Did Shirley M. Collado March in the Women’s March?

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While last year’s Women’s March reflected a strictly partisan nature, organizers purposely tried to broaden its appeal by focusing on the current #MeToo campaign against sexual assault. Granted, some continued to view it as strictly an anti-Trump event, but others did not. You no doubt saw in your FaceBook feed a picture of a local resident marching in Washington DC’s march carrying a pro-life sign. If that isn’t a sign of inclusiveness, I don’t know what is.

All across America and Canada (at least), the #MeToo movement permeated the event. Speeches referenced the proliferation of sexual harassment stories coming from Hollywood, Washington, and high-profile media personalities. It’s a theme that unifies across the political spectrum, from conservative to liberal. Perhaps that’s why so many participated in the Women’s March this weekend.

One person, however, who should not dare include herself among the participants in any #MeToo event is Ithaca College President (assuming she hasn’t resigned or been fired by the time you read this) Shirley M. Collado. It was revealed last week she was convicted in a 2001 Washington DC sex abuse case involving one of her former therapy patients whom she was living with. This was initially reported in two student newspapers (The Ithacan and the Vanderbilt Hustler) based on anonymous materials sent to them in December. Among other things, these materials included emails and pictures. The story was later picked up by Fox News and the New York Daily News.

The articles contained evidence that was quite graphic. I won’t repeat it here, but you can look it up on the internet if you want. These news reports say therapists, an administrator, and a co-worker familiar with the case believed the charges. Collado maintains she never admitted she was guilty because she pled nolo contendere (“no-contest”). According to the legal advice website nolo.com, a no-contest plea “has the same primary legal effects as a guilty plea. If you plead no contest to a criminal charge, you will have a conviction on your record, just as though you had pleaded guilty or been convicted after a trial.” According to The Ithacan, the judge sentenced Collado “to a 30-day suspended sentence, 18 months of supervised probation, an order to stay away from the patient, and 80 hours of community service.” In addition, she had to pay a $250 fine.

When approached on the matter of her conviction, Collado claims she would have fought the charge, but couldn’t afford to given her financial status and the stress of her husband’s recent suicide. That may be true. Still, she does admit that she entered into a living arrangement with the former patient. This act alone, even without the alleged sexual abuse, represents an ethical violation. The Ithacan reports Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Marcus-Kurn, the case’s prosecutor, wrote in the Government’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing, “The laws and ethical rules prohibiting sexual and outside relationships with former or current patients are designed to prevent the very activity that occurred in this case.”

On the other hand, the dictionary.law.com website says, “a ‘no contest’ plea is often made in cases in which there is also a possible lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the criminal conduct (such as reckless driving, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault), because it cannot be used in the civil lawsuit as an admission of fault.”

Collado’s name does not appear on either New York State’s or Washington DC’s sexual offender registry. I spoke with New York and Washington DC authorities. New York said it’s difficult for them to list people if they aren’t listed in the jurisdiction that originally convicted them. Washington authorities said they weren’t able to answer my questions. Perhaps another reporter might have the time to follow up on this.

Given the nature of Collado’s conviction and the elevated sensitivity to sexual abuse in our country right now, it’s surprising she hasn’t resigned, or the Ithaca Board of Trustees hasn’t fired her. Quite the contrary. An official statement on the matter states, “President Collado has the full support of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees.” Furthermore, the Board admits it was fully aware of Collado’s conviction, accepted her claim of innocence, and agreed with her statement that “incredibly difficult circumstances” justified her actions at the time of her conviction. The Board’s wording was suspiciously similar to Collado’s own rationalization.

One can’t help but wonder how the Board can offer this assessment. We’ve recently seen a United States Senator resign from office because of sexual harassment claims against him (and a photograph to back up those claims). In addition, the claims Collado’s conviction was “nearly 20 years ago” (to use the words in the Board of Trustees statement) don’t offer much of a defense. It was 40-year old allegations that caused a candidate to lose a Senatorial election in Alabama. And, unlike Collado’s actual conviction, those allegations were never verified.

Apparently, if Collado had been a Senator or a candidate for the Senate, her career would effectively have been ended by her sexual abuse conviction. What does it say about the safety of the students of Ithaca College that she remains President? What does it say about their safety that the Board of Trustees would allow her to remain President?

We can’t have it both ways. If we’re serious about not tolerating sexual abuse, we can’t make excuses for it. This applies both to the perpetrators as well as the enablers.

Yes, Shirley Collado needs to either resign or be fired as President of Ithaca College.

In addition, by knowingly hiring someone who has admitted to violating the ethical rules regarding relationships with patients, the Trustees have failed in their fundamental duty to protect the best interests of the students.

The Trustees who vetted Collado therefore must either resign or be fired.

It’s not fair Collado and those responsible for hiring her get to keep their jobs when others who’ve committed far less have had their career taken away from them.

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