Heatherton retires following sexual misconduct allegations

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 6/13/18 4:19pm

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Psychological and brain sciences professor Todd Heatherton has retired following a recommendation that his employment be terminated in response to sexual misconduct allegations against him.

by Erin Lee / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Updated: June 15, 2018 at 1:35 a.m.

Psychological and brain sciences professor Todd Heatherton has elected to retire immediately following a recommendation from Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Elizabeth Smith, upheld by the faculty-elected Review Committee, that his tenure be revoked and his employment terminated. Smith's recommendation follows a review of Heatherton by an external investigator for sexual misconduct. Professors Bill Kelley and Paul Whalen of the PBS department, who are also under investigation for sexual misconduct, remain under review.

In a press release provided by his lawyer Julie Moore, Heatherton stated that he retired because he thought it was best for his family, the College and the graduate students involved in the investigation. Multiple students in the PBS department have previously spoken to The Dartmouth alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Heatherton, Kelley and Whalen.

"I acknowledge that I acted unprofessionally in public at conferences while intoxicated," Heatherton wrote. "I offer a humble and sincere apology to anyone affected by my actions.”

Heatherton, Kelley and Whalen have been under review since last fall. Per an email sent to all of campus by College President Phil Hanlon, Smith has also made recommendations for Kelley and Whalen that have been upheld by the Review Committee.

Kelley and Whalen will remain on paid leave until Dean Smith’s recommendations are reviewed by the Dartmouth-wide Council on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, an 18-member council elected by the faculty. Heatherton, who was eligible to retire based on his age and length of service, chose to do so prior to CAFR review. After the reviews are completed, Hanlon will deliver the CAFR report, as well as full transcripts of any hearings, to the College’s Board of Trustees, who will make a final decision on each case. According to an email from College spokesperson Diana Lawrence, none of the external investigator’s reports or information from the CAFR will be made public for any of the professors.

Hanlon’s email did not disclose Smith or the Review Committee’s recommendations for Kelley and Whalen “out of respect for the ongoing process.” Lawrence wrote that she cannot speculate on the timeframe for the CAFR and the Board to reach a decision.

The three professors have also been under criminal investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office since last October. Senior assistant attorney general Geoffrey W.R. Ward wrote in an email that the attorney general's office remains ongoing. Hanlon's email notes that the College is continuing to cooperate with law enforcement on their separate investigation.

Heatherton remains barred from entering campus property or attending College events. He will also not be granted emeritus status, according to Lawrence. Kelley and Whalen are also restricted from entering College property.

In addition to his vested retirement funds, Heatherton is eligible to receive retiree health coverage from the College. Lawrence wrote that employees who have reached the age of 55 and have at least 10 years of continuous service are eligible for some retiree health benefits, regardless of their reason for leaving the College. Dartmouth does not have the power to prevent a retirement or disallow health benefits for retirees, Lawrence wrote.

The Dartmouth first reported on Oct. 25, 2017 that the three PBS professors were on paid leave and under investigation for misconduct. On Oct. 31, Hanlon wrote a campus-wide email confirming that the professors were “alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct and are being investigated by law enforcement,” including the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, the Grafton County attorney, the New Hampshire State Police, the Grafton County Sheriff’s office and Hanover Police. On Nov. 10, the College announced that it had hired an external investigator to conduct its own investigations of the allegations.

On Nov. 18, The Dartmouth reported that fifteen undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and scholars in the PBS department signed a statement to The Dartmouth alleging that the three professors created a “hostile academic environment in which sexual harassment is normalized.” They further claimed that the professors had violated one or more of the College’s Employee Sexual Misconduct Policy, Employee Sexual Harassment Policy and Policy on Instructor-Student Consensual Relationships. Four of those signees spoke directly to The Dartmouth about their experiences, and three more provided written statements about their time in the PBS department.

On Feb. 19, 2018, Hanlon announced that the external investigator was “close to concluding her work,” and that, after the completion of investigations, disciplinary action following procedures in the Organization of the Faculty of Dartmouth College would be pursued.