I am a 1973 graduate of Hobart College and have always thought of it as a nurturing place. It was very supportive of me and let me tailor my course of study to fit my interests. In return, I have been a loyal supporter and encouraged high school students to consider the Colleges.
In recent years ,at the invitation of the colleges, I twice returned to campus to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse with both faculty and students. I’ve met President Gearan on a number of occasions and believed he was a unique individual who would continue to improve the colleges.
All that has now changed as a result of this front-page article in the New York Times. If Hobart’s goal was to create a model of how not to handle sexual abuse claims, they have succeeded. .
It is readily apparent that every stage of this process was seriously flawed and exhibited profound ignorance of sexual abuse .
There are two aspects of this matter that I feel compelled to comment on.
The first is the fact that the school sent letters to various members of the academic community in which the intentionally revealed the alleged victim’s name. To compound their cruel “mistake”, they protected the alleged perpetrators by refusing to release their identities to the academic community. Everyone who works in this area, knows that other victims are more likely to come forward, once they learn that accusations, similar to their own, had been reported. Educated people surely also understand that corroboration of a pattern of behavior by a perpetrator, often makes the difference in whether an accused will be prosecuted, or even question the events in question.
the statement posted on the college’s website by President Gearan misses the point and blames the reporter. The fact that four students were expelled for sexual misconduct in the past two years is irrelevant. The real issue is how many complaints of sexual misconduct/abuse were made within that time and whether athletes or sons of prominent donors were treated differently.
Hiding behind lawyers and risk managers is a far different matter than providing leadership and acting in a moral way. Of course President Gearan cannot comment on the specifics of a pending case, but he ought to be publicly leading the colleges to a complete reevaluation of the existing procedures.
I know that Hobart wanted to raise the public profile of the College. They could not have chosen a worse way to do so. Hobart and William Smith Colleges have long struggled with an inadequate endowment and competing with the many fine private liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Their abysmal handling of this sex abuse claim puts the survival of the colleges at risk.
Seth H. Langson, Class of 1973
Attorney and Advocate for Victims of Sex Abuse