Letter to the Editor re: Wiseman investigation

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.

Linda Olson Julie Theoret
President VSC Faculty Federation Treasurer VSC Faculty Federation
Chris Smith Ben Johnson
Vice President VSC Faculty Federation Secretary VSC Faculty Federation