ODU will commission independent inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against former visiting professor Blake Bailey

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University officials have announced they will commission an independent review into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse made against a visiting professor who was at the university from 2010 to 2016.

ODU President John R. Broderick issued a letter to the Monarch community Thursday night saying the independent inquiry would look into the time of writer Blake Bailey at the university.

The Virginian-Pilot first reported allegations against Bailey in a lengthy investigation published June 10.

In that investigation, the Pilot detailed how more than a dozen people said Bailey — who filled the Mina Hohenberg Darden Chair in Creative Writing — harassed and abused multiple women while he was at ODU. The Pilot also said administrators never fully addressed concerns voiced at the time.

The university denied it declined to address the concerns. Bailey also denied the allegations through his attorney.

In the wake of the allegations, more than 110 university staff also signed a letter announcing their support of the women making the allegations.

After the Pilot’s investigation was published, Broderick also issued a statement apologizing to the women and promised he would set up a task force to review current university policies.

Broderick said ODU is awaiting guidance from Attorney General Mark Herring’s office about who should conduct the review.

“The decision to move forward has the full support of incoming President Hemphill and the Board of Visitors,” Broderick wrote.

Broderick added that he was aware the university’s initial response to the allegations caused hurt in the community, and assured in his letter that sexual harassment and other misconduct will not be tolerated.

The independent firm will examine the accusations against Bailey and determine whether adequate reporting channels were available.

As far as the task force, Broderick said its activity would start after the firm doing the review is selected.

Here is the full text of Broderick’s letter:

“Dear Monarch Community:

“I am writing to announce that the University will commission an independent inquiry into the allegations involving writer Blake Bailey during the period he was a visiting professor at ODU from 2010-2016.

“We are currently awaiting guidance from the Attorney General’s office in Richmond regarding who should conduct the review. The decision to move forward has the full support of incoming President Hemphill and the Board of Visitors.

“It is clear the University’s initial response caused pain to members of our community. I care deeply about all members of the Monarch community. It is essential to me that we obtain a truly independent report on the matter and that we be able to assure our campus community that sexual harassment and other misconduct will not be tolerated. We recognize the seriousness of the allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct and want all members of our community to have confidence that they can report these matters freely and without fear.

“The firm will be charged with examining the accusations against Mr. Bailey, including whether adequate reporting channels were available to individuals. The scope of work will be more thoroughly defined once a firm or individual is selected. We will ask the firm to conduct the review with diligence and urgency.

“Last week, I shared with you my thoughts on establishing a task force to explore ways to strengthen the University’s policies and procedures that relate to the prevention, reporting of, and response to allegations of sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct that would be co-chaired by Dr. Mona Danner, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, and Dr. Kate Hawkins, vice provost for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives.

“Our commitment to this process will remain steadfast. We have been encouraged to begin the task force activity only after the firm has been selected, so a comprehensive and coordinated process can be put in place.

“Finally, I want to assure everyone that Old Dominion University is committed to maintaining an environment in which all people feel safe and respected, and a place where their concerns can be freely expressed and acted upon. Both Dr. Hemphill and I are committed to taking whatever steps are appropriate to enhance safeguards, enforce standards of conduct, and improve mechanisms for individuals to report instances of sexual harassment or other misconduct.

“Sincerely,
John R. Broderick
President”

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