Tuesday, July 30, 2013

University publicizes anonymous accusations of sexual misconduct against professor going back decades

A University of Connecticut music professor has been placed on paid leave and is under investigation by police and school officials amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving university students and decades-old molestation involving children.

According to the Connecticut Law Tribune, the university announced that there are various investigations of the professor, and it distributed all sorts of documents containing accusations of sexual misconduct against him, and confirmed his identity." The Law Tribune says it is a problem that "the university has been too transparent, distributing horrible but uncorroborated accusations against someone by name. While police in Connecticut and Virginia are investigating, there has been no arrest and there is no arrest warrant. There seem to be no sworn statements from identified witnesses in the public domain, just the repetition of anonymous accusations — and state law exempts 'uncorroborated allegations' from disclosure."
Ordinarily, linking the professor by name with uncorroborated allegations against him would be libel. While news organizations are protected because a government institution has publicized the accusations, it is unfair all the same. And of course television news has compounded the unfairness with its usual idiotic practice in crime reporting, interviewing people who have no original knowledge of the case and inviting them to express disgust and speculate on someone's guilt.
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The church and schools alike have long and scandalous records on sexual misconduct by priests and teachers, with the most troublesome ones not removed from their professions and prosecuted but just quietly sent elsewhere to continue their predations.

But none of this justifies going to the other extreme — publicizing essentially anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct prior to the formal filing of charges.

The right responses to suspicion of such misconduct are ordinary conscientiousness and due process of law, not hysteria.