OUR VIEW: Can CCSU move forward after scandal-plagued year

Published on Wednesday, 5 December 2018 21:06
Written by staff

Central Connecticut State University has had its share of problems this year.

Questionable and allegedly inappropriate or illegal behavior by three staff members put the university in the spotlight.

The Herald and The Bristol Press reported university records showed that Professor Joshua Perlstein was allegedly sexually harassing students and staff for years, but the school failed to seriously discipline him. The school is still investigating the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. Perlstein is on paid leave.

Christopher Dukes, the head of student conduct for Central Connecticut State University, was charged in a violent domestic incident. He has been on paid leave since his April arrest.

In July, Thomas Callery, a theater professor was accused of telling students to lie to police after a student was injured in the campus theater. He was placed on leave and then retired before an investigation was completed.

Recently, a fourth, long-simmering controversy involving its campus police has been resolved after two investigations into the allegations were completed.

Last Thursday, CCSU officials announced sweeping changes and the firing of an officer accused of sexually assaulting a female co-worker.

A report conducted by former state Commissioner of Public Safety Bernard Sullivan found the department had poor oversight during the tenure of retired Chief Jason Powell that impacted the current chief ’s ability to deal with staffing issues and discipline.

Sullivan was hired by CCSU President Zulma Toro to overhaul the department earlier this year.

Under Powell, the university was fined $100,000 for violations of the Clery Act, which requires institutions of higher learning to annually report all on-campus crime, and the department lost national accreditation due to lack of attention to the process, Sullivan said.

Powell also hired six former Hartford police officers, some of whom had histories of disciplinary action or incidents in their background that would make them ineligible, Sullivan said.

Officer Curtis Lollar, who was accused of sexually assaulting a female officer, was one of the six former Hartford officers hired. He was fired in September.

“As of Saturday, the police department will report directly to me,” Toro said. But we wonder if Toro can add overseeing the campus police to her many other duties as university president.

Good leaders delegate. And while we recognize Toro’s need to bring about accountability for the actions of campus officers, that responsibility should fall squarely on the shoulders of the chief.

In fairness, Toro did inherit some of these issues from her predecessor. Yet, we wonder if university department heads need a lesson in management skills and discipline. It is apparent to us that CCSU desperately needs to change its in-house culture.

Further, each revelation of bad behavior or alleged illegal activity by a university employee sends the wrong message to students and undermines the authority of CCSU’s administration.

Toro must hit the reset button and make it clear that the rules apply to everyone, even those charged with enforcing them.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Wednesday, 5 December 2018 21:06. Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2018 21:09.