#MeToo in­spires wave of old mis­con­duct re­ports to col­leges

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NATION - BY COLLIN BINK­LEY

BOS­TON — For 35 years, Ruth D’Ered­ita tried to dis­miss her former pro­fes­sor’s be­hav­ior — the way he touched her, groped her and kissed her. But last year, as dozens of women came for­ward to share sim­i­lar en­coun­ters with pow­er­ful men, she started to see her mem­o­ries dif­fer­ently.

“It made me look at that in­ci­dent and say, no, it was wrong,” said D’Ered­ita, a 1984 grad­u­ate of Mount Holyoke Col­lege, a women’s school in Mass­a­chu­setts. “I went there with a heart full of pas­sion, eager for schol­ar­ship, just to throw my­self into it, and this man looked at me as a po­ten­tial sex­ual part­ner.”

She’s now among a wave of women in­spired by the #MeToo move­ment to re­port past sex­ual mis­con­duct to their col­leges, break­ing some­times decades of si­lence in an at­tempt to ac­knowl­edge the wrong­do­ing, close old wounds and, in some cases, seek jus­tice.

The re­ports from deep in the past also have raised big ques­tions about how to in­ves­ti­gate such cases and how to usher them through newer dis­ci­pline sys­tems built upon up­dated ideas about right and wrong.

In many ways, schools say, they face the same frus­tra­tions that arose in last month’s Se­nate hear­ing over Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, who was ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing an­other teenager in the mid-1980s. Mem­o­ries fade. No one agrees. Wit­nesses stay quiet.

But un­like the Se­nate or the White House, which have broad in­ves­tiga­tive pow­ers, col­leges are left to tease out the truth with le­gal author­ity that does not ex­tend beyond their cam­puses.

“We don’t have sub­poena power. We don’t have the same kind of reach or author­ity that courts would have,” said Rob Kent, in­terim chief of the Ti­tle IX of­fice at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity.

Col­leges from New Eng­land to the West Coast say they’ve seen an uptick in “his­tor­i­cal” com­plaints over the past year, a shift they credit to the na­tional reck­on­ing sparked by #MeToo. Cases that were never re­ported in the past are com­ing to light as much as 50 years later.

In the first half of 2018, for ex­am­ple, Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity re­ceived 22 com­plaints from two decades ago or longer, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press. In the pre­vi­ous five years com­bined, there were just nine cases that old.

Most cases in­volve women who say they were ha­rassed or as­saulted by male pro­fes­sors, ad­vis­ers or oth­ers who worked on cam­pus.

AP PHOTO/JAC­QUE­LYN MARTIN

Ruth D’Ered­ita, poses for a por­trait in her home in Vi­enna, Va., ear­lier this month. D’Ered­ita grad­u­ated from Mount Holyoke Col­lege in 1984 and last Oc­to­ber re­ported that a pro­fes­sor sex­u­ally as­saulted her when she was a sopho­more in col­lege.

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