Berklee Faculty Union Beats Back Unjust Discharge Of 30-Year Professor After Inept Equity Investigation
On August 31, 2021, a neutral arbitrator reversed the discharge of a Berklee College of Music faculty member with a more-than-30-year unblemished teaching career who was wrongly accused of sexual harassment in a shocking rush to judgment by the College’s Equity Office. Pyle Rome attorney Al Gordon O’Connell represented the Faculty Union at hearing, with partner Patrick Bryant collaborating on the Union’s brief.
In a stunning decision, the arbitrator dismantled the Equity Office investigation from beginning to end, calling the investigator’s findings “clearly inaccurate” and reflective of a “prejudicial and unsubstantiated mischaracterization of the evidence.” Noting that the College’s own witnesses at arbitration contradicted the investigator’s report, the arbitrator concluded that the investigation was fatally flawed and that the College failed to produce any credible evidence that the professor engaged in wrongdoing.
The case laid bare the College’s decision to forego any real due process for accused faculty members as it attempts to dig itself out of years of media reports and social-media backlash regarding sexual harassment allegations on campus. Ultimately, the Faculty Union threw down the gauntlet in this case, refusing to bend to a knee-jerk decision from the Equity Office that had no basis in reality. The result was a stinging rebuke of the College’s entire investigatory process and a ray of hope that faculty members can find refuge from unwarranted disciplinary decisions in the just cause provisions of their union contract.