Deceased VMA Professor found responsible for sexual harassment


By Chris Van Buskirk

Former Professor Robert Todd was “found responsible for engaging in sexual harassment” following a Title IX investigation that took place before his death, according to a statement President M. Lee Pelton released on Tuesday.

As a result of the months-long investigation, Todd was suspended without pay from the college for the fall 2018 semester.

Todd, a visual and media arts associate professor, was discovered dead in Jamaica Plain on Aug. 18. The 54-year-old went missing on Aug. 16. He was last seen entering Franklin Park. Pelton confirmed his death two days later in an email to the Emerson community.

The Boston Police Department declined to cite the cause of death. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner could not be reached for comment.

Pelton said the college first received a complaint from an Emerson staff member in December 2017 alleging that Todd engaged in “multiple, concatenated behaviors that might have violated the college’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

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Todd was required to work with a professional coach “to help him understand the impact of his behaviors and to ensure he would not occur in the future,” Pelton wrote in the statement he gave to faculty on Tuesday at the Faculty Institute.

During the investigation, the Title IX Office and the Chair of the VMA Department Brooke Knight received additional claims of “inappropriate behavior” committed by Todd.

Pelton said each additional report was investigated but there was insufficient evidence to support the additional claims.

While the college typically does not release such information, Pelton said the extraordinary circumstances and the continuing “circulation of rumors and speculations” compelled him to share.

Pelton was not available for additional comment.  

“We continue to support the member of our community who came forward,” Pelton wrote. “And we wish to make it very clear that the college will never tolerate sexual misconduct or sexual harassment, and will act decisively should findings of either arise.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Riane Roldan contributed to this article.