Morehouse College, shown last May, is dealing with sexual misconduct allegations against some of its employees. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Morehouse expanding staff sexual misconduct investigation

Morehouse College is expanding its investigation of sexual misconduct complaints filed by students against additional employees, the school announced Thursday.

The announcement comes two days after a student posted several short videos on Twitter that went viral claiming an employee sexually harassed him and the college did little to address his prior written complaints. Other students responded to the social media posts saying that they had also been harassed and Morehouse inadequately addressed their complaints.

“Morehouse has not responded to anything that happened,” the student who posted the videos said on Twitter. “They’ve ignored my emails. They’ve ignored my calls.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not identify survivors of alleged sexual misconduct without their consent.

Morehouse released statements Wednesday saying it would thoroughly investigate the complaints and that DeMarcus Crews, the employee accused by the student in the video of the harassment, was on unpaid administrative leave.

>> RELATED | Morehouse ignored sexual harassment complaint, alleged victim says

Under the expanded investigation, Morehouse said in its statement Thursday no further information would be made available, such as how many employees are being investigated, but urged students who may have been harassed to contact the school’s ethics and compliance hotline number: 1-888-299-9540.

“The education and development of the men of Morehouse is our top priority, and the College will take the necessary action to protect the safety of its students,” the statement said.

Crews said on LinkedIn he graduated from Morehouse in 2015 and was the college’s interim director of housing and residential education. Efforts to contact Crews were unsuccessful Thursday.

The all-male, Atlanta college responded to the posts Wednesday afternoon by saying it has launched a formal investigation and the employee is now on unpaid administrative leave.

The students who posted the complaints received strong support on social media. The posts also resulted in criticism of the all-male college located near downtown Atlanta.

The accusations particularly disturbed the mother of a former Morehouse student who sued the college in November over claims that a faculty member sexually harassed her son during a 2015 study abroad trip to Brazil.

“My heart stopped,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday with the AJC. “It reminded me of my experience.”

The student said assistant professor Robert Peterson ordered the student, who was a minor, alcoholic drinks on the flight to Brazil. Peterson groped his genitals on the flight, the student’s attorney said in the complaint, which is now in federal court. Peterson ordered alcoholic drinks for other underage students at a pool party during the trip and sent sexually explicit photos to students, according to the complaint.

Main entrance to Morehouse College
Photo: FILE

One faculty member reported the alleged harassment to a department chair, but it wasn’t forwarded to the office assigned to handle such complaints. The student said he filed a formal complaint in December 2017, but Morehouse said it didn’t receive the complaint. The student resubmitted the complaint in January 2018.

Peterson was put on administrative leave, and an external investigator recommended termination. Peterson no longer teaches at Morehouse. He denied the allegations.

Morehouse filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit saying, in large part, that the student waited too long to sue.

“Plaintiff failed to file suit against Morehouse within Georgia’s applicable two-year statute of limitations,” wrote attorneys representing the college.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Lawsuit claims Morehouse ignored sexual harassment complaint

R. Cade Parian, an attorney representing the former student, said the college’s defense was reprehensible, particularly a statement in one court document that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were caused by his “own negligence and not by any act or omission on the part of Morehouse College.”

“Morehouse not only did everything to cover up this sexual assault … they tried to blame our client for being the victim of sexual assault,” Parian said. “That is not going to fly, Morehouse.”

Morehouse does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Aileen Dodd said Thursday.

The former student’s mother said he transferred to another college. He’s still struggling with what happened on the trip, she said as her voice cracked with emotion.

The mother said she hopes the new investigation will make Morehouse investigate such complaints more vigorously.

“I want these students to be protected,” she said.

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