News

Former Andover Instructor, Victor Svec, Found to Have Engaged in Sexual Misconduct in the 1980s

Victor Svec, Instructor in Russian, who went on leave earlier this school year, engaged in sexual misconduct toward an Andover student in the 1980s, concluded an independent law firm hired by the school.

Head of School John Palfrey announced these findings to Andover students, faculty, parents, and alumni in a letter sent via email on Monday, May 21.

“We are deeply sorry for the harm caused by this faculty member’s misconduct. The Board of Trustees and I are grateful that a former student had the courage and will to come forward to recount a painful and traumatic experience that occurred decades ago,” wrote Palfrey.

Svec has been barred from campus and from attending all Andover events, in accordance with Andover’s policy on sexual misconduct. Furthermore, Svec will not receive emeritus status, privileges, or benefits from the school, according to Palfrey’s letter.

Svec requested and was granted a leave of absence in early February, according to Palfrey. While off campus, in the midst of the investigation, Svec “informed the school of his intention to retire from his position effective immediately,” according to Palfrey’s letter.

Svec first began teaching at Andover in the fall of 1979. During his time on campus, he served as Instructor and Department Chair in Russian, coached both volleyball and soccer, served as Director of Social Functions, served as Scheduling Officer, and was a House Counselor. In addition, Svec arranged the first high school exchange program between the United States and the Soviet Union, which began in 1987. Svec also created the Language Learning Center, according to an interview with Bair O’Keeffe, a former editor of Andover magazine.

Formal Legal Investigation Process

Sanghavi Law Office, the law firm that conducted this investigation, was hired by Andover in April 2016 to investigate all claims of sexual misconduct and harassment at Andover. Since being hired, the Sanghavi Law Office has reported finding eight cases of sexual misconduct by seven faculty members and one case by a student at Andover, all from the 1970s and 1980s.

Based in Brookline Mass., the Sanghavi Law Office dedicates itself to investigation, policy review, and consultation regarding issues faced by schools, students, and families, according to its website. Sanghavi Law investigates sex, race, and disability discrimination in addition to complaints of sexual harassment and assault.

According to Palfrey’s letter, the school hired the Sanghavi Law Office to look into past claims of sexual misconduct. At the time of employment, Palfrey wrote to current families, current students, and alumni, asking them to step forward if they knew of any instances of sexual misconduct, and has since released a number of updates to the Andover community on new developments.

Those who wish to report concerns or incidents can do so in four ways, according to Palfrey. They may contact Palfrey, contact Dean of Students and Residential Life Jennifer Elliott ’94, reach out to the investigators directly, or report anonymously by calling 844-302-0434 or going to “www.andover.ethicspoint.com.” Both the phone number and website are hosted externally by EthicsPoint, a company that provides anonymous, confidential hotlines. Current students may also reach out to any trusted adult on campus or members of the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center.

Palfrey emphasized that the process of investigating a claim of sexual misconduct is carried out separately from the school. If needed, the school will provide information requested by the law firm in the process of investigation, such as a personnel file or contact information.

The school administration is not informed of the results of an investigation until the law office has finished and presented a final report. At this point, the school will refer back to standards of disclosure, which were established by Palfrey and the Board of Trustees prior to the initiation of investigations. No changes are made to these standards of disclosure for any specific event, according to Palfrey.

Depending on the situation, the school then determines the next steps to take. The school may report findings to the police or the state, formally apologize to victims, take personnel actions, and/or inform the community of the incident. The threshold for public disclosure is as following, according to Palfrey’s letter:

“The severity of the misconduct, its effect on the former student(s), and/or whether the school was made aware of multiple concerns of misconduct;

Whether there exists an ongoing current risk to students at Andover or elsewhere;

Whether the behavior of the faculty member violated Andover’s expectations; and

Whether the allegations could be corroborated.”

Current Initiatives to Cultivate a Campus Culture Free From Sexual Misconduct

In response to instances of past sexual misconduct, Andover has taken the following initiatives to “foster an educational environment that is free from sexual misconduct,” according to Palfrey’s letter. This fall, Andover had its second showing of “SLUT: The Play” and its first showing of “Now That We’re Men” to the student body in order to spark conversation on campus around healthy relationships and a culture of consent. In addition, since 2015, a number of students have participated in Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training. This year, Juniors and Lowers were also required to take Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI) classes. In addition, all adults on campus complete training each year on “physical and emotional boundaries and their obligations as mandatory reporters of suspected misconduct,” according to Palfrey’s letter to the community on August 30, 2016.

Various All-School Meetings (ASM) have been dedicated to this topic as well, including talks by Palfrey on Andover’s community expectations, Caroline Heldman on healthy relationships, Joseph Ehrmann on toxic masculinity in sports, and Stephanie Gosk ’90 on reporting instances of sexual misconduct in the press.

Additionally, “Sexual Violence Response” charts, which provide information on ways to seek help, have been posted around campus. Students and adults have also been asked to download the Crisis Manager app. Furthermore, the Blue Book has been updated to “include greater specificity in… definitions of sexual misconduct,” according to Palfrey’s letter to the community on August 30, 2016.

In light of this most recent news regarding Svec, the Brace Center for Gender Studies also provided a space for students to gather and have conversation on Tuesday, May 22, a day after students were informed of the investigation’s findings.

May 25, 2018