Ever since the Bill Cosby sexual-assault scandal went viral last year, the Temple University board of trustees has been in a defensive crouch.
This is understandable at one level because Cosby was for decades a high-profile trustee and Temple’s best-known graduate. Yet the more that is known about allegations of drug abuse and sexual assault involving America’s onetime favorite TV dad, the more it becomes clear that the board failed to confront a grave risk to the university’s reputation when the allegations emerged a decade ago.
Much of the resulting damage to Temple, the lurid headlines and the tarnishing of its image, can be traced to the board’s inaction.
I asked the university administration what steps it took in the spring of 2005 to find out whether there was merit to allegations in a lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand – the former director of operations for Temple women’s basketball – that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her.
In a statement, the university initially said it refrained from taking action as it awaited the outcome of a criminal investigation by then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. and the resolution of Constand’s lawsuit. The criminal investigation ended without an indictment and the lawsuit was settled, so the matter faded from view for a time.
When I asked again whether Temple’s board had any formal process for evaluating misconduct complaints against trustees or senior administrators in 2005, the university said it had one “comprehensive policy for the handling of such matters when they arise in the university community.”
For years, it has been the practice at publicly traded companies and major nonprofits to independently investigate claims of misconduct, especially involving senior officials. That is what Villanova University did when it learned in 2011 that former law school administrators had inflated admissions data of incoming first-year law students.
Such rigorous and often painful internal investigations can help institutions ferret out wrongdoing and take steps to head off future problems.
But that is not what happened at Temple.
David Adamany, university president when the first allegations against Cosby arose in 2005 and a trustee on the board with him, said the case never came up in any board meeting and maintained that there was no reason for the board to deal with it. The alleged assault took place off campus and thus evoked no university interest, he said. He described the entire Constand matter as a “non-issue.” (The Temple board chairman in 2005, Howard Gittis, died two years later.)
“I have not heard among my colleagues on the faculty one word mentioned about it in a department meeting or in a casual conversation,” Adamany, a member of the law school faculty, said in an interview. “I teach graduate and undergraduate courses, and if it were on people’s minds, some student would have mentioned it to me. I have not heard a peep.”
Source: Philly.com | Chris Mondics