CCSU Needs An Independent Reporting System

Tom Hopkins , Staff Writer

Last week, The Recorder reported on the investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against theater professor Joshua Perlstein that began back in April of 2018.

The investigation concluded that theater professors Perlstein and Thomas Delventhal “repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with several students.”

Perhaps even more troubling, the investigation found complaints of sexual misconduct against Perlstein going back over a decade that were either dismissed or insufficiently investigated by The Office of Diversity and Equity.

The report is damning for the Office of Diversity and Equity and the Human Resources Department. According to the report, former Chief Diversity Officer Rosa Rodriguez and her predecessors were “not welcoming or friendly, and, in some cases, intimidating and/or lacking follow through.” This negligence allowed sexual predators to roam the campus, free to prey on the students the university is supposed to protect.

The university failed its students in the worst possible way.

This failure highlights the need for a third-party reporting system for incidents of sexual misconduct, assaults and other sensitive matters the university clearly cannot be trusted to handle. This third-party needs to be completely independent from the university so there are no conflicts of interest.

Obviously, incidents such as sexual misconduct by professors are embarrassing for the university. It does damage to Central’s reputation and its carefully crafted public image. For every bit of bad PR, parents will think twice about sending their children to study here, which gives the university and its administrators incentive to twist, ignore or bury the truth. CCSU even has a director of public relations whose job it basically is to do just that. 

But CCSU’s reputation and enrollment numbers come second to the well-being of its students, or they should.

There needs to be a separate entity where students can report sexual misconduct complaints and can count on being welcoming, understanding and to be taken seriously. The third-party should then have the freedom to investigate and report on the matter to not only the university, but to the public.

The Shipman and Goodwin report is dated Jan. 10, but was not publicly released to Central Students until Jan. 22, almost two weeks later. It seems as if the university likely delayed the release of the report to figure out how it was going to handle the situation and the inevitable blowback. But why should CCSU get to decide when the truth comes out? 

This is a public institution, partially funded by state money. The report, upon its completion, should have been released publicly and appropriately fully redacted to protect the identities of the survivors. Students should have had been able to be part of the discourse on what should be done.

The Recorder reported that some survivors felt that they were left in the dark during the long investigative process. Also, according to survivor Brooke Emigh, CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro wasn’t as supportive in private of the investigation and its survivors as she was in public.

“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,” Emigh told The Recorder.

We can never allow anything like this to happen again at CCSU. Dr. Toro wants to retool the entire Office of Diversity and Equity to better handle these incidents going forward, but the system of anyone investigating themselves is fundamentally flawed. CCSU needs a completely independent system that will not fail where our administrators have.