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Old Dominion Faculty Object to Statement on Harassment

Blake Bailey is a well-known biographer and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He also taught creative writing at Old Dominion University (ODU). Five women who came into contact with him at ODU claim he sexually harassed them. They further assert that ODU failed to act in response to their complaints.

 A female linguistics professor accused Bailey of grabbing her by the crotch in a hot tub, forcibly trying to kiss her on campus, and threatening to rape her. She said he tormented her. She also said, and other faculty and staff confirmed, that she reported the conduct to ODU. Nothing changed. She became so afraid of him that she carried a knife, and when he cornered her in the mailroom, she held it to his throat. The university made her go to counseling after it happened, she said. Bailey denied the incident. A Virginia newspaper interviewed 13 other women and one man who worked at or attended the institution during Bailey’s time there. Five women reportedly told ODU administrators that Bailey had inappropriately touched them.

 Kaufman & Canoles, representing ODU, denied the allegations in its statement to the newspaper. The firm asserted its investigation uncovered no substantiation of the allegations and that none of the people now accusing ODU ever made a report. The ODU statement goes further by singling out a couple of the accusers to shift the responsibility to them. For example, they suggest the female professor described above was “flirting” with Bailey. ODU conceded that some individuals may have perceived Bailey as “creepy.”

 Bailey’s accusers told the newspaper that the law firm did not contact them in connection with the investigation. Approximately 200 faculty members and alumni wrote a letter to ODU demanding that it terminate the law firm and conduct a more thorough investigation. The letter chastises ODU for attempting to “discredit” and “insult” the female accusers.