Crandall University, a Baptist Christian liberal arts school located in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, has fired renowned religion scholar John G. Stackhouse Jr., following a six-month investigation that found he engaged in inappropriate behavior with colleagues and students.
Stackhouse, who recently married a former student, “specializes in explaining contemporary culture to Christians and explaining Christianity to contemporary people around the world,” according to his website. He was fired on Nov. 22, Crandall University said in a press release.
“The law firm Pink Larkin was engaged by the University on the recommendation of its Board of Governors in April of 2023. The firm was asked to serve as the independent investigator following anonymous accusations of inappropriate behavior by an unnamed employee or employees contained in social media posts. The firm presented their findings to the Board late this past week. A decision to terminate Dr. Stackhouse’s employment, effective immediately, was approved by the Board today,” the release said.
Sheila Cummings, former Crandall Board of Governors chair, who oversaw the investigation, co-signed a letter to the university community along with the chair, Douglas Schofield, and Crandall President Bruce Fawcett, expressing regret, especially to “any student or students who were made to feel threatened, diminished, or victimized by the words or actions of a faculty member.”
“Paramount at Crandall University is the safety and security of its students. We cannot and will not tolerate behavior from its administration, faculty, or staff that in any way violates the University’s mission and identity,” the letter said.
The independent investigation by Pink Larkin featured interviews with dozens of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community members, as well as a review of communications such as emails and social media posts, including from the #dobettercrandall campaign on Instagram.
A summary of findings from the investigation focused on “inappropriate or sexually oriented statements or conversations, whether spoken or written, over a period of nine months in 2020 and 2021.”
“Many of the Instagram posts referenced the subject faculty member. An interviewee described him as ‘… having an incredible reputation for being brash and a bully.’ And according to the investigator, while being brash and somewhat bullyish in academia is not necessarily the exception, the line is crossed where the behavior rises to the level of harassment, or abuse of authority,” the report said.
“The investigator stated that he did not think the faculty member set out to harass or to sexually harass students—or even to bully them by abusing his authority. However, that irrespective of his intention, his demeanor in class, and particularly his interactions with certain (female) students, created an unwelcoming environment and, in some cases, anxiety,” the report noted.
“In the investigator’s review, the faculty member ought to have known that his antics and his sense of humor were unwelcomed and unappreciated. In the investigator’s view, jokes (or stories) that might have come across as charming 25 years ago are no longer acceptable. In the investigator’s view, they constitute sexual harassment,” it added. “The investigator states that he believes ‘his (Stackhouse’s) antics detrimentally affected the learning environment.’ In the investigator’s view, the faculty member’s conduct with some of his students in the classroom was unwelcome, it was of a sexual nature (which includes gender-based comments, sexist remarks, comments about a person’s looks, dress and appearance). The conduct was found to be persistent.”
In the Instagram campaign against Stackhouse, it was alleged that he was accused of sexual harassment at a previous educational institution. The investigator said when Stackhouse was asked about the allegation, he evaded a direct response to it, stating, “there was no open complaint at the time of my leaving.” He further noted that once a sexual harassment complaint is resolved it remains confidential.
It was further noted by the investigator that even though Stackhouse is married to one of his former students, the investigation did not show that he became romantically involved with her when she was his student.
In the end, the investigators recommended “severe disciplinary action” against Stackhouse.
“I believe he is deserving of severe disciplinary action,” the investigator said. “Crandall needs to move quickly on this, and its actions need to be as transparent as the law on fairness and confidentially allow.”