Silence on harassment allegations is unacceptable
October 13, 2015
There are many aspects of NYU’s inner workings that the typical student is unaware of. But when it comes to domestic violence allegations, it is debatable whether the university should remain quiet. Reports have surfaced regarding NYU macroeconomics professor Harilaos Kitsikopoulos, who took a sudden leave on Tuesday following charges of domestic violence including alleged assault and intent to cause physical injury. He has been replaced by another professor for the remainder of the semester, and has an upcoming court date in November.
The unsettling details of Kitsikopoulos’ previous court appearance in May, which are readily available online, outline allegations against Kitsikopoulos of making violent threats towards his ex-girlfriend, their children and her new boyfriend since 2010. According to court documents, Kitsikopoulos allegedly made threats to the complainant via phone and email, sending messages such as, “I will shoot you all with a shotgun,” and, in May 2014, “I don’t care if you have an order of protection, I am going to hurt you. Your face is going to be unrecognizable.”
According to an email sent to his students, Kitsikopoulos took his sudden leave for “personal reasons.” In a response from the university, NYU spokesperson James Devitt said the university is aware of the charges, but “it is not the university’s practice to comment on what happens day-to-day in individual classes, nor is it our practice to discuss confidential employee matters.” But, if the public court documents are the fourth result when searching Kitsikopoulos’ name online, the university can’t consider the allegations fully confidential.
The question then becomes how NYU chooses to distinguish between confidential information and protecting faculty by withholding information. The university itself would not be losing much, if anything, by suspending Kitsikopoulos from classes until the charges were settled. If Kitsikopoulos had already been found guilty of the charges, NYU wouldn’t hesitate to remove him from his position as a professor based on the university Code of Ethical Conduct and Faculty Handbook. But the university’s first priority should always be creating a safe, enriching environment for students. Withholding such information, and trusting a professor accused of violent threats is absolutely unacceptable.
Legal disputes are never an easy thing for private institutions to deal with, especially when they involve allegations against a faculty member. Of course NYU should respect the rights of the accused, but allegations of domestic violence and threats pose a level of danger to others. It is irresponsible that NYU has decided not to take visible action in addressing this issue that students are now aware of. The administration should have suspended Kitsikopoulos long before now, and should implement transparent regulations should such a situation occur again.
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A version of this article appeared in the October 12 print edition. Email Dana Reszutek at [email protected]