Metro

Dartmouth professor in misconduct probe will retire and be barred from college events

Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
Charles Krupa/Associated Press/file 2018
Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

One of the three Dartmouth College psychology professors at the center of a criminal probe into alleged sexual misconduct will retire immediately and be barred from attending any events sponsored by the Ivy League college.

Dartmouth College president Phil Hanlon announced in an e-mail Thursday that based on the findings of an internal investigation, the school had been prepared to revoke Todd Heatherton’s tenure and terminate his employment.

The fate of the other two professors, Paul J. Whalen and William M. Kelley, is still under review by college officials.

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The three professors are well-known in the industry. Their work on brain science drew national attention and brought in millions of dollars in research funding to Dartmouth.

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Whalen and Kelley have been on paid administrative leave since the beginning of the last school year. Heatherton had been on a sabbatical beginning in July 2017.

Last October, after reading about the Dartmouth investigation into allegations of misconduct by the professors, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald launched a criminal probe. That investigation remains ongoing.

It is unclear what exactly the professors are alleged to have done.

But on Thursday, Heatherton apologized for his behavior, blaming alcohol, and said his retirement was in the best interest of his family, Dartmouth, and graduate students.

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“I acknowledge that I acted unprofessionally in public at conferences while intoxicated,” Heatherton said in a statement. “I offer a humble and sincere apology to anyone affected by my actions.”

After Dartmouth launched its investigation, reports surfaced that Heatherton had groped women in 2002. In one case, a former Dartmouth professor reported that a student had come to her to complain that Heatherton had touched her breasts during a recruiting event. Dartmouth investigated the complaint at the time and found it was an accidental touch.

Separately, a psychology professor at the University of California Davis said that when she was a graduate student at a conference in 2002, Heatherton squeezed her buttocks while they were standing in a group together.

Last year, Heatherton said he could not recall touching the UC Davis professor.

Giavanna Munafo, secretary of the Dartmouth chapter of the American Association of University Professors and former director of the campus women’s center, said she is pleased the university took action against Heatherton once it found wrongdoing. The case is particularly important since Heatherton held leadership positions in his department throughout his long career at Dartmouth, she said.

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“The good news is that this first decision of the internal investigation ultimately resulted in accountability,” she said.

However, Munafo said Dartmouth needs to respond more quickly in the future to sexual harassment complaints and be more forthcoming about the results when possible.

Munafo said she spoke to one of the people who complained about sexual misconduct in March 2017, but it was months before the university seemed to have taken any action and put the professors on administrative leave.

Dartmouth declined to comment about its findings.

Hanlon would say in his message only that the investigation was “multi-layered, rigorous, and designed to safeguard the rights of the participants — all parties were given ample opportunity to present information to the investigator, who conducted numerous in-person interviews with the parties as well as with witnesses.”

A Dartmouth faculty-elected committee is now reviewing the findings of the Kelley and Whalen investigation.

Last November, 15 Dartmouth College students, whose names were not disclosed, submitted a statement to the college newspaper alleging that the professors created a hostile academic environment.

The unnamed students reported that they felt pressure to socialize and drink with the professors to further their careers.

In retirement, Heatherton will be able to earn his pension and qualify for retiree health care coverage. However, he was not given emeritus status and will not be able to attend Dartmouth events no matter where they are held.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.