Smith Knew of Allegations Against Professor Named in Church Report

Inside Higher Ed

June 7, 2021

By Colleen Flaherty

Smith College said last week that it knew a faculty member was accused of sexually abusing a minor two decades ago and that it should have done something at the time. Instead, the instructor of English, Robert Ellis Hosmer, was allowed to teach at Smith until his retirement in 2016, and he’s taught on and off since then as well. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that Hosmer’s name was released by the Roman Catholic diocese this month on an expanded list of former employees credibly accused of sexual abuse, and that Hosmer worked at Holyoke Catholic High School near Smith from 1968 to 1979.

In response to the news, Smith president Kathleen McCartney and provost Michael Thurston wrote in an all-campus memo that they’d learned Hosmer’s personnel file included a 2001 letter from someone who said Hosmer had abused him in the 1970s, when he was a student at the high school where Hosmer worked. The college administration “consulted with its legal team at the time who advised no action on the college’s part,” McCartney and Thurston said. “Twenty years later, this advice seems anachronistic and irresponsible. Any allegation of sexual misconduct should have been, as it is now, fully and impartially investigated.” Under current college policy, they wrote, “Allegations of sexual misconduct, past or present, brought to the attention of any individual or office at Smith College, should be routed to the director of equal opportunity and compliance/Title IX coordinator.”

Hosmer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The diocese report does not include details about the allegations against him or include any response from Hosmer. It does indicate there was more than one credible allegation against him.