Three professors under criminal investigation for sexual misconduct

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 10/31/17 11:32am

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Three psychology and brain sciences professors are on paid leave while they are under criminal investigations for allegations of sexual misconduct.

by Erin Lee / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017 at 5:11 p.m.

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017 at 2:43 p.m.

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017 at 1:05 p.m.

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017 at 12:38 p.m.

Three professors are alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct and are being investigated by law enforcement, College President Phil Hanlon wrote in a campus-wide email Tuesday morning. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, the Grafton County Attorney’s office, the New Hampshire State Police, the Grafton County Sheriff’s office and the Hanover Police Department have all launched criminal investigations of the professors.

Psychology and brain sciences professors Todd Heatherton, Bill Kelley and Paul Whalen are on paid leave and their access to campus has been restricted, College spokesperson Diana Lawrence confirmed on Oct. 25. Lawrence said the professors were being investigated by the College for “allegations of serious misconduct.”

“It is important to remember that investigations are ongoing, with no official findings yet produced,” Hanlon wrote. “However, we take these allegations very seriously and are pursuing our own independent investigations in coordination with law enforcement officials.”

The College is cooperating with law enforcement officials, Hanlon wrote.

“I want to say in the most emphatic way possible that sexual misconduct and harassment are unacceptable and have no place at Dartmouth,” Hanlon wrote in his email. “Such acts harm us as individuals and as members of the community.”

In a press release, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald ’83 wrote that the office “engaged in a dialogue with Dartmouth” following The Dartmouth's Oct. 25 reporting that the three professors were on paid leave and learned that the College had received allegations of sexual misconduct.

Associate attorney general Jane Young said the New Hampshire Attorney General's office became aware of the allegations "late last week." She said the College had not reached out to the Attorney General's office regarding the investigation prior to the Attorney General's office contacting the College.

In conjunction with other law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General’s office has decided to conduct a “joint criminal investigation into this matter,” MacDonald wrote.

“At this time, we have no basis to conclude that there is a threat to the general public,” MacDonald wrote.

Attorneys representing Heatherton wrote in a statement sent Tuesday afternoon that Heatherton immediately cooperated with Dartmouth’s investigation and “continues to do so to this day.”

“Dr. Heatherton is confident that he has not violated any written policy of Dartmouth, including policies relating to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. He has engaged in no sexual relations with any student,” the statement, signed by Julie Moore of Employment Practices Group and Steven Gordon of Shaheen & Gordon, read.

According to the statement, the attorneys learned Tuesday that the New Hampshire Attorney General's office has yet to receive any information from the College. The attorneys have also repeatedly and unsuccessfully reached out to Dartmouth to determine whether the investigation relates to an “out-of-state incident about which Dr. Heatherton was previously questioned.”

Heatherton has continued to meet with his current graduate students and advisees, and his year away from campus is related to a Senior Faculty Grant for a year-long sabbatical, which began on July 1, before he learned of the investigation, according to the statement.

In a phone interview, Moore said the allegations against Heatherton are unrelated to the investigations of the other two professors. The Employment Practices Group began formally representing Heatherton on Oct. 26 and is not representing Kelley or Whalen.

Representatives from the Grafton County Attorney’s office, the New Hampshire State Police and Dartmouth Safety and Security declined to comment. Emails seeking comment were sent to the three professors.

Students, faculty and staff can speak to counselors through the College’s Counseling and Human Development office and dean on call. Safety and Security can help community members find assistance 24/7 at (603) 646-4000. Free and confidential services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Upper Valley are available through WISE and its 24-hour crisis line at (866) 348-9473.

Anyone with information about these allegations is urged to contact the New Hampshire State Police at (603) 419-8014 or New Hampshire Attorney General’s office at (603) 931-9570. For tips, please email editor@thedartmouth.com.