Professor David Schimmelpenninck: you need to resign

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This semester, professor David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye is teaching again after being reinstated by Brock University following an arbitrator process.

Schimmelpenninck was removed from teaching and from the campus in March of 2016, and was eventually penalized with a short unpaid disciplinary leave.

The background to how Schimmelpenninck was placed on leave are as follows: in January 2014, Schimmelpenninck sexually assaulted a student in an incident she said involved “kissing and groping.” In March of 2014, the student took her complaint to (then) Brock president Jack Lightstone. The student met with Lightstone twice in and around March of 2014, where professor Tim Conley and Brock counsellor Rebecca Boucher were present, in addition to someone from human rights and human resources in the second meeting. Lightstone pushed the student to make an informal complaint so that there would be no paper trail.

Another incident occurred in October 2014 involving a different student. Schimmelpenninck met his students at the local campus bar after his class for drinks, and then invited a female and male student to his office after the bar closed for more alcohol. When the male student went home, the female student was left alone with her professor, who then sat down next to the student — which led to an “unwelcome sexual advance, inappropriate physical touching, comments of a sexual nature, and a provocative comment attempting to arrange ongoing intimacy,” according to previous reports.

The incident did not come to light until 2016 — while the school did launch an independent investigation into the incident in October 2014. The investigation was conducted by a lawyer hired by Brock, and after the conclusion of the investigation, Brock warned the student repeatedly in emails the results were confidential.

The student from the second incident went to the CBC with her story in March of 2016 after Schimmelpenninck continued to teach despite the results of the investigation.

Days before the CBC story broke, Brock stated that Schimmelpenninck was no longer “assigned to class and is not on campus.”

In December of 2018, an arbitrator decided that Schimmelpenninck should be allowed to return to teach.

Schimmelpenninck being back has caused a stir of emotions around the Brock campus and community, and rightfully so. Many students are outraged at the fact that the professor is back on campus and teaching students. Schimmelpenninck’s statement to The Brock Press was as followed:

“I regret my past behaviour, and if I could undo it, and the harm I caused, I absolutely would. I had a drinking problem for a very long time. I have gotten help for my alcoholism and stopped drinking completely. Over the past three years I have worked very hard to address my problems and done everything the university has asked of me. I made serious mistakes and the university has disciplined me for them. I know that some people will never accept me back at the school. I have devoted my life to being an educator, and my only hope is that I will be able to give back to the university community the best I know, as an educator.”

Well, here is what I have to say: if professor Schimmelpenninck is truly sorry for his past behaviour and the harm he caused — he should resign from his post at the university with no buyout. Yes, I understand he wants to teach and has “devoted his life to being an educator” but he also made extremely inappropriate advances at two different students on two separate occasions. While I don’t know if there is an oath that educators take when they start their careers, here’s how I would imagine that oath would sound like. ‘An educator devotes their time and energy to bettering their knowledge of their particular subject(s) with the goal of sharing their passion for said subject(s) with the students who choose to follow in a similar path of study. An educator is meant to make their students’ learning environment a safe and welcoming place where students are able to strive and grow their knowledge with ease and no fear of the power of their educator.’

So, professor Schimmelpenninck, if you truly are devoted to education, you should set an example for how situations like this should be handled by removing yourself from the situation. You being reinstated has caused an uproar at this university (and likely has angered plenty of other university students around the country). Rather than forcing students who may have envisioned taking a class you teach to choose something out and miss out on that opportunity — resign and allow someone else to teach it, who students won’t feel threatened by.

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