Outcome of Misconduct Investigation

October 6, 2020

Dear AUC Community,

On September 5, the Office of Institutional Equity opened an investigation in response to reports that a group of current and former AUC students shared explicit photos of women on a WhatsApp group.

The investigation found evidence of three WhatsApp chat groups active at various times — all of them since disbanded — engaged in sharing explicit photos and videos of women without their consent. None of the victims have come forward or filed a report. Nonetheless, the actions of the members of these groups, even as private individuals acting outside of any affiliation with AUC-approved student groups or activities, are in violation of AUC’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy and Code of Student Conduct. The investigation found that the chat groups had a number of passive participants and that not all members of the groups sought to be included. However, no one in any of the groups reported the conduct at the time it occurred. Consequently, all members of all of the chat groups, regardless of their level of engagement will receive sanctions because of the very failure to report the existence of the group falls short of the conduct explicitly expected of an AUC student. 

Depending on the evidence of the level of participation, all students found to have been associated with the groups will receive sanctions ranging from a ban on participation in campus activities and course load reduction to suspension for one or more semesters. In addition, all students and alumni associated with the groups will sign a declaration that they will engage in no such future misconduct, under penalty of further disciplinary action, including automatic suspension or expulsion from the University. Group members who have since graduated and are now alumni will be banned from the University and not permitted to access either campus for any educational or non-educational purpose for a range of one to three years. In addition, all group members will be required to participate in the training required for all students, faculty and staff on AUC’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy and Code of Student Conduct before the end of the Fall 2020 semester.

Our campus is safe and protective of the dignity of all who work, study and visit. Each of us must always work to keep it so — and to support each other when we detect actual or alleged abuses of AUC community values by current AUC students, faculty and staff, even off-campus.  I commend those who have come forward to expose and denounce the off-campus behavior that took place in these WhatsApp groups which had no connection to AUC-approved student activity groups whatsoever. I encourage all members of our community to continue to report any sexual harassment or other forms of bullying or disrespectful misconduct here  — in any form and regardless of when or where it took place. We will investigate and we will take appropriate action, up to and including legal prosecution where warranted. Such extremely reprehensible misconduct is rare at AUC, but none of us can be complacent or avert our attention when we become aware of abuses. We are proud when community members report, speak out and collectively reject behaviors that are inconsistent with the values of respect and dignity we all share.  This community commitment is what gives most force to our institutional commitment to taking action and ensuring a safe campus.

I invite you to join me in our next virtual Campus Conversation on Thursday, October 15 at 1 pm. We will answer any questions about the investigation and provide an update on the #AUCSpeakUp initiative, as well as our continuing COVID-19 planning. 

Sincerely,

Francis J. Ricciardone