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Students Worried about Resignation's Effects

By Jeremy Hylton
and Sarah Y. Keightley

Staff Reporters

Following yesterday's resignation of James R. Tewhey, associate dean for student affairs, student leaders expressed concern about the effect rumors and allegations surrounding his resignation would have on the relationship between students and the residence and campus activities office.

Graduate Student Council President Anand Mehta G said he thinks students may lose confidence in approaching the administration when bringing up sexual harassment charges. "It's very hard to judge how much students trust administrators in the first place," he said.

"This will bring a lot of distrust and the Institute will have to act quickly to get that trust back up again," said Raajnish A. Chitaley '95, Undergraduate Association floor leader.

Students thought that Tewhey's resignation was appropriate given the circumstances. Though their relationships with Tewhey were good, the students felt the appearance of impropriety was a problem.

"I think that Dean Tewhey has been involved in many productive programs for the Institute. At the same time, it looks questionable for a person who is in the position of handling harassment cases to be brought up on charges of harassment himself, regardless of whether those allegations are true," explained Stacy E. McGeever '93, a former UA president.

It will be difficult for the administration to deal with this "without violating Jim Tewhey's privacy as well as the privacy of alleged victims. The fact that he's resigned ... helps," Mehta said. This is because often in situations where a person of authority is accused of harassment, the alleged victim gets moved away from the harasser; but in this case the alleged harasser is resigning, which is a "good sign."

Chitaley and McGeever both stressed the importance of finding a successor for Tewhey quickly. The administration should also provide students with as much information as possible about Tewhey's resignation and the resulting changes in the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Students Affairs, Chitaley said.

"They need to tell us a little bit more than normal, clearly. The only thing that will happen if they don't is that it will create more rumors. Finding a good replacement as soon as possible is also important," Chitaley said.

"I think the best thing the Institute could do is to get someone, perhaps from outside the Institute, who is well-respected for his work in dealing with these [harassment] issues and who can work effectively with the other staff members in the Dean's Office," McGeever said.

Will affect harassment cases

The rumors that surfaced in the week before Tewhey's resignation, and the court battle with Katherine M. Nolan, associate director of student financial aid, have compromised the effectiveness of the Institute's response to harassment cases, Mehta and Chitaley said.

"This will make it more difficult for students to approach the administration and expect to be treated fairly," Mehta said. "A serious element of distrust is presented, and unfortunately it's going to take awhile for the people who are trustworthy to regain that trust."

"I hope that the Institute quickly and directly addresses the obvious concerns and implications," Chitaley said.

Word-of-mouth between students may be the only way to help improve the role of the Dean's Office in sexual harassment, Mehta added.

There are administrators, such as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Mary Ni, "who are actually very capable of helping" students, Mehta said. "I hope this doesn't adversely affect [Ni's] function as a resource."

Students involved in sexual harassment cases should have the option to have their cases re-evaluated, Mehta said. Tewhey's resignation and the circumstances surrounding his resignations could be grounds for appeal if a student decides that he or she was treated unfairly, he said. "I think Dean Smith and the rest of his office will have to be open to requests for appeal."

Handling of harassment questioned

Before Tewhey's affair with Nolan became public knowledge last week, Tewhey had already come under fire for his handling of harassment cases. In Fight Back! An Underground Guide to Sexual Harassment, a publication of the GSC, an entry on Tewhey's office said: "Students have reported various difficulties in dealing with Jim Tewhey and [Andrew M. Eisenmann '75, assistant dean for student affairs] in the past. ... Take your chances and make sure you get things in writing."

At that time, Tewhey was defended by Samuel J. Keyser, associate provost for Institute life, and Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, who wrote a letter responding to the charges of the Underground Guide. The letter said, "These individuals play a vital role at the Institute in the handling of a large number of complaints. It will never be the case that they do it to everyone's satisfactions. We have had extensive opportunity to observe their work and we are convinced that the comments in the Guide do not fairly represent these individuals."