Former Professor: Dartmouth Aware of Misconduct Allegations For Years

Nov 16, 2017

Credit NHPR Staff

A former Dartmouth professor says she reported an incident of sexual harassment involving Todd Heatherton – one of three professors now under criminal investigation – to the college about 15 years ago, raising questions about Dartmouth's handling of misconduct complaints.

Jennifer Groh was a professor in Dartmouth's Psychological and Brain Sciences Department for just under 10 years, starting in 1997.

In a letter to the college made public on Facebook by an associate professor at UC San Diego, Groh wrote that in 2002, Heatherton touched a student’s breasts while telling the student she wasn’t doing a good job with her work. (Scroll down to read the Facebook post in full.)

The student told Groh about the incident, and Groh said she then reported it to an associate dean. “I hope that the current investigation will consider not only the present case but also whether a different approach in 2002 would have prevented it,” she wrote.

Heatherton is one of three professors now under investigation by both Dartmouth and the state attorney general’s office for sexual misconduct.

“Dartmouth was aware of this incident 15 years ago, investigated it, determined it was accidental and totally unintentional—not a sexual touching at all, and therefore determined that there was no need for any disciplinary action," Heatherton's attorneys said in a statement Thursday. 

Groh’s letter follows another report earlier this week from Simine Vazire, a psychology professor at the University of California – Davis. Vazire told Slate that Heatherton groped her at a conference in 2002.

“If I touched her as she described, all I can say is that I am profoundly sorry,” Heatherton wrote in an email to Slate, saying he doesn’t remember the encounter.

Since 2002, when these incidents are alleged to have occurred, Heatherton has been honored by his department and briefly served as chair.

According to Groh, several faculty were concerned about Heatherton’s promotion and went through a grievance process with the College’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.

Groh and several other female faculty members left for other institutions in part because of concerns that women were not being considered fairly for promotions, she wrote in her letter. Groh is now a professor at Duke University.

Few official details have been released by the college or state investigators on the nature of the allegations against Heatherton and two other professors, Paul Whalen and Bill Kelley. In a letter to students, faculty and staff last week, the college emphasized that the investigations do not so far involve the professors' research or human subjects used in their studies. 

"At the heart of our ongoing investigations is an extensive fact-finding process led by an experienced external investigator," college spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email Thursday.

"We appreciate hearing from Professor Groh about her experience and encourage anyone with additional information about the allegations to reach out to us, the New Hampshire State Police, or the attorney general’s office," she wrote. 

Read the Facebook post by Jennifer Groh, as shared by a UC San Diego Associate Professor: