TORONTO — A Brock University professor who gave one of his students alcohol in his office and made unwanted sexual advances towards her will return to teaching this semester.
Prof. David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye will teach a second-year, non-compulsory history class starting next week at the St. Catharines, Ont. school. He has not taught since March 2016, when it came to light that the university had conducted a three-month-long internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations.
As with many cases of sexual violence, it seems that the survivor's best interests were not treated as the primary concernEllie Donohue-Miller, The Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre
The university said in a statement Thursday that it's Schimmelpenninck van der Oye's right to return to the classroom under the faculty's collective agreement and according to a recent legally binding arbitration decision.
"The university has put in place a set of conditions associated with Prof. Schimmelpenninck's return to the classroom. He agreed to these conditions and has undertaken steps to meet them, including completing coaching for respectful workplace practices," said the school.
This appears to be the first statement Brock University has issued related to Schimmelpenninck van der Oye's return to teaching and came at the request of HuffPost Canada. Students and staff became aware of the change earlier this week when at least one alumnus noted on Facebook that he was listed as an instructor for the class.
"The university refused to tell us what disciplinary action Dr. Schimmelpenninck would receive, would not answer whether he would be returning to Brock, and ultimately did not tell us that he was slated to teach an undergraduate course this term," said Ellie Donohue-Miller, a support service co-ordinator at The Brock Student Sexual Violence Support Centre.
"As with many cases of sexual violence, it seems that the survivor's best interests were not treated as the primary concern which they definitely should be."
Drinking in professor's office
The student, who remains anonymous, spoke to CBC News which first reported on the case. She told the university that in 2014 Schimmelpenninck van der Oye had invited her and a male student to his office after drinking together at a bar. She was eventually alone with the professor, and he gave her another drink before making a sexual advance. She immediately objected.
"What was most disturbing to me, however, was that when the incident ended the professor told me it would be a nice arrangement if I were to come by his office once a week to 'make love,' because we were both 'consenting adults,'" she said in a statement that she asked the support centre to share on Facebook in 2016.
Brock's internal investigation confirmed the student's claims, including inappropriate touching and sexual comments, according to CBC. She brought the case to the attention of media when the university told her to keep the findings confidential.
"I hope that this inspires change at Brock, and that the next person (it is inevitable that there will be others) feels that they are truly supported," she said in 2016.
In her statement, the student criticized Brock's handling of the case as prolonged and opaque.
A second student reported a similar incident to the university involving Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, reported CBC, but an internal investigation determined there wasn't enough evidence to support her claim.
That student, who asked for anonymity for privacy reasons, told HuffPost in an email Thursday night that she is "deeply saddened" to learn of the professor's return to the classroom.
"For anyone still wondering why sex assault victims so rarely come forward to report their experiences of sexual harassment and violence, this turn of events is your answer: perpetrators are consistently protected and excused by the institutions that shelter them, while survivors are forced to undergo again and again the same humiliating realization that justice is all but impossible to achieve," she wrote.
More from HuffPost Canada:
Schimmelpenninck van der Oye declined HuffPost's request for an interview, and deferred questions to the university.
In a 2016 interview with the St. Catharines Standard, the professor denied that he had sexually harassed students. He said he felt faculty drinking with students was acceptable as long as everyone was of legal age. He also said he was receiving addictions counselling for a drinking problem.
Brock's new policies
Schimmelpenninck van der Oye left the classroom in March 2016 for disciplinary reasons, as well as for related health issues and accrued academic leave, the university said. He returned in the summer of 2018, and did not teach in the fall semester.
On Dec. 14, 2018, Brock received the arbitrator's decision that the professor be permitted to teach this winter.
"In the past three years, Brock has taken significant steps to develop its policies, procedures and resources to more effectively address human rights issues and to better address the well-being of everyone on campus," said the university, calling the 2016 incident a "difficult chapter" for the community.
Brock said since 2016 it has:
- Implemented a new sexual assault and harassment policy
- Hired a sexual violence response and education co-ordinator
- Provided training on how to respond to disclosure of sexual violence
- Established an independent human rights office
- Updated its campus alcohol policy.
However, Schimmelpenninck van der Oye's return to teaching and the lack of transparency undermines any progress Brock has made, said Julie Macfarlane, a law professor at Windsor University and an expert in dispute resolution.
"I don't know how many times we are going to have stories written about this until we have change," Macfarlane said. "The secrecy of all of these steps, of launching the investigation, the lack of information on the outcome and lack of information to students now all play further into the problem."
Manchari Para of Ontario Public Interest Research Group Brock, a social justice organization on campus, said alumni are planning to educate students about Schimmelpenninck van der Oye's past misconduct next week so they can decide for themselves if they want to take his class.
"A lot of people are angry — personally I am — and we're all planning on how to respond and let students know who he is," said Para, a recent graduate. "We won't forget what happened."
Also on HuffPost: