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Christian university severs ties with prof after investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour

A prominent theologian who once authored a book on feminism and Christianity has been terminated from Crandall University, a private Christian post-secondary school in Moncton, N.B., following a six-month investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

John Stackhouse Jr. is a well-known evangelical academic and author, a celebrated professor and speaker at Christian post-secondary institutions. Stackhouse is a frequent contributor to magazines and periodicals, and his views are often sought after on television and radio programs, including on CBC programs. 

Stackhouse came to Crandall in 2015 after a 17-year tenure at Regent College in Vancouver. He taught numerous classes at Crandall including two mandatory courses for students, one called the Christian Way and another on ethics.

In March, just after Crandall University had presented Stackhouse with a teaching award, an Instagram account called “dobettercrandall” appeared. It posted a number of accounts of what it alleged were incidents of harassment, many associated with one professor in particular.

CBC News confirmed with multiple members of Crandall’s community that the main subject of the Instagram posts was Stackhouse, though he wasn’t named in them. 

An outdoor sign for Crandall University.
Crandall University is a private Christian post-secondary school in Moncton, N.B. (CBC)

Within days an online petition popped up urging Crandall to investigate the allegations. In April, Crandall’s board voted in favour of hiring an investigator and turned to labour lawyer Joel Michaud to conduct the investigation.

On Wednesday evening, following a meeting of its board of directors, Crandall University issued a release saying it had terminated Stackhouse’s employment and made a summary of the investigation public on its website.

The summary of the investigator’s report reviews allegations made about three separate professors and does not mention Stackhouse by name. But five of the six pages are devoted to one individual referred to only as “the faculty member.”

CBC News has determined “the faculty member” to be John Stackhouse Jr. based on key identifying information in the findings.

In the summary, the investigator concluded that the professor’s interactions with certain female students “created an unwelcoming environment” and anxiety for some students. The investigator concluded the behaviour constituted “sexual harassment” and that it “bordered on abuse of authority.”

‘Classic case’ of grooming

One student provided the investigator with “100 pages or so” of emails sent to her by the professor over a seven-month period. The investigator noted that the student didn’t participate in or encourage what he described as “inappropriate banter.” The investigator found the faculty member’s behaviour was “a ‘classic case’ of grooming.” 

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The dobettercrabdall Instagram account appeared in March, posting anonymous student accounts of alleged misconduct at Crandall University, many focused on one professor in particular. (Instagram)

The investigator noted that the professor admitted to him that the “banter” with this student was inappropriate and “unbecoming of a professor.”

Among the allegations made on the anonymous Instagram account was one that said there had been previous issues with the faculty member’s conduct at another institution. 

The summary notes that when the investigator directly asked the faculty member if there was ever a sexual harassment complaint made against him at his previous school “his reply was ‘I do not see how it’s in my interest to answer that question.’ “

Notice of termination

The investigator also said the faculty member responded, “there was no open complaint at the time of my leaving.”

The investigator concluded his summary by noting that “Crandall needs to decide what to do” about the faculty member who became the “key subject” of the investigation. Crandall needs to move quickly on this, and its actions need to be transparent as the law on fairness and confidentiality allow.”

One week after the investigator’s summary of findings was presented to the university board of governors, Stackhouse received a notice of termination.

CBC News reached out to Stackhouse for comment but has not yet received a response.

In Wednesday’s release, three of Crandall’s senior leaders expressed the institution’s deepest regret to all of its students.

The petition and Instagram group had also called for Crandall to improve its sexual harassment reporting policy. In the release, university leaders pledged to “focus on strengthening our harassment policies with input from our students and other members of our university community.”

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