never cut-and-dry. They're complicated. They're multifaceted. They change people's lives.
When the misconduct in question took place over several years, however, a complex case can quickly become very challenging.
In the early ‘80s, an investigation into faculty misconduct at Harvard found one professor guilty of sexually harassing another. The official documentation included a note stating that if the accused “repeated the offense,” the school would recommend termination of the accused's professorial position.
A few years later, a student brought allegations forward against the same person.
Challenging Considerations in Long-Ranging Instances of Alleged Sexual Misconduct
Despite its documented intent, the school did not fire the twice-accused professor. Instead, the professor rose through the ranks at Harvard, ultimately attaining several prominent positions. The misconduct allegedly did not cease. By 2018, several more women had come forward to make further allegations of sexual assault.
It wasn't until 2019 that the University stripped the professor of his honors and his position. The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences even banned the professor from campus.
Although this is a situation where a member of the school staff was at the center of the allegations, there are several considerations that - for better or for worse - apply to every modern case of collegiate sexual misconduct.
- Time can confuse sexual misconduct cases. In long-ranging cases like these, the university environment can become a factor. People may wonder who (or what) is more at fault - the person at the center of the allegations or the so-called ‘permissive culture' that enables them to continue?
- Past allegations of misconduct can factor into current adjudicative processes. Today, a disciplinary board will likely take into account the full scope of a person's alleged historical actions. However, that does not translate to definite guilt. At least one person involved in the Harvard case was aware of the entire story, but had “decided that [the professor] had reformed his ways, and that he should not be further punished for past misbehavior.”
- The way in which a university shares and stores information is vastly important. Over the decades that this professor attained promotions, the school vetted him several times. However, the school didn't have a centralized location for personnel files. The committees looked in the wrong place and didn't see the concerning notes. Today, schools are more likely to have a fully-digitized, accessible record system—but the point still stands: Information is only as good as it is easily found.
- Promised action does not always equal completed action. Even if a document states clear intent to act in a specific way, a human still needs to decide to follow-through on any implied or stated consequences. This implies that - even if your case has an on-record decision and disciplinary determination - you may still have a chance to work towards a positive outcome.
Rely on a Skilled, Experienced Student Defense Advisor to Guide You Through the Most Complex of Cases
Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience defending students and faculty who need a second chance. If you face accusations of sexual misconduct, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.