Two weeks ago, Coleman Griffith was the latest in a long line of faculty members exiled to paid administrative leave. Senior Vice President Robert Bell, who told the Courier about Griffith’s leave, retracted his statement, saying that it was a violation of Griffith’s confidentiality. The truth of the matter is that students deserve to be told when and why a faculty member is put on leave, even at the cost of the professor’s reputation.
Coleman Griffith’s story is not unusual. He is the third faculty member in two years to be accused of sexual misconduct and the second to be placed on paid leave. Telling students what has happened to him shouldn’t be an issue. With today’s media, most students would have been able to find out anyway.
However, administrators should notify students before they have to find out via social media both for the students own safety and because it is the right thing to do. Keeping students in the dark and ignorant of events happening on campus is wrong.
When students pay their tuition for a class, it is expected that a faculty member will be there to guide them through their assignments and to provide instruction on the required subject. A student’s tuition is what pays for faculty and other costs. Therefore, students should have the right to know where their professor is, if he or she is suddenly absent and why.
Students should also know, in regards to their own safety. When a faculty member is accused of sexual misconduct it is a serious thing and students should have time to process the information and seek the right resources to deal with the issue, if necessary. Keeping information from students delays the healing process and jeopardizes a student’s mental, and sometimes physical, health.
Bell should not have apologized for his comments about Griffith. He didn’t break any laws and at most he was simply informing students where their professor was when he failed to show up for his classes.
The lack of transparency that the administration doesn’t want to relinquish to students causes a rift between students and the faculty at PCC. When administrators refuse to release just the basic information, students lose confidence in the authority figures that are trusted to keep the campus a safe place for everyone.
What about a professor’s credibility?
It is up to the law and the legal system to determine whether the accusations carry any weight. These matters should be treated seriously and everyone should remember that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. If the faculty involved is found innocent of any of the accusations then it is up those those who know him to trust that the investigation was a thorough one and have confidence in the final verdict.
In the end, students should have the right to know about what is happening on their campus, especially if it affects them. They rely on their instructors to be professional and teach them to the fullest extent of their abilities. Withholding information, in the long run, only distances students from the very people they are supposed to trust with their well-being.