CCSU responds to report about alleged sexual misconduct - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CCSU responds to report about alleged sexual misconduct

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Joshua Perlstein, an associate theatre professor at CCSU, is accused of sexual misconduct with eight students and staff, according to a published report. (CCSU.edu) Joshua Perlstein, an associate theatre professor at CCSU, is accused of sexual misconduct with eight students and staff, according to a published report. (CCSU.edu)
NEW BRITAIN, CT (WFSB) -

A student-run newspaper at Central Connecticut State University published a report about alleged sexual misconduct at the hands of a theater professor and it prompted a response from the school's president.

The Recorder's article, entitled "Multiple women accuse theater professor of sexual misconduct" by Ruth Bruno, catalogs more than a decade of accusations against associate professor Joshua Perlstein.

According to CCSU's faculty website, Perlstein remains on staff.

In the article, a student recounts a 2004 encounter between Perlstein and herself. She reported that Perlstein invited her to a nearby park, kissed her on the cheek, hugged her and grabbed her rear-end.

The victim, who said the "Me Too" movement inspired her to come forward. She spoke to Channel 3 about the allegations. 

"It's time for all of these good people to start doing something instead of just feeling bad," said Anna Brewer Kelly, the alleged victim. 

Anna Brewer Kelly was a student at CCSU back in 2004. She said her emotions are bittersweet, happy times mixed with memories of alleged sexual abused. 

Kelly said in April 2004 while she was a junior, Perlstein inappropriately touched her and kissed her during a meeting. 

"The conversation became very personal and he said it was his destiny and I caused all these feelings and emotions in him. He kissed me on the cheek and I pulled away, and I said I had to go and I remember I stood up to leave and he grabbed my purse strap and pulled me back down and said 'you're not leaving yet.' He reached over to give me a big hug and he grabbed my butt, it was just the final insult," Kelly said. 

Kelly filed a formal complaint with the university. She has retained the documents that date back to 2004. 

In the documents, the university found Perlstein's actions constituted sexual harassment and recommended Perlstein have no further contact. 

Kelly said at the time she was crushed and that in her opinion, the school did not do enough. 

"I just went through all this and just hope I don't run into him again for the rest of my college experience," Kelly said. 

Tuesday, CCSU president Zulma R. Toro issued a statement:

What I read in the article is truly disturbing and surprising to me. It does not represent who we are as a public institution of higher education or who we are as faculty, mentors, and advisers. At this time, let me be clear: Central Connecticut State University has a no-tolerance policy, and I apologize to our students who have experienced any form of sexual misconduct.

Be assured that I do not take these allegations lightly. Therefore, this morning I have instructed the Provost, the Chief Human Resources Officer, and the Chief Diversity Officer to conduct a comprehensive investigation. Specifically, I have asked our Chief Diversity Officer to review the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, especially as it relates to the 90-day reporting deadline.

As part of our due diligence, I have also asked an external agency with experience in situations of this nature to conduct a full investigation. Once I receive the results of these investigations, I will determine the next steps and will keep you informed.

I want you to know that we are fully committed to changing the environment in the Theatre Department and on campus. I also wish to assure every one of our students that this is a welcoming, safe place for them.

Since then, the paper reported a total of eight students and staff came forward with similar allegations against Perlstein.

Kelly, who is now a married mother of two, who teaches piano and voice lessons said in hearing from other alleged victims of Perlstein, she looks back on things with sadness. 

"There was no protection for me. It was very hard to come forward and I think I'm recognizing now as I'm talking to other women that it is a really big deal. It really did have a devastating effect on me. I thought I did everything right by reporting it and I was waiting for the good guys to come and save me, and that didn't happen, Kelly said. 

Perlstein has worked in the theatre department for 23 years, according to the school. 

A university spokesperson told Channel 3 that they will be bringing in an external agency with experience in situations of this nature to conduct a full investigation. They will also be looking at their 90-day policy to report incidents since it is long past that deadline. 

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