A Boston College theology professor was cleared of wrongdoing after an investigator hired by the college determined the sexual assault allegations against him were “not only not credible but are also false.”
Starting on January 23, 2021, theologian Laura Grimes began posting YouTube videos accusing professor Richard Gaillardetz, who chairs the Boston College theology department, of sexually assaulting her in 1987 on Halloween and in December of that year. At the time of the alleged assaults, the two were students in the Notre Dame theology doctoral program.
Patch reported that “College officials said the university had not received any complaint of sexual misconduct against Gaillardetz during his 10 years at Boston College, nor has Grimes brought her allegation from 1987 to Boston College.”
Despite this, the college hired DeMoura Smith LLP, a law firm based in Wakefield, Massachusetts, to conduct an independent investigation into Grimes’ claims. Patch reported that Boston College did not release the full report, but the law firm concluded: “We confirm that our investigation was independent and free from any external influence or interference by the college or anyone acting on its behalf. The conclusions we reached are the result of our independent professional analysis and judgment concerning the matter and based upon a significant evidentiary record.”
Boston College announced in a statement Monday that the “firm’s professional opinion and judgment is that Dr. [Laura] Grimes’ allegations, ‘are not only not credible but are also false.”
Grimes, of course, disagrees with the findings and said she was not surprised “given misogynist misunderstandings of sexual assault and actual consent in both church and society.”
For the past decade, however, colleges and universities have rushed to insist they take even dubious allegations seriously by punishing students and professors with little to no evidence.
Grimes also said the firm’s determination that her allegations were false was “obviously unprovable as well as vindictive.”
“It is also dangerously misleading given the implication that the sexual incidents never occurred at all—which I doubt Dr Gaillardetz alleged—rather than a more probable defense of supposed consensuality,” she said.
Boston College told Patch that the law firm reached its decision based on evidence and the credibility of witnesses, which the college referred to as “an extensive collection and review of the available evidence.”
Gaillardetz was forced to step away from his position last month when the college began its investigation, but will return as department chair on April 28.
When the investigation began, the National Catholic Reporter reported that Grimes sent an email to the outlet indicating that she “initially considered the first consensual, but has reconsidered and no longer views it as such.”
At the same time, Gaillardetz also sent the outlet an email, saying the first he learned of Grimes’ allegations against him was on January 23.
“Soon after, Boston College hired an independent law firm to conduct an inquiry into the credibility of the allegations,” he wrote in an email at the time.
“Until the inquiry is completed I have stepped away from teaching responsibilities and the university has named Prof. Kenneth Himes, OFM, acting chair of the Theology Department, in the interim,” he added. “I am eager to set the record straight with respect to Dr. Grimes’ reckless allegations but I have been advised not to respond to the allegations until the investigation is concluded.”
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