John Jay Community Reacts to Sexual-Harassment Allegations

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John Jay Community Reacts to Sexual-Harassment Allegations

Nanci Avalos Omaña

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The John Jay community reacted, another student shared their experience and an accused professor broke his silence.

On Sept. 7, President Karol Mason sent an announcement to the John Jay Community revealing that the college was investigating alleged “inappropriate conduct by certain faculty members.”

The very next day, the New York Post reported that four professors were accused of sexual harassment and revealed the identity of three of them.

Two of the professors worked in the Anthropology department. Professor and former chairperson Anthony Marcus and Ric Curtis, professor and also a former chair. The third is Barry Spunt, a professor in the Sociology department.

After the Sentinel reached out to the accused professors, Barry Spunt broke his silence with a message to his students in an email response.

“I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to be falsely accused of something I would never do,” he wrote. “It is beyond difficult for me to be prohibited from publicly exposing the falsity and vindictiveness of the accusations brought against me.”

“At this point, I just have to have faith that there is a larger purpose at work, that we will all learn something from this process and hopefully grow as individuals and as an educational institution of integrity, fairness and where honesty and the truth still count,” he wrote.

After news broke out of who the professors were, students and faculty quickly reacted through social media and the JJAY Students app. The new campus app was designed for students to connect with their classmates, but it was buzzing with reactions to the allegations.

The Sentinel reached out to students for their comments.

“I think the allegations are horrible and as a third year undergrad at John Jay, I wouldn’t expect something like this to happen here, however, now that it has, it’s vital for us to believe the person who shared their story and support them throughout this investigation,” Stacey Morales, a Forensic Psychology major wrote to the Sentinel.

Ismary Calderon, a student who took a class with Anthony Marcus told the Sentinel she has a great perception of him.

“I would definitely use the word feminist to describe him so it was a big shock to see his name and picture on the New York Post regarding this investigation,” she said.

Calderon remembers Professor Marcus giving a lecture while carrying his young son over the shoulders explaining that his wife couldn’t stay home and the babysitter wasn’t available. On another occasion, he offered to carry one of his student’s baby during an exam when she was also unable to find a babysitter.

“I really don’t want to paint him like a saint, but from my very short experience he was one of the cool teachers and an amazing instructor,” she said. “I truly hope they get to the truth and if the professors are guilty they must be fired and face the consequences.”

A 2018 Anthropology BA graduate who wishes to stay anonymous and whose preferred pronouns are they/them also interacted with Marcus but had a very different reaction when they heard the news.

They told the Sentinel they recall Marcus being inappropriate with them on multiple occasions and after approaching two other professors about the situation they were told, “He would never do that.”

They chose not to disclose the names of the two other professors.

“His behavior is why I decided not to go on a study abroad trip to Mexico City that he was leading,” they wrote to the Sentinel. “If he could be so unabashedly inappropriate in the department on campus I could not trust what he was capable of in a more lax environment.”

The person was a 25-year-old undergrad assistant on work study in the Anthropology department and recalls three instances Marcus “orchestrated to let me know he had power over me”, but chose not to disclose any further details.

“Believe a man with considerable social and political capital is capable of abusing his authority and believe the intersection of masculinity, authority, and insecurity is harassment that falls on the physical and emotional bodies of womxn and femmes,” they wrote. “As a student, the least we deserve is to trust our authorities to not view us sexually.”

They strongly urged the Anthropology and Sociology departments at John Jay to support “the people who have told their truth.”

The Sentinel reached out to the Anthropology and Sociology departments for comment.

Professor and current chair of the Sociology department, Robert Garot, said, “We are in the process of addressing a confidential and sensitive personnel matter, and, to protect the fairness of the process and the privacy of those involved, unfortunately, I cannot provide any additional information at this time.”

The Anthropology department directed the Sentinel to John Jay’s Director of Media Relations, Richard Relkin.

“Upon receiving complaints alleging inappropriate conduct by certain faculty members, we launched an investigation into the matter and have engaged an outside investigator to assist us. We are committed to a swift, thorough, and fair investigation, which is ongoing. The safety of all members of the John Jay community is of utmost importance to us, and we expect every member of our community to live up to our standards of conduct,” he wrote in a statement to the Sentinel.

The Sentinel also reached out to Barry Spunt’s attorney, Carmen Jack Giordano, who said he has evidence that the allegations against Spunt are false but wouldn’t disclose what the evidence is.

Giordano revealed that “during the time of the supposed incidents,” Spunt’s accuser was “not a John Jay student.”

Additionally, he wrote that the woman accused Spunt of making inappropriate comments and engaging in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature sometime in 2017.

According to CUNY’s policy on Sexual Misconduct, when a student reports sexual misconduct the Title IX Coordinator works with the individual “to protect against retaliation.” The Coordinator will then contact the Human Resources Director to do the same for the employee.

After a thorough investigation by the Title IX Coordinator, they may propose an “informal resolution” between the parties involved or if no agreement is reached, the Title IX Coordinator will submit their findings to the College President.

CUNY also requires all incoming students to complete a training with the Sexual and Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Response Course program. An online, self-paced training, SPARC “educates students about sexual misconduct, ways to prevent it, and the campus’ response to a complaint.”

Student government members, student leaders and members of other student groups designated by the University and/or College are also required to complete it.

Sentinel Editor Selina Li contributed to this story. 

Silvia Montalban, The Title IX Coordinator
(646) 557-4409
[email protected]

Michael Martinez-Sachs, Dean of Students (for student complaints)
(212) 237-8211
[email protected]