Director of the Neuroscience Program Catherine McCormick and President Nancy Dye both took the stand Wednesday in the third round of hearings in Assistant Professor of Neuroscience David Holtzman's request for a preliminary injunction. This final round of questioning concluded the hearing. The judge has not made a decision yet.
A preliminary injunction would enable Holtzman to resume teaching duties. His courseload for the semester was cancelled after complaints of inappropriate sexual conversation, inappropriate physical misconduct and drug use filed by students and staff members resulted in Holtzman's placement on paid leave after review by the College Faculty Council (CFC), General Faculty Council (GFC) and consultation with the American Association of University Professors. (see related timeline)
Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. heard testimony from Dye and dean of the college of Arts and Sciences Clayton Koppes in his federal courtroom in Cleveland on Oct 31. He also heard testimony from Holtzman and Professor of Biology Richard Levin, Holtzman's adviser, on Dec. 13. Levin is Holtzman's adviser for the internal College process and is not required to serve as an adviser in federal court. When faculty undergo an internal investigation, they are entitled to a faculty adviser.
All individuals directly involved in the case were present on Wednesday except Helm, who is on leave.
Kirk Perry, Holtzman's attorney, called Dye to the stand, though Oliver told Perry to restrict himself to 10 questions - a number Perry soon exceeded.
Perry began his round of questioning by asking Dye if it is true that Latino members of the Oberlin community complain of a lack respresentation and unfair treatment.
Dye answered yes, but responded negatively when Perry asked her if it is true that the College administration is more favorable to the majority, "i.e. white males."
Perry asked Dye if a letter placed in Levin's personnel file after he attended class with Holtzman on Sept. 3 was removed after a group of "white male faculty members" protested its inclusion in the folder. Dye said that though the letter was removed, it was not removed for the reasons Perry stated. She also said that she did not remove the letter. "It was the dean's decision," Dye said. (see related story, page 6)
Perry also asked Dye what standards she used to assess whether Holtzman should be suspended. Dye said her decision was based on "the evidence before me and consultation with others on staff … What I saw before me was a pattern of seriously antisocial behavior, what I had in front of me were first hand accounts."
Perry asked Dye how severe something needs to be for a suspension to be carried out. Dye said, "Again, one makes a decision based on what is in front of them at the time. The issue is not quantitative … it is qualitative."
Perry then called McCormick to the stand. Her exchanges with Holtzman were heated. At one point Oliver told Perry, "You characterize things in such a way as to invite responses like that. You put so much in your questions and they're emotionally loaded." This exchange between Oliver and Perry came after Perry questioned McCormick about specific aspects of the allegations of sexual misconduct.
Perry asked McCormick about the students who went to her with allegations about Holtzman's behavior. McCormick said she did not provide Dye with written documentation, but did discuss the individuals' complaints about Holtzman with her. She said she also discussed the complaints with other members of the neuroscience faculty.
One of the students who went to both McCormick and Dye to discuss Holtzman, Valerie Simons OC '96, worked with Holtzman on her honors research project her entire senior year. McCormick said Simons was afraid to file a complaint because Holtzman was her research adviser. Perry asked, "She continued to work [with Holtzman] an entire year?"
McCormick responded, "She felt her behavior toward him got him in line [so that she could tolerate him]."
Perry asked McCormick why the Neuroscience Program had allowed Simons to remain in contact with Holtzman. "I have no right to remove a student from the classroom," McCormick said. "I advised her throughout. I respected her decision. She couldn't finish her research with someone else ... It was too far along. She was caught between a rock and a hard place."
Perry also asked McCormick, "Since you didn't have her removed you didn't think of him as an immediate threat?"
McCormick said, "I didn't think of him in those terms at that time."
Later, Perry asked McCormick what she thought constituted an immediate threat. McCormick said, "An individual who by patterns of behavior uses his position as a faculty member, as a superior, who uses his influence to get students to do negative things."
Perry asked McCormick if any of the students ever wrote down their claims when speaking with her; McCormick responded that they had not. She said the evidence presented to her was oral. She also said she wasn't aware of whether any of the students filed formal complaints with Camille Mitchell, administrator of the sexual offense policy.
Perry also asked McCormick if anyone had ever tried to verify the allegations with others who were present. McCormick said, "The statements came out of students who had nothing to gain." At one point, McCormick said it wasn't her job to verify the complaints. "I'm not an investigator."
The only formal complaint ever filed against Holtzman under Oberlin's sexual harassment policy was filed by Christine Hart, an animal caretaker, in 1993.
Anonymous packages raise questions and concerns about Holtzman hearing
- February 7, 1997
Hearing opens with Dye on the stand
- November 1, 1996
Holtzman lawsuit claims racial discrimination
- September 20, 1996
Holtzman files federal suit against College
- September 13, 1996
Essay: College disregards normal channels
- by David A. Holtzman; September 13, 1996
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 14; February 14, 1997
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