A Repeated Wrong

At All-School Meeting (ASM) last Wednesday, Andover heard from Dr. James B. Maas, a sleep psychologist and retired Cornell University professor. Maas also spoke at ASM in 2006 and 2008. When he was introduced last week at ASM, for the third time, a crucial aspect of his history was not mentioned.

In 1995, a Cornell ethics committee determined based on an investigation that Maas had sexually harassed four separate female students, according to a January 27, 1995 article in “The New York Times.” The committee recommended broad sanctions: that Maas be “prohibited from taking on any female students as advisees, from hiring any student enrolled in his classes as a nanny or family helper, from traveling alone with an undergraduate or from bestowing presents worth more than $15 on a student.”

Maas fought the allegations, saying that he was unsure which of his actions had caused the charges and that he could not effectively defend himself in the context of the ethics committee investigation, according to “The New York Times.”

According to court documents from a lawsuit that Maas filed against Cornell, the Dean of Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences approved the ethics committee’s findings, and Maas was sanctioned.

Maas sued Cornell after the conclusion of the ethics committee hearings. His claims were dismissed, according to the documents. The committee found “unanimously that Maas had repeatedly behaved unprofessionally and inappropriately in his relationships with the complainants, and that his behavior constituted sexual harassment.”

Knowing that Maas’s character has been questioned, how and why has he been invited to speak to the entire student body on three separate occasions?

Becky Sykes, Associate Head of School, said that in 2006 the then All-School Meeting Coordinator, who is no longer at Andover, was most likely unaware of his past, though Sykes could not say for sure. Sykes said that the process in 2006 only checked Maas’s professional qualifications before inviting him to speak. By 2008, however, the Academy had heard about the ethics hearings but remained uncertain whether or not he had been sanctioned, according to Sykes.

Regardless of this information, though, giving Maas the keynote podium during a Wellness Week that also featured seminars on proper sexual conduct was inconsistent with the week’s message.

Inviting Maas, based on his academic credentials, to present his sleep research once and only once might have been reasonable. Especially in regards to his first address in 2006, when the Academy knew little, if anything, of his actions, choosing Maas as the featured All-School speaker makes sense.

However, with all the information regarding Maas’ ethics committee trial now widely available, inviting him back to Andover not once but twice was unnecessary, and, more importantly, inappropriate.

This Editorial represents The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXV.