Dear Washburn Review,
When reporter Adam Vlach called me for comment on the university’s settlement of the suit against Dean of Libraries Alan Bearman, I provided a brief response; Vlach accurately conveyed my statement that I’d seen no evidence of sexual harassment by Bearman but that, given how little information we had about the settlement, saying much more than that was impossible. Vlach did not share with me, however, the range of accusations he would re-report from Michelle Canipe and her lawyers. Had he done so, I would have had rather more to say. And so:
First, when a new university lawyer took over the case as it went into mediation, the decision was made to settle. This is often a routine action by lawyers seeking to avoid protracted legal action, and it does not imply in any way culpability by the university or acceptance of the accusations. This is an important point. So that, in the wake of the settlement, Canipe’s accusations get repeated as they have been in this story, readers should be made aware of a very important point: these are not settled facts, but accusations. They, and Canipe’s reliability as a witness, have not been tested in a court of law.
It follows that when stories are repeated about Bearman’s remarks about Muslims or tattoos, or when the fanciful story of his “assault” of Makda is reiterated, readers of the Washburn Review should not presume that any of these accusations have been proven. It should be noted that Bearman himself has denied these accusations, and that every one of them depends entirely on Canipe’s word. No one besides Canipe has validated these claims. No reader of this article should assume that these are facts.
On one claim in particular, however, I can go further: when Canipe asserts that “Bearman was unwilling to work with a homosexual,” that claim is demonstrably, transparently false. Homosexuals have and do work in the library, and Bearman has no difficulty working with them whatsoever. Indeed, in at least one case of which I know, Bearman not only hired a vocally “out” homosexual, but encouraged her to apply for a job at the library, and then expanded her duties once she started work there. (And, by the way, she has tattoos as well.)
If the rest of Canipe’s accusations are anywhere near as distant from truthful accounts as this one is, it makes me very much regret the university lawyer’s decision to settle. Although settlement implies no guilt, it gives Bearman no opportunity to defend his good name. And as long as publications like the Washburn Review are willing to simply uncritically reprint such accusations, that is indeed unfortunate.
Chair, Department of History