Crandall University, a faith-based post-secondary institution in Moncton, N.B., has announced the termination of of one of its professors, John G. Stackhouse Jr., following a six-month independent investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior — including sexually oriented comments.
The investigation, conducted by the law firm Pink Larkin, was initiated in April 2023 after anonymous accusations surfaced on social media against an unnamed employee or employees at the university.
The Board of Governors of Crandall University, which has an enrolment exceeding 1,400 students, endorsed the hiring of Pink Larkin to conduct a thorough inquiry, according to a press release it issued. The firm’s findings, presented to the Board recently, led to the immediate dismissal of Stackhouse.
Sheila Cummings, the former Chair of Crandall’s Board of Governors, played a pivotal role in overseeing the investigation. A joint letter from Cummings, the current Chair Douglas Schofield, and University President Bruce Fawcett, conveyed the institution’s regret to the student body, emphasizing their commitment to student safety and well-being.
“Paramount at Crandall University is the safety and security of its students. We cannot and will not tolerate behaviour from its administration, faculty, or staff that in any way violates the University’s mission and identity,” they said.
The investigation by Pink Larkin included extensive interviews with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, and a detailed examination of various documents, including emails and social media posts.
The focus was on allegations of inappropriate or sexually oriented comments made by Stackhouse during 2020 and 2021.
Given the sensitive nature of the investigation, which involved confidential information about students and faculty, a key priority was to safeguard the identities and security of those involved or affected by the alleged misconduct, the university said. Cummings emphasized the importance of confidentiality throughout the investigation process.
The main findings, as verified by Joël Michaud, K.C., the lead independent investigator from Pink Larkin, were detailed in two addendums attached to the university’s statement.
Summary of findings
Pink Larkin was engaged in April 2023 to investigate anonymous allegations against an employee or employees at Crandall University, following recommendations from the Board of Governors and student leaders. The investigation was prompted by a social media post and an open letter signed by 70 alumni.
The investigation involved interviews with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members conducted between May and November 2023. Confidentiality and protection of identities were emphasized.
Inappropriate behavior: The investigation focused on allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior by a specific professor. This included sexually oriented statements or conversations.
Interviews and evidence: Interviews with the accused faculty member and various witnesses, including students, were conducted. The investigator found that many of the incidents reported occurred as described by the witnesses.
Classroom behavior: The subject faculty member was found to have created an unwelcoming environment, particularly for female students. His behavior was deemed to border on sexual harassment and abuse of authority.
Previous employment issues: There were indications that the faculty member had faced similar complaints at his previous institution.
Relationship with a student: The faculty member recently married a former student. While their romantic relationship reportedly began after she ceased being his student, the investigation did not find conclusive evidence of misconduct in this regard.
Email communications with a student: The faculty member engaged in inappropriate email communications with a student, which was characterized as grooming behavior.
The report noted Crandall University’s existing harassment policies and recommended updating and strengthening these policies. It also mentioned previous incidents involving other faculty members, including inappropriate behavior and allegations of affairs with students.
The investigator recommended severe disciplinary action against the faculty member at the center of the investigation. Additionally, they emphasized the need for transparency and a culture of openness at Crandall University.
Key recommendations from the Pink Larkin report include:
Updating harassment policies: The Pink Larkin Report advises Crandall University to reactivate and strengthen its initiative to update harassment policies and procedures. This includes installing a culture of openness and transparency.
Current policies and practices: Crandall has a Faculty Handbook with a Harassment Policy and Procedure, as well as a Workplace Violence policy, applicable to staff, volunteers, Board members, and students. These are designed to protect the university community and are also included in the Student Handbook.
Recommendations for policy amendments:
- Clear policies on harassment: The policies should explicitly state that harassment and abuse of authority are not tolerated, with regular training and visual reminders for employees and students.
- Climate review: Conducting anonymous surveys to assess the climate in areas where bullying and harassment are suspected.
- Training for harassment advisors: Ensuring that advisors are properly trained to handle issues sensitively and objectively.
- In-house counsellors: Ensuring that university counselors are competent to assist those traumatized by abusive conduct.
- Culturally competent investigations: Ensuring that investigations are conducted by individuals skilled in a trauma-informed approach.
- Anonymous complaints: Allowing for anonymous complaints to be filed and investigated.
- Revision of complaint time limits: Considering the removal of the strict one-year time limit for filing complaints, especially for cases of sexual misconduct.
- Consent training: Implementing mandatory training on consent for first-year and new students.
Monitoring student evaluations: Instituting a rigorous process to document and follow up on student evaluations that flag inappropriate or borderline inappropriate behaviors.
Training and awareness: Providing structured training to employees and students on the revised policy, with periodic refresher courses.