“I am not your dog that you whistle for; I’m not a stray animal you call over, and I am not, I never have been, nor will I ever be, your “baby”!” ― I’m Not Your “Baby”: An Australian woman’s tortured life of sexual harassment and assault
My elderly (91 year old) mother and I had a number of conversations about a year ago when she asked me why so many women were complaining about sexual harassment. She worked as a secretary for a number of years before she married my father and told me that men and women used to joke together and *have fun.*
So I called her on it. I asked her if she ever felt uncomfortable about some of the jokes. Were those jokes usually aimed at women by men and did they involve sexual innuendoes? For some time, we went back and forth, often disagreeing about appropriate conversations in the workplace or local entertainment venues.
I told her about a number of times I had felt uncomfortable upon entering the workplace as a nurse. Nurses were (and still are) often the butt of off color jokes by men. That’s when I saw our conversation change. She told me that she had no idea how often that occurred and seemed upset that I had had to manage such unwanted attention. She began to admit that things used to get carried too far in her workplace as well.
However, the day came when I knew she finally got it. She called me and said she had gone to a meeting. The moderator, an elderly man, stood up and said that they should start off the meeting by giving one another a big hug. My mother apparently announced that her daughter writes about these things and it is not appropriate for people to be forced to hug one another! A 91 year old woman joins the rank of rebels!
Sexual harassment at Cedarville
This leads into a story about sexual harassment at Cedarville University. I very much admire Kat. As a young woman, she clearly understands the difficulties that women face in the work environment at this university. I intend to tell my mother about it as well.
Some of the formatting for the following post was a bit difficult because some documents were only available in a *read only mode* which made it problematic to remove her actual name. I also didn’t have lots of time. if truth be told. It’s been quite a week and I will post on that on Friday if the creeks don’t rise around here!
The victim in this story has asked to be called Kat, not her real name. It is customary to allow pseudonyms in such circumstances. However, I know her actual name. Kat graduated from Cedarville University and stayed on to work in Admissions. At one point, she was transferred to work in admissions for the School of Pharmacy where the following incidents took place.
Please note that Dr Tom White did not appear to participate in this situation despite the fact that this involved the head of the School of Pharmacy. I find that unusual and wonder if he routinely removes himself from *uncomfortable* situations.
Kat’s opening statement
I think this post will be well served by opening with these thoughts by Kat.
As a former employee of Cedarville, I do not believe that the actions of those in leadership in this case represented the values and character of the faculty and staff that I had the opportunity to work with. I believe that Cedarville has a strong foundation built from individuals who desire to show students and the world how to live “For the Word of God, and the Testimony of Jesus Christ”. Unfortunately, this was not reflected in the tough decisions that needed to be made by those in leadership.I share my story in the hope that 1) change will be made in the policies and procedures of the HR department in the way that cases are handled, and that those sharing their stories are protected and not made to be the enemy. 2) I hope that in sharing my story, those who have dealt with similar issues, or worse, are given the confidence to stand up and share; share that they are of value, and know their worth and won’t take anything less than that from anyone, especially those in power.If anyone who reads this is wavering at the idea of sharing know this: I was scared too. Taking that first step is hard, but I sought out my church family and friends and found nothing but love and support. I would not have reached this point without them. If you feel uncomfortable, it is okay to say something. That is all the permission you need.
The initial meeting with Human Resources and Title IX
Kat first met with these folks to discuss her concerns.
I met with head of HR who stated that they decided to conduct a review instead of my initial request of just putting it on file (I was nervous as to what would happen if he was alerted to the situation)
The Title IX coordinator asked her if she would prefer a formal or informal hearing. She would soon find out that they would not allow her a choice in the matter. It just sounded nice to ask, I guess.
Kat then brought the following letter which outlined her complaint of sexual harassment to Human Resources.
On Tuesday, October 9th between 1-2pm, Marc Sweeney stopped by my office to connect about the Pharmacy Admissions website. While walking in, he said:
“Hey Babe…actually I probably shouldn’t call you that.” And then laughed.
Later that day, between 4-5pm, as I was about to walk into Professor Pinkerton’s office to ask a question, when Marc, walking down the hallway, asked me how I was doing. I was facing the door with my right hand on Professor Pinkerton’s doorknob. As I responded, he reached across my stomach and placed his hand above my hip. Then removed it and kept walking down the hallway. I opened the door and walk into the office.
After the second incident, I was uncomfortable and felt violated. I was reminded of the comment from earlier in the day, and was more troubled after connecting both incidents. I decided to connect with HR about the matter.
I filed a report in case a similar situation happened again. Nothing like this has happened previously, but I felt that this crossed the line of my personal space, was highly inappropriate and unprofessional. I felt it was important to bring forward in case this happened to someone else.
Marc Sweeney’s responded to her HR letter and appears to claim to have had problems in the past.
Pay close attention to the wording in the letter. He admitted to the behavior and claimed that he comes from a past which allowed such *joking.* He actually called such past behavior as *normal* and *typical.*Ummm, not in my world. He had met with Human Resources prior to sending this letter. Did they help him write the letter? Did they explore his past for other similar complaints? Who knows? They sure aren’t talking….
I removed Kat’s name from the beginning of the letter in which Marc Sweeney said he was responding to her complaint.
It is obvious that the school wished to avoid a formal hearing.
At this point Kat requested a formal review.
Her husband wrote the following letter to champion her request
To whom it may concern,
As Kat’s husband I stand behind the decision for a formal process for the actions of Marc against my wife. I believe Jesus in Matthew 5:27-30 outlines cleary how severe this sexual sin needs to be handled.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
As a Christian institution, I understand the push for reconciliation through an informal process similar to the church discipline process. However, the Bible is very clear that sin of a sexual nature is a dangerous slope. We see it in the old testament with David and the snowball of sin he commits in attempt to cover it up. In the aforementioned passage, Jesus says that lust must be dealt with drastically in order reconcile the whole body. I am thankful that Marc has admitted and repented, but that does not diminish the severity of this sin and the consequences.
Based on Marc’s own admission this behavior is something that has been a part of his work culture in the past. This worries me that my wife was not the first woman and may not be the last. Especially considering that he is responsible for the care of young, female pharmacy students. The formal process establishes transparency for Marc’s actions to his bosses, his staff and those who he is responsible for. It will cause pain to him and disrupt the department but this is necessary in order to root out this sin that has been and is currently a struggle in Marc’s life. The formal process is mandatory to re-establish an environment of trust and respect that my wife and other women can work in without fear of further inappropriate behavior and fear of retaliation.
I understand that in your eyes it may be harsh that I am calling his actions a sexual sin. However, if he had placed his hand 6 inches high or lower, this situation escalates to the police, the public and would lead to years of challenges for our marriage, damage to the University and cause traumatic damage to Marc’s wife and children. 6 inches. If the victim was your spouse or daughter I believe you would agree that a formal process is obligatory for reconciliation.
Sadly, a few days later, their request for a formal hearing was denied.
It appears to this writer that they had no say in the matter. In such circumstances, I believe that this reality should have been laid on the table from the start. This seems like gamesmanship to me. I am not sure why they avoided the formal hearing. What was it about this procedure that it appears to have been avoided at all costs? Anyone want to weigh in here?
I received an email from HR denying (by denying (the formal hearing). The email stated
“We believe pursing preventative and disciplinary action does not require the formal process, since those aspects are the responsibility of Dr. Mach and not of the formal hearing committee.”) my formal review request.
Kat thought this process was troublesome.
…nothing in the policy states who makes the decision, or if the request for a certain review process can be denied)
A meeting took place with Dr Mach and Human Resources in early November in which she shared more uncomfortable encounters with Sweeney.
I was asked to restate what happened. They then asked questions regarding previous interactions with him. I shared that in retrospect, there were other incidents that were concerning to me regarding comments only clothing, shoes and hair.
I said that I believed the change in his conduct with me connection occurred when he met with me for a yearly review that he conducts with all faculty/staff in the school of pharmacy
After bringing me out to lunch (he brings each person out to lunch or coffee) he came into my office and said that he enjoyed his connection with me and wanted to find a way to work with me further. During lunch, he had also asked questions about where I wanted to be in the next 5 years in my career, and I shared my passion for graphic design, and desire to work in the design field as a brand manager helping companies with their overall verbal and visual communication.
He let me know that he also ran another company called Profero. He implied that wanted me to work on their marketing, communication, and overall company branding. He also offered to make connections with other companies/small businesses as well.
I was excited for the opportunity to get paid for what I wanted to do in the future, and have the Dean help provide some connections. This meeting was very professional, and did not cause me to question any ulterior motives. However, I can now see that his interactions started to change with me from this point. Over the summer, he would stop by my office to ask random, non-work questions, and began commenting and asking about my shoes.
During the meeting, HR asked again if I would accept the informal approach. I requested the guarantees that are in the formal process in writing, and said if I received those, I would be willing to go with the informal process. I received in an email after the meeting which are (pulled directly from his email to me). These guarantees were:
- Implement appropriate disciplinary measures
- Record this incident and the disciplinary measures in the personnel record
- Inform the president of these proceedings
- Establish safeguards for the School of Pharmacy moving forward
Later in November, there was another meeting with Kat and Dr. Mach
During that meeting, a letter was read to her that discussed a reprimand of Dr Sweeney. After the meeting, Kat requested a copy of that letter and her request was denied. Here is Dr Mach’s response to Kat.
Kat noticed that she began to be avoided by others.
As time went on, Dr Sweeney avoided contact with Kat. Unfortunately, the atmosphere became strained and Kat found herself isolated. There were few conversations or normal, day to day interactions with those who worked in her division. Kat decided it was time to leave and fortunately found a good position in marketing. She resigned about 7 months after the process began.
Here is a note from John Davis as she exited the university.