Christian college fires president over sexual misconduct allegations; 7 key takeaways
The president of Georgetown College in Kentucky was fired by its Board of Trustees on Monday after two female employees came forward with allegations that he engaged in inappropriate behavior and sexually assaulted one of them.
William A. Jones officially was terminated on Nov. 1 after word of the alleged incidents surfaced on Sunday and one of the women filed an emergency protective order against him. Jones, who held the position for a little more than two years, has been replaced by Provost Dr. Rosemary Allen, who will serve as interim president.
“Georgetown College does not tolerate violence or misuse of authority,” Board of Trustees chairman Robert Mills said in a statement. “We hold our administrators, students and faculty to the highest standards of moral and ethical conduct. We are surprised and deeply disappointed by what we have learned. We will support the members of our Georgetown College family who are directly impacted, and we will work cooperatively with ongoing or any future investigations.”
In addition to the allegations from the two women, Georgetown College found “other conduct” from Jones to be in violation of his contract. It promised to do its own investigation through independent counsel and said it would not provide further information while that process was ongoing.
Georgetown College, a private liberal arts institution that touts itself as having a “vibrant Christian community”, has been chartered for more than 190 years. In June of 2019, Jones was unanimously voted in as its 25th president, receiving a glowing recommendation from the board’s then-chairman, Dave Adkisson. He had previously been president at Bethany College in Kansas.
“Will’s unequivocal commitment to Christian higher education, along with his impressive history of fundraising and growing enrollment at institutions like Georgetown, makes him the perfect fit for the College,” Adkisson said at the time of his hiring. “The Board of Trustees is overjoyed to welcome him, his wife, Amy, and their children to the Georgetown College family.”
Allen takes over with a long history of work both as an instructor and administrator at Georgetown College. She has been at the college since 1984, serving as a professor of English while taking on Provost, Dean and Chief Academic Officer roles for the past 17-plus years. She received her BA in English and History from Hillsdale College and her doctorate from Vanderbilt University.
“We are confident in the leadership of Acting President Allen, and the Board appreciates her dedication to the continuing mission of Georgetown College during this difficult time,” Mills said.
Sexual assault allegations and cases involving university presidents are rare, though some have been intertwined with misconduct on campus, as happened the past few months at San Jose State University and Oregon State University. It is imperative that institution leaders and boards respond as quickly as possible to any reports of misconduct, as the Board did at Georgetown College.
According to guidance from liability and risk management firm United Educators, trustees and presidents should ensure that they are being proactive in their policies and handling properly allegations of sexual assault or inappropriate behavior that arise. They should:
- Know the scope of which specific individuals and types of incidents their policies cover
- Ensure that all individuals within the community are covered equally when reports are made and being investigated
- Be diligent and have structures in place to be able to respond to those claims, both in investigations and messaging to their community
- Have a strong system of background checks in place
- Make sure that once an allegation is reported that stakeholders are following up with individual parties
- Make mandatory training for all employees on sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior in the workplace
- Ensure victims of abuse have resources and access to care