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Theater Students Allege Sexual Misconduct By Suspended Professor

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Theater Students Allege Sexual Misconduct By Suspended Professor

Sarah Willson, Editor-in-Chief

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Two Central Connecticut theater students are alleging sexual misconduct by theater professor Thomas Delventhal, who has been “suspended until further notice,” according to a letter he sent to some theater students on Jan. 17.

It is unclear if Delventhal’s suspension is a result of the students’ complaints that go back to the Fall 2017 semester, but at least one of the complaints is expected to be a part of the final report of the sexual misconduct allegations against theater professor Joshua Perlstein, the source of multiple complaints of sexual misconduct.

In response to The Recorder’s revelations about the complaints, President Dr. Zulma Toro launched an investigation, the results of which could be released on Tuesday.

In the email obtained by The Recorder, Delventhal, a professor at CCSU for over 20 years, wrote to students without stating a reason for his suspension.

Delventhal wrote he was “deeply saddened and frustrated by the restrictions placed upon [him].”

When asked whether or not Delventhal had been a subject of complaints, CCSU Director of Public Relations Janice Palmer said she had “no information to share” at this time, adding that any requests will be answered in an interview The Recorder is scheduled to have with CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro on Tuesday morning.

“I have had many one-on-one classes with [Delventhal] and many interactions with him where he has been very physically touchy with me,” theater junior Brooke Emigh said. “[He] has given me many hugs, back massages, he’s kissed my head and my forehead, he’s told me that he has loved me.”

Emigh said that Delventhal had hugged or kissed her without consent “at least 10 times” in the Fall of 2017 semester.

She also recalled a time during her “Stage Combat” class, when learning how to “safely fight on stage,” Delventhal “came up next to [her] and hit [her] butt with a sword and laughed about it.”

Emigh stated that she never filed a formal complaint with the university, saying she believed the incident was just something she had to “deal with.”

“I never really felt fully supported in the way that I felt about the situation, so I never thought to report [it],” Emigh said. “Also, with the investigation with [Perlstein] going on, I also didn’t feel as though President Toro was giving the theater department much encouragement and support through these issues. I feel as though she tried to support the theater department as a department but not the students that make up [it]. I didn’t feel safe to talk about it to the university.”

Former CCSU theater student Melissa Franz, who now studies at the American College Dublin, said she had a similar experience after she approached Delventhal to address what she called an “uncomfortable” experience she had with former costuming professor Christopher Hoyt, who is no longer at CCSU. He taught at Central from 2015 to 2018.

Franz said that after telling Delventhal about her interaction with Hoyt, Delventhal disclosed the information to another student.

“I was very upset that he had done that,” Franz said. “Then I started crying and [Delventhal] asked me if he could hug me. I said yes and then he continued to kiss me on the neck and forehead which just made me extremely uncomfortable.”

After that, Franz said she left his office “very quickly.”

Franz kept the incident to herself until the day The Recorder published an extensive article six months later in April about the sexual misconduct allegations against Perlstein. After the story, Franz filed a formal complaint against Delventhal, Hoyt and Perlstein to the Office of Diversity and Equity. 

Franz said she filed a complaint against Perlstein on April 11, 2018, after having interactions with him in the Fall 2017 semester that made her “really uncomfortable.”

“Once I saw [the article], it just confirmed what deep down I kept feeling. I was like, ‘There is no way this is a coincidence.’ This is just wrong,” Franz said. “[At first, I thought], ‘What if I’m wrong? What if [what Delventhal did] was just a normal thing and I’m just being weird about it?’ And then when it sat with me and sat with me, I was like, ‘This is wrong.”’

Franz also said that she has been working with law firm Shipman and Goodwin, which Dr. Toro hired to conduct the regarding the investigation into Perlstein.

“I feel like now [that] this has all come to light, I was being ‘groomed’ by Josh [Perlstein], which makes me feel so icky inside,” Franz wrote in a journal the day she filed the complaints. “But, in light of all of it, I am consciously choosing happiness. I believe these difficult situations will be lessons and contribute to my wisdom as I grow as a human being.”

Both Emigh and Franz said that the allegations of sexual misconduct regarding Delventhal took place in the Fall 2017 semester.

Delventhal and Hoyt were reached out to for comment but did not respond.

Despite Emigh’s and Franz’s complaints against Delventhal, both said they do not know why he has been suspended.

About the Writer
Sarah Willson, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Willson can be reached at editor@centralrecorder.com

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Theater Students Allege Sexual Misconduct By Suspended Professor