The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 56.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Duke’s Wallace To Investigate Handling of Harassment Case

By Sandra M. Chung


Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict announced that Kathleen C. Wallace of Duke University will conduct a review of MIT’s actions regarding a harassment complaint filed by the late Julia M. Carpenter ’03 against Charvak P. Karpe ’04.

Wallace could not comment on the case in question.

Kenneth Arnold, the father of Carpenter’s boyfriend Zev Arnold, has been in contact with President Charles M. Vest since May 7, and was the first to suggest the policy review on behalf of the Arnold and Carpenter families. MIT responded by appointing a committee, headed by Vest, to review potential investigators.

Benedict was the first person to recommend Wallace for the post. The committee reviewed and approved the recommendation.

Wallace a seasoned investigator

Wallace graduated from the North Carolina Central Law School, and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association, the Association for Student Judicial Affairs, and the Center for Academic Integrity. She was a police officer in Durham, North Carolina from 1991 to 1994, and is currently the Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs in the Office for Student Development at Duke University.

Wallace’s duties at Duke include administering the undergraduate judicial system, serving as hearing officer for violations of the undergraduate judicial code, maintaining student disciplinary records, serving as the undergraduate harassment prevention advisor, and coordinating the school’s peer mediation program.

A trained mediator, Wallace has adjudicated, mediated, or referred various cases like Carpenter’s. She has drawn on her experience as a police officer in her work with emergency response protocols, including those for Duke’s response to student deaths. Wallace said of student deaths, “We have very specific protocols. We identify the people to be notified and which responsibilities belong to which officials in the Student Affairs Office on a case-by-case basis.”

Investigation under investigation

Before accepting it in late August, Wallace was briefed on the case. She immediately began research through numerous sources, including recent newspaper articles as well as documentation provided by Kenneth Arnold. She anticipates the need for a trip to MIT to investigate some items and conduct interviews firsthand, although recent events have put such travel on hold for the time being. Wallace is currently dealing with the effects of the recent World Trade Center disaster on the student population at Duke, and could not offer an estimate of the duration of her review. “I want to take as long as I need to investigate the situation fully,” she said.

Wallace will write a report detailing her conclusions and recommendations, which may help the Office of the Dean for Student Life improve MIT procedure for handling complaints similar to Carpenter’s. MIT does not intend to make the report public. However, the Institute will share with the MIT community any changes made to MIT procedure as a result of the report. Wallace will also evaluate the Institute’s response to Carpenter’s death, and may offer suggestions as to how MIT can better respond to student deaths.

Harassment case to be examined

The disciplinary case in question involved Carpenter and Karpe, a fellow resident of Random Hall at the time. Despite knowing about Carpenter’s longtime boyfriend, who is currently a junior at Washington University at St. Louis, Karpe allegedly persisted in pursuing a romantic relationship with Carpenter. Over the course of the fall term and the Independent Activities Period, Karpe’s persistent attentions allegedly turned into threats and intrusions on Carpenter’s privacy.

Carpenter filed a complaint with the Random Hall Judicial Committee at the end of January. JudComm tried the case throughout February, but failed to reach a decision. The case was deferred to the Office of Student Life, where Senior Associate Dean for Students Robert M. Randolph moved the offending student to East Campus and appointed an administrative panel to review the evidence and testimony. The panel’s April 20 decision included a provision for the student to move back into Random Hall.

The harassment case was not brought to the attention of the police until after Carpenter’s death. Kenneth Arnold was the first to inform MIT Campus Police Officer Mary Bath Riley about the incident.

Carpenter received and signed the decision on April 25. In the early morning hours of April 30, she was found dead on the floor of her room. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. In a May 14 service in Kresge Chapel, the MIT community mourned her loss.