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Dartmouth Professor Investigated For Sexual Misconduct Elects to Retire

Baker Tower at Dartmouth College.
NHPR Staff
Baker Tower at Dartmouth College.

One of three Dartmouth psychological and brain sciences professors under state investigation surrounding sexual misconduct allegations is retiring effective immediately.

The college was on track to fire Todd Heatherton after completing its own investigation. That was the recommendation of the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences.

(Click here for earlier reporting by NHPR.)

But Heatherton is electing to retire instead. He remains barred from campus and all Dartmouth events.

Since the investigations became public last fall, former students and professors have come forward with accounts of Heatherton groping them or their colleagues.

"I retired because I thought it best for my family, the institution, and the graduate students involved," said Heatherton in a statement issued by his attorneys. "I acknowledge that I acted unprofessionally in public at conferences while intoxicated.  I offer a humble and sincere apology to anyone affected by my actions.”

Heatherton has worked at Dartmouth for more than two decades. In that time, he's been honored by his department and briefly served as chair.

The college's discinplinary process remains ongoing for two of his colleagues, Bill Kelley and Paul Whalen. Both remain on paid leave with restricted access to campus.

"This has been a challenging set of circumstances for the Dartmouth community," said College President Phil Hanlon in a statement. "We have much work ahead of us as we continue to strengthen our campus culture."

Read Hanlon's full statement to Dartmouth faculty, staff, and students:

To the Dartmouth community,

I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the investigative and disciplinary process regarding allegations of sexual misconduct involving three faculty members in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Todd F. Heatherton, William M. Kelley, and Paul J. Whalen.

Last fall we announced investigations of the allegations by an experienced external investigator who conducted careful and thorough reviews and presented separate findings for each faculty member to the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, Elizabeth F. Smith. Based on these investigations, Dean Smith has made recommendations regarding each of the three, including a recommendation that Dartmouth revoke Heatherton's tenured appointment and terminate his employment.

Heatherton, who has been on sabbatical leave, has elected to retire effective immediately, which College guidelines allow given his age and length of service. Dartmouth has not entered into separation or non-disclosure agreements with Heatherton and has made no severance payment to him. In light of the findings of the investigation and the dean's recommendation, Heatherton will continue to be prohibited from entering campus property or from attending any Dartmouth-sponsored events, no matter where they are held.

As dictated by institutional policy set forth in the Organization of the Faculty of Dartmouth College (OFDC, at http://dartgo.org/ofdc1017), the dean's recommendations for Heatherton, Kelley, and Whalen were first assessed and upheld by the faculty-elected Review Committee within arts and sciences. Dean Smith's recommendations for Kelley and Whalen are now under review by the faculty-elected, Dartmouth-wide Council on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFR). Once these reviews are complete, I will deliver the CAFR report and the full transcript of any hearings to the board of trustees. At that point, the board will make a final decision on each case.

Kelley and Whalen remain on paid leave with restricted access to Dartmouth property pending the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings. Out of respect for the ongoing process, I am choosing not to disclose the recommendations by the dean or the Review Committee at this time.

Throughout the process--which is multi-layered, rigorous, and designed to safeguard the rights of the participants--all parties were given ample opportunity to present information to the investigator, who conducted numerous in-person interviews with the parties as well as with witnesses.

In addition, Dartmouth continues to cooperate with law enforcement officials on their separate investigation into these allegations.

This has been a challenging set of circumstances for the Dartmouth community. We have much work ahead of us as we continue to strengthen our campus culture. I am confident we are up to the task and I look forward to partnering with each of you as we make Dartmouth the best community it can be.

Thank you for your support and your continued patience.

Sincerely, Phil Hanlon '77 President

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