Friday, October 06, 2006

Notes on the Foley/Hastert Scandal

What would you have done if you were in Dennis Hastert's shoes and you had heard that a powerful ally like Mark Foley had sent some sexually inappropriate messages to pages?

That's a fair question. Would you have negligently ignored the issue like Dennis Hastert? Would you have believed Foley when he claimed he was innocent? Or would you have pushed the issue to ensure that the congressman was not sexually propositioning congressional pages?

I know what I would have done because I've been in a version of that situation. As an interim department chair, a female student and her brother brought me a series of inappropriate e-mails from a faculty member. Those e-mails were MUCH less salacious than Foley's messages to pages, but the messages made it clear that the faculty member was engaged in a seduction campaign against the student.

My immediate response was to file a sexual harassment charge. That would ensure that the matter would be further investigated and that the university affirmative action officer would come to a decision. Dennis Hastert should have done the same thing. He should have ensured that the Mark Foley accusations were further investigated to find out if there was more. Instead, Hastert just took Foley's word that he wasn't engaged in anything appropriate. Foley was lying, but Hastert was negligent to believe him without engaging in furher investigation.

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