Always in the headlines: A look back at WU’s summer
They say no press is bad press, but Washington University has put the phrase’s exact extent to the test over this past summer.
With five major scandals either breaking or resolving over the course of the summer, the University has barely been out of the headlines. The summer started with the opening of three new Title IX investigations on campus and ended with a former Washington University researcher stabbing a man in Chicago.
Now with the school year starting, the worst of the news seems to be in the rearview mirror, and the administration hopes to turn its focus toward the class of 2021. But with each of the stories still developing over the course of the fall semester, here’s a roundup of what to know and what to look out for.
FORMER DEAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CHARGES
Washington University’s nightmare summer really began in January. That was when then-Dean of Students Justin Carroll was indicted on federal charges of child pornography, just three days before his retirement was set to go into effect on Feb. 1. Prior to the indictment, Carroll had been barred from campus since Dec. 20, as the University knew of a federal investigation but not of its nature.
At his Feb. 8 arraignment, Carroll pled not guilty to the charges but reversed his plea to guilty on July 31. Now awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 26, Carroll faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Rob Wild, former associate vice chancellor for student affairs, was named as Carroll’s replacement, effective Aug. 1. Wild was also named as the associate vice chancellor for student transition and engagement.
FEDERAL TITLE IX INVESTIGATIONS
On July 12, The University was informed by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights that three federal Title IX investigations are to be opened against the school. Two of the investigations are into allegations of sexual violence, while the third looks into an allegation of sexual harassment.
The investigations were opened just two months after a pair of op-eds were published in Student Life detailing two different experiences of Washington University students who had reportedTitle IX violations to the school. At the time of one of the op-eds’ publication, it had been 137 days since the student reported the assault, and an initial report still had not been filed.
No updates have been reported on any of the three cases since the investigations began.
DAVID STETTER LEAVES WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY.
David Stetter, former assistant director for fraternity and sorority life, left his position at the University June 27. Just over a month after his departure, Student Life reported that Stetter had knowingly messaged Washington University students both sexually explicit texts and photos while serving as a University employee.
A Title IX complaint was filed against Stetter shortly before he departed from the University. So far, all University administrators, and Stetter, have declined to comment on the reason for Stetter’s departure.
On Aug. 16, it was announced that Austin Sweeney, a prevention specialist in the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, would be assuming the position of assistant director for fraternity and sorority life beginning Sept. 5.
“I feel like for me, a huge part of working with students is developing and building trust, and I think the way you do that is by being seen as somebody who will listen, who will show up, who is not distant or removed from their experience,” Sweeney said of his new position. “I think if there’s not that open door and that trust, then we’ll be limited in our ability to work effectively together and create a positive Greek culture for everybody in fraternity and sorority life.”
RETIREMENT PLAN LAWSUITS
Two lawsuits were filed in June against the University. in relation to its retirement plan breaching fiduciary law. The lawsuits allege that Washington University violated the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, causing excessive fees and millions of dollars of loss for its employee participants.
Washington University is only the latest of many top-tier universities facing lawsuits with respect to retirement plans. Similar class action suits have been filed at Yale University, New York University and Vanderbilt University.
STABBING BY FORMER RESEARCHER
The summer came to a close with former Washington University researcher Wyndham Lathem turning himself in to the authorities in connection to a fatal stabbing in his Chicago-area apartment. At the time of the stabbing, Lathem was a Northwestern University professor, but had been a postdoctoral researcher at Washington University from 2003 to 2007.
Lathem was arrested on July 2 in Oakland, Calif. after a fugitive warrant was put out in his name. According to the Chicago Tribune, the killing was a part of an elaborate sexual fantasy carried out by Lathem and Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, in which the victim was stabbed 70 times.
Both men have been charged with first-degree murder and have been denied bail until their murder trial.