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Third Dartmouth Professor Ousted in Sexual Misconduct Inquiry

  • Bill Kelley, former professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College. Photo courtesy Dartmouth College.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hanover — A third Dartmouth professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has left his job following an investigation into sexual misconduct.

Professor William M. Kelley resigned “effective immediately,” in the face of a recommendation by the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, Elizabeth Smith, that his tenure be revoked and his employment terminated, according to a campus-wide email sent by Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon on Tuesday.

Kelley’s resignation, which comes just weeks after former professor Todd Heatherton retired and former professor Paul Whalen resigned, marks the end of the college’s internal investigations that began last fall. Heatherton and Whalen faced similar recommendations by Smith.

The three professors “created a hostile academic environment in which sexual harassment is normalized,” a group of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctorate scholars said in a statement published in a November edition of The Dartmouth, a student newspaper.

The Dartmouth spoke with a handful of the students directly, all on condition of anonymity, who said that the professors frequently encouraged their students to socialize and drink during off-hours.

As with Heatherton and Whalen, the college did not enter into separation or nondisclosure agreements with Kelley, who along with the other two had been on paid leave since October. It also made no severance payments to him.

Kelley could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

He joined the department in 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile that has recently been taken down. He earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 1998 and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995.

His work, according to his Dartmouth web page that has recently been taken down, focused on answering questions such as “How does the human brain form and maintain memories? How do cognitive and emotional experiences give rise to an individual’s unique sense of self? How does the human brain represent different kinds of reward? And how do we self-regulate against short-term rewards when they can lead to maladaptive habits down the road?”

Kelley and the other two former professors continue to be prohibited from “entering campus property or from attending any Dartmouth-sponsored events, no matter where they are held,” Hanlon wrote in his email.

The college continues to cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office involving allegations of “sexual misconduct,” Hanlon wrote.

Deputy Attorney General Jane Young, in an email on Tuesday, confirmed that the investigation is ongoing, but offered no details.

The conclusion of the college’s inquiry is a good time to recognize the strength it took for the victims of the professors’ actions to come forward, said Peggy O’Neil, executive director of Wise, which provides support to victims of domestic and sexual violence at its office in Lebanon, through a crisis hotline and through an office on Dartmouth’s campus.

“Any time people come forward and share their truth and the system uses its processes to address that contributes to things being safer and better,” O’Neil said in a phone interview.

A doctoral candidate in the department, Sasha Brietzke, greeted the news of Kelley’s departure with a Tweet: “... Beyond proud and grateful for all of the many efforts that are going into making the department a safer and more equitable environment for all of us to train as scientists #timesup #MeTooPhD.”

Next steps for the college include a review by Dartmouth’s senior leadership of a report compiled by a Presidential Steering Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which was charged in January with reviewing institution-wide policies on sexual misconduct response, prevention, education and accountability.

Following that review, Dartmouth will seek community feedback on suggestions from that report, according to Hanlon’s email.

“I would like to reiterate that sexual misconduct and harassment have no place at Dartmouth,” Hanlon wrote. “We will investigate all allegations fairly and impartially and hold accountable any community members found to have violated our policies or standards.”

In his email, Hanlon directed those in need of assistance and resources to Dartmouth’s sexual respect website, dartgo.org/sexualrespectsite.

“Please do not hesitate to seek help,” he wrote.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.