Old Dominion University said last week that it would investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey, a former professor of creative writing there who is facing additional allegations of rape and attempted rape from former middle school students of his (all were adults at the time of the alleged crimes) and a woman who works in publishing. Multiple accusers at Old Dominion went public with their allegations against Bailey last month, in light of the other set of reports. They said that Bailey made unwanted advances and, in one case, continually harassed a fellow professor during his time at Old Dominion, from 2010 to 2016. The women and some witnesses said their attempts to report Bailey at the time went nowhere.
Old Dominion initially released a statement, via a local law firm, that many on campus said amounted to character assassination against Bailey’s accusers. It said, for instance, that one professor spoke loudly and “bragged” that Bailey had grabbed her genitals. It also suggested that a student accuser of Bailey’s couldn’t cut it in the field. Those same critics of Old Dominion’s response demanded a true investigation into the claims against Bailey, since the law firm contacted none of the accusers or their close supporters prior to sharing a statement with the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. They’re also seeking improvements to how the university responds to allegations of misconduct.
“It is clear the university’s initial response caused pain to members of our community,” President John Broderick said in an all-campus memo last week. “It is essential to me that we obtain a truly independent report on the matter and that we be able to assure our campus community that sexual harassment and other misconduct will not be tolerated.” Old Dominion has consulted the state attorney general’s office about how to conduct the investigation, Broderick also said. Bailey has denied the allegations against him.