Photo by Jonathan Rotondo-McCord

Every day, heated controversies force businesses and other large institutions to utter public statements. Here, below is a statement that Macalester College released last November in response to litigation brought by Kristin Naca, a fired Macalester professor:

Kristin Naca’s employment at Macalester was terminated as the result of a serious violation of the college’s policies relating to Title IX protections, following a complaint about her conduct with a student, and was not in any way related to her work as a teacher or writer. The decision to terminate her employment came after an intensive investigation that included proceedings before an elected faculty committee. Unfortunately, Naca’s response to these findings by Macalester and her faculty peers has been to attack, intimidate and retaliate against the survivor who brought forward the complaint. Macalester condemns Naca’s ongoing actions in the strongest possible terms and intends to vigorously defend against her claims in court. We will continue to enforce our policies and to do all in our power to create a safe environment for our students. We will also continue our strong commitment to diversity in our hiring and retention practices.

Ms. Naca is apparently seeking to amend her complaint to add claims for defamation based on the underlined words.

We expect Ms. Naca to fail in her effort but time will tell. Nevertheless, one wonders whether Macalester might have taken a bit more care in drafting their statement. In particular, the sexual contact that Ms. Naca had with “Jane Doe” was after Ms. Doe had graduated from Macalester. Therefore, it seems that Naca has a point that referring to “complaint about her conduct with a student” was false. Macalester, in response, suggests that the word “student” is subject to interpretation. One might, for example, refer to “a student of Plato,” who would not literally be a student of Plato but someone who studies Plato (argued here at page 10). This seems like a stretch.

Also, referring to Ms. Naca’s “attacking, intimidating, and retaliating against…the survivor” seems provocative and gratuitous.

Granted, our “armchair quarterbacking” is low-stakes, facile, and possibly unfair. Suffice it to say, though, that, given the high risk of inflaming rather than extinguishing conflict, it is no wonder that so many resort to the risk-free response of “no comment.”

 

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