Following arrest, professors and administration work to help students

After Dr. Duff Campbell was arrested on March 29 on 150 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting child sex, Hendrix as a whole was shaken.  The arrest was obviously a surprise to all, and the school had to grapple with what to do next.  The most pressing issue: what was going to happen to his students?

“Our main concern at the point when we knew what had happened was how we move forward in a way that made sure we were doing what we needed for students in classes, and to try to do things that would help our community,” Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Terri Bonebright said, “because this type of a situation is a shock for everybody.”

Late in the afternoon on the same day as the arrest, Dr. Bonebright called Computer Science Chair Dr. Gabriel Ferrer, who was appointed Chair of the Department of Mathematics after Dr. Campbell’s arrest, to ask for an immediate conversation.

“In the course of that conversation we quickly put together a plan for covering classes,” Dr. Ferrer said, “It was difficult because I knew that it was going to be a burden on the faculty members in my department.”

Luckily, two of the faculty members were still on campus. Dr. Ferrer and Dr. Bonebright were able to meet with them that afternoon, while he spoke to the third member on the phone shortly after.  They all immediately agreed to the plan.

In order to make the process as simple as possible, they tried to assign courses based on which professor had taught each course the most recently. This was an attempt to make preparation time as minimal as possible for the professors taking on a work overload.  They then made the decision to cancel all math courses on Monday so instructors could have ample time to prepare for their courses.

While the plan was already established, it could not yet be announced to the affected students, because Dr. Campbell had not yet received a physical copy of his notification of academic leave.  This  complication resulted from a legal requirement in the Hendrix faculty handbook that requires a faculty member to receive notice of his academic leave before anything can be said publicly, thus delaying any sort of official announcement by the school or emails to the affected students.  In addition to this legal issue, Dr. Bonebright explained that the school wanted to ensure that they had all of the correct information before sending anything out to the school.

“Until we had confirmation of things about this, we were not going to send anything out,” Dr. Bonebright said.

Once the notice was delivered through express mail on Saturday afternoon, the students were notified.

“Once the statement was issued, I personally emailed all those affected students announcing what new arrangements were going to be to ensure they received their proper education for the balance of the semester,” Dr. Ferrer said.

Another group of students that Dr. Ferrer and Dr. Bonebright had to take care of were his advisees, a combination of first year students as well as math majors.  This was particularly important given these events transpired right in the middle of the pre-registration period for next year’s classes.  The freshman students were assigned to Dr. Liz Gron in the Office of Academic Success, while all of the math majors were distributed among the math faculty. These students were emailed personally on a Saturday afternoon by Dr. Ferrer at the same time as the students in his class were emailed.

On Tuesday, when math classes were back in session, Dr. Bonebright spoke to each of the classes.

“She came to each of those classes at the start to introduce the new faculty member and basically reassure the students that continuing their education as they signed up for in a safe environment is our number one priority and that we intended to fulfill that,” Dr. Ferrer said.

The newly assigned instructors worked with the students to get any grades or materials they had, as Dr. Campbell’s office and computer were unavailable. Of course, they told the students they would give them the benefit of the doubt concerning assignments, according to Dr. Bonebright.

The senior thesis math presentations were scheduled for the week following the arrest, but after a particularly heartbreaking email from one effected senior math major, Dr. Ferrer made the decision to postpone the presentations by a week.

“It gave students and faculty some time to process what had happened and get back in gear before engaging with the high-level mathematical content that we look for in these thesis projects,” Dr. Ferrer said. “It was absolutely the right decision for the students and for the faculty.”

Now, the department and the school are working on hiring a visiting assistant professor for next year, a new position that was quickly created and approved to take on the courses left in Dr. Campbell’s absence. Dr. Ferrer expressed his gratitude to the administration for the quick pace in which they approved this new position.

“By higher education decision making standards, the pace at which they approved this new position for next year is nothing short of astonishing,” Dr. Ferrer said.

The hiring process is similar to the process that would normally be followed, but unlike the usual process, they are reviewing the submissions as they arrive.  As soon as they see an applicant who is a good fit for Hendrix, they plan to immediately begin initiating conversations. The job listing has been sent to the public and the search committee is established. Hendrix hopes to hire someone very soon, potentially before the end of semester.

Regarding the investigation, as well as the trial, the college knows about as much as the general public.

“We aren’t really in any sort of privileged space in terms of what they did with the investigation and we will see what happens in the long run,” Dr. Bonebright said.

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