Higher Education — Turning Up Ugly Belly of Alleged Abuse of Power

On television fictional crime series such as “Law & Order SUV” there are episodes about dirty cops.

Now that script is allegedly playing out in real life.

This time the story is about “dirty” professors.

The setting is John Jay College of Criminal Justice, based in Manhattan and supported by tax payer money.

As the New York Post reports, four professors, including three former department chairpersons, have been put on paid leave as the institution has a third party investigate the matter.

Three of the four are:

  • Barry Spunt, former head of sociology department
  • Anthony Marcus, former chair of anthropology department
  • Ric Curtis, also a former chair of the anthropology department.

The president of John Jay Karen Mason informed the school of the allegations and investigation via email. At this time it isn’t known if the accusers were students and/or members of the staff.

Given the power professors and deans have in academic institutions, it’s no surprise that there currently are a number of high-profile sexual harassment lawsuits against brandname universities.

They include “Jane Doe v. Columbia/Tom Hartford,” which is represented by powerhouse discrimination lawyer David Sanford.

Another is “Reitman v Ronell/N.Y.U.”

If either lawsuit goes to trial, what will also go on trial are the peculiar dynamics of academic institutions.

For example, how about the internal investigations they conduct regarding student complaints about sexual misconduct? Should those allegations be immediately turned over to official law enforcement? In addition, there is the issue of how much influence professors can have over a student’s professional future. That can trigger abuse of power not involving sex. Students can become unpaid work slaves.

Just as inside the beltway is breaking open to intense scrutiny so is higher education.

Incidentally, an outside threat is that Google, Apple, and IBM no longer require applicants to have college degrees. Also, what those reading the help-wanted ads will notice is that more employers want certificates for skills, not actual academic degrees. The latter often are perceived as too expensive in this era of extreme cost efficiency.

Academia may be the next institution for comprehensive disruption.

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