NEW BRITAIN - A Central Connecticut State University professor whose alleged incidents of sexual misconduct on campus were highlighted in a story in the school’s student newspaper this week has been placed on paid leave.
CCSU officials knew for weeks that The Recorder was investigating claims against the professor, but didn’t take action until the story was published, according to The Recorder’s managing editor, Ruth Bruno.
A month ago, Bruno, requested interviews and documents from school officials concerning allegations that theater professor Joshua Perlstein had inappropriately touched or made unwanted advances to several female students and faculty over more than a decade, Bruno told The Herald. Bruno, 22, is a senior at the school.
But CCSU President Zulma Toro didn’t announce that she was having her executive officers investigate the claims until Tuesday morning, after the story had been posted on The Recorder’s website the previous night. The story appeared in The Recorder’s print edition Wednesday.
CCSU spokeswoman Janice Palmer declined to respond to The Herald’s questions on when Toro learned of the allegations and why the university waited until the story was published to launch an investigation.
“We do not yet have the facts or documents to verify what was reported by the student newspaper,” Palmer said. “This is why President Toro has launched a multi-pronged investigation.”
University officials announced Wednesday morning that Perlstein, who makes $97,000 a year as a tenured professor, has been placed on paid leave while the investigation is being conducted. The school also hired the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin to do an independent investigation, Toro said.
In an email sent to staff and students Wednesday morning announcing Perlstein’s status, Toro noted that, on Tuesday night, she had participated in the school’s “Take Back The Night” event.
“I was especially moved by our students who were brave enough to share their experiences with sexual assault, dating violence and sexual harassment, Toro wrote. “This morning, we start anew, ensuring the CCSU campus is the welcoming, safe campus it should be.”
Bruno uncovered at least three documented instances in which female students or staff reported to the school that Perlstein had inappropriately touched them or made unwanted advances over about 10 years.
The school’s Human Resources Department told Bruno that it had no record of any complaints against Perlstein.
Bruno also interviewed five other women who shared stories of similar incidents.
School officials agreed to discuss CCSU’s policy on complaints of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior about a month ago, but declined to discuss Perlstein, Bruno said. She interviewed at least three current and prior school administrators for the story.
CCSU officials told Bruno during the interviews that the school’s policy was to only investigate formal complaints that were made by the victim no later than 90 days after the alleged incident occurred. Toro said Tuesday that she has asked the school’s Chief Diversity Officer to review the 90-day policy.
All 17 state-run institutions of higher learning are expected to follow the sexual misconduct reporting policy issued by the state Board Of Regents in 2016, said Maribel La Luz, spokeswoman for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian.
The 2016 policy does not have a timeframe for reporting incidents of sexual misconduct, La Luz confirmed. CSCU implemented a new training program this spring showing students and staff what to do if they are bystanders to sexual misconduct or sexual violence on campus, she said.
“We want students or former students to come forward like this and we’re glad that CCSU is investigating,” Ojakian said in a statement to The Herald. “Under our new administration we’ve updated and enhanced all policies around sexual inappropriateness on campus at all of our schools. We do not tolerate it, period. We take every opportunity possible to train staff, students, bystanders, or anyone in the local community on how to address this issue and we’ll continue to do so.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.