Central Connecticut State University announced on Tuesday it is making significant personnel and organizational changes after an investigation into allegations of misconduct by two professors.
The investigation focused on alleged sexual misconduct by theatre professor Joshua Perlstein and alleged misconduct by theatre professor Thomas Delventhal, school officials said.
“I am disgusted and disheartened by the new findings indicating two of our professors repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with their students. Also disturbing are the apparent failures by administrators who, over the years, did not protect our students. The findings pinpoint vital changes that are needed to ensure past misbehaviors, mistakes, and inaction are not repeated at this University," President Zulma Toro said in a release.
President Toro immediately placed him on administrative leave and hired attorneys to conduct an investigation.
The investigation revealed, according to the school, that there was significant evidence that Perlstein had a history of questionable interactions with female students, that he was involved in sexual misconduct with one or more students, that he was not truthful about a period of time where he was involved in a sexual relationship with a student and that he attempted to conceal the problematic conduct because it would "put his job in jeopardy."
At the same time as the investigation, President Toro said she appointed the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, Bullying and Campus Climate to conduct an exam of the processes and procedures related to how sexual misconduct and bullying issues are reported and handled on campus.
After following up on student complaints about Delventhal, investigators said that he admitted to kissing five students on the neck and/or forehead over the years, was untruthful during interviews during the investigation, denied attempting to engage in any relationship with current or former students and did not admit to recently reaching out to a former student to clear the air about their past relationship.
School officials said President Toro placed Delventhal on administrative leave last week and is beginning the process to dismiss both he and Perlstein.
President Toro said in a release that she plans to oversee the re-engineering of the Office of Diversity and Equity and the Human Resources Department. During the process, she said she hopes to identify and adopt a reporting, monitoring and tracking system to collect and spread information and data. She said this will help assess trends, issues and look up case information.
She said she also hopes to look into a new way of investigating things like sexual harassment, bullying and misconduct on campus, seek input from union leaders on how to achieve 100 percent employee participation in Title IX training and determine how to best incorporate education material on Title IX, bullying and civility into programs for students.
Some of the changes will be guided by the final report submitted by the Task Force, she said.
“To those who bravely shared their stories with our investigators, I am immensely grateful,” President Toro said in an email to campus on Tuesday.
“This has been a painful process for all of those involved. I am resolved to take the actions necessary to ensure our campus is a safe environment for all and to restore faith and pride in Connecticut’s oldest public institution of higher education,” she added.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) President Mark Ojakian released a statement in response to Central Connecticut State University's changes on Tuesday.
“I applaud President Toro for taking prompt and decisive action to make CCSU – and the theatre department in particular – a better, more welcoming learning environment. The reports released today identify important steps that can and must be taken to ensure that all sexual misconduct complaints are received with the utmost seriousness, thoroughly investigated, and acted upon accordingly. I am beyond confident in the President’s ability to oversee and implement the necessary cultural and policy changes in a thoughtful and transparent manner,” he said.