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Report details pattern of lapses by Roxbury Community College administrators

Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff

Attorney Wayne Budd detailed the investigation into Roxbury Community College Wednesday afternoon.

Roxbury Community College released a troubling report Wednesday chronicling the role of administrators in violating federal campus safety laws, losing track of significant funds, and in one case apparently paying an accuser to keep quiet.

The report, prepared at the college’s request by former federal prosecutor Wayne Budd, says senior administrators past and present failed over the last decade to properly investigate sexual assault allegations against two school employees. A struggling student who ­accused a campus official of ­assault was paid, perhaps, “in exchange for her silence,” the report finds.

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It also says that the school’s Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center has no documentation for many years of cash income from ticket sales, a discrepancy likely to concern state auditors who are investigating allegations that some facility employees have taken cuts for themselves.

In general, the report paints the administration under former president Terrence Gomes as ineffectual. It suggests that past board members did little to oversee RCC and notes that some senior officials may have fed the board “less than fulsome or even inaccurate information.”

“You see a very positive picture consistently being reported to the board,” said Damian Wilmot, a key member of the team that worked under Budd at the law firm Goodwin Procter to prepare the report. “Then the bottom falls out.”

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The college was roiled last summer when Gomes stepped down amid news of federal and state investigations, which are ongoing. A Globe series in September uncovered a wide range of problems with crime reporting, academic advising, and hiring and financial practices.

Governor Deval Patrick ­replaced most of RCC’s board in the summer, and civic leaders have said they are committed to rebuilding the institution.

The new board has pledged to institute several reforms in response to Budd’s report, which was produced pro bono. The board plans to require legal and ethical training for administrators, to strengthen security policies, to create a new position of compliance officer, and to tighten oversight at the athletic center and the college.

“There’s reason to put your faith back in the school,” said Kathy Taylor, chairwoman of the college’s board.

Budd said he hoped changes would ensure there will be no repeat of past mistakes.

“We see this largely as, how do we make this better?” he said. “We truly believe at the end of the day that RCC is uniquely positioned to create a new and fresh start.”

State Education Secretary Matthew Malone said he anticipated that the recommendations would be addressed quickly and unequivocally.

“Roxbury Community College is a critical part of our community college system and an institution that has played an important role in the history of Boston and will continue to do so in the future,” Malone said in a statement.

The college’s board published Budd’s full report on the Internet Wednesday. It was not legally required to do so, Wilmot said: “[The report] could have been protected and sitting in a drawer.”

All the RCC administrators named in the report declined or failed to respond to requests for comment Wednesday, save one.

RCC’s most recent security chief, Thomas Galvin, one of two college employees who brought the school’s troubles to the attention of federal and state authorities, was fired amid concerns over enforcement of campus safety laws. He is suing the school for wrongful termination.

His lawyer, Orestes G. Brown, said the Budd report bore out Galvin’s complaint.

“[Galvin] did exactly the right thing,” Brown said. “He took it to the Department of ­Education and the state auditors. Then he was fired.”

It is unclear whether the rest of RCC’s current administrators will keep their jobs. Taylor said those decisions would wait ­until a new college president is named later this year.

One key former administrator, Alane Shanks, who was vice president for administration and finance, was put on paid leave from her new job as president of Pine Manor College following the Globe investigation. Officials at that school said they were not ready to comment on Budd’s findings.

The new report is based on some 120,000 documents and 55 interviews with college personnel and students and focuses largely on the cases of three RCC employees who were ­accused of sexual misconduct.

In one of the three cases, the report found no wrongdoing.

An employee at the Lewis Center was accused of statutory rape. Investigators concluded that the episode could not have possibly occurred — the supposed victim was not a minor at the time — and further decided that college authorities had conducted a sufficient investigation of the matter.

The report paints a disturbing picture in the other two ­cases.

One concerns Orikaye Brown-West, RCC’s security chief until 2006. The report ­details several alleged instances of sexually threatening behavior on his part. The college dismissed him after he made coercive advances on a female student, but administrators never told the board of the matter, nor did they report allegations against him to the federal ­Department of Education.

In 2008, another student ­began to complain repeatedly to administrators that an ­instructor, later revealed to be Brown-West, had sexually ­assaulted her five years earlier. She wrote that she felt “violated” and unsafe, and begged for help.

Eventually, almost all the college’s senior administrators became aware of her complaints, according to the report. But they failed to investigate them or to promptly tell Galvin to include them in crime report­ing data required under the federal Clery Act.

The student flunked out, and she told the Globe that her interactions with administrators left her deeply traumatized.

Some administrators apparently did not realize they were legally required to help her. For instance, Stephanie Janey, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, told Budd’s team she “lacked knowledge of Title IX,” despite being the school’s official Title IX coordinator for students.

Shanks, the former vice president, seems to have dismissed the student’s allegation because she did not find it credible. Shanks told Budd’s team that the student recanted the allegation during a meeting in September 2010.

Budd’s team, however, could find no other evidence that the student had ever taken back her allegation. Brenda Mercomes, vice president for academic ­affairs, who was also in the September meeting, told Budd’s team that the student had not in fact recanted.

Shortly after her meeting with Shanks and Mercomes, the report said, the student met with human resources director Paul Alexander and agreed to “not sign anything as a condition of continued enrollment.”

In the same month, Shanks arranged for the student, a single mother who was struggling academically, to be given the amount of her fall 2010 tuition. Many administrators were aware of the arrangement, but none apparently questioned whether it was appropriate.

The final case in the Budd report concerns sexual assault allegations against Frank ­Jackson, an employee at the Lewis Center.

Investigators concluded that some of the allegations were probably false. But they did find “some evidence to support” one allegation made by a young woman who trained at the center, and further deemed the college’s response to that allegation “less prompt and less thorough than it could have been.”

Alexander, who oversees ­Title IX matters that apply to employees, learned of the young woman’s allegation in August 2011. He did not contact her until Dec. 23, the ­report said, when he made a single phone call.

A few days later, Alexander placed Jackson on administrative leave. He reinstated him within a month after police dropped their investigation.

The Budd report criticizes that decision, noting that police closed their case not because of doubts about the allegation’s veracity but because the young woman, who had been in the country illegally and had subsequently left for Jamaica, did not want to return for questioning.

Budd team’s also investigated an allegation that staff at the Lewis Center had been “skimming money from events” during which tickets were sold at the door.

The investigators were unable to prove or disprove the allegation because the facility has no documentation of cash ­collected at events prior to 2012.

Taylor said the board had brought on an outside consultant to help it regain control of the center’s finances.

Mary Carmichael can be reached at marycarmichael@
pobox.com.
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