Federation slams 311 investigation findings

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Federation slams 311 investigation findings

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The Vermont State Colleges Faculty Federation has issued a statement asserting that the Policy 311 investigation into allegations that JSC Professor Fred Wiseman harassed former JSC student Nicole Daigneault was “not conducted in a fair or balanced manner.”

The statement reads as follows: “While the Faculty Federation does not generally comment on confidential personnel matters, the situation involving Professor Fred Wiseman at Johnson State College has generated so much press coverage and public controversy that we feel compelled to comment. The Federation has reviewed all the materials that were considered by the college during its investigation of the sexual harassment charges brought against Professor Wiseman, and we wish to make the following observations.

“Despite the many innuendoes that have found their way into the press, no one has ever accused Professor Wiseman of engaging in sexual activity with any student or of seeking to engage in sexual activity with any student.

“We agree that the college has an obligation to investigate all claims of sexual harassment. However, the college also has an obligation to respect due process and make a serious effort to determine the facts of the matter. The college is charged with conducting an investigation, not a prosecution.

“In this case the investigation was not conducted in a fair or balanced manner. The committee simply ignored the great majority of the information Professor Wiseman provided in his defense, although they did take some of his statements out of context if the words could be used against him. Wherever there was a conflict between statements made by a student and statements made by Professor Wiseman, the committee accepted the student’s account, even when there was specific documentary evidence to support Professor Wiseman’s account.

“Even if all the students’ allegations were taken at face value—which was in effect what the investigators did—the conduct did not constitute sexual harassment or unprofessional conduct as defined in Policy 311. In order to reach their unwarranted conclusion, the investigators misquoted and distorted the plain definitions provided in the policy.

“The Federation strongly opposes all forms of sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct. We believe that faculty have a responsibility to protect students, not to exploit them. We have no sympathy with faculty who abuse their relationship with the students we all serve. In this situation, however, the evidence does not support the conclusion that such improprieties occurred.”

The statement was signed by Faculty Federation President Linda Olson, Faculty Federation Vice President Chris Smith, Faculty Federation Treasurer Julie Theoret and Faculty Federation Secretary Ben Johnson.

“I am constrained by policy and law to comment on Policy 311 investigations or student records,” JSC President Barbara Murphy said. “I continue to assert that we at Johnson State College conduct thorough and fair investigations and reach our conclusions after careful review and full consideration of the findings.”

Theoret said, “The Federation carefully read the investigative report as well as the Policy 311 definitions before making our statement. Neither the Federation nor I can comment on specifics due to FERPA regulations.”

Olson also declined to elaborate further: “I would … reiterate what was said in the last paragraph of our letter; that the Federation strongly opposes all forms of sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct. We just want to make certain that the investigation done is thorough and fair and follows the policies established by the colleges.”

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