Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

The First Report: Responding to an Accusation of Rape

By Kirk O. Hanson

  Marjorie Simpson, president of a small liberal arts college in the suburbs of a major city, contemplated the question which had been submitted earlier in the day by an investigative reporter for The Metropolitan Review, a local online and print newspaper known for its hard hitting journalism.  “What comment do you have as college president about Prof. John Fahey, who has been accused of rape and child sex abuse during his sabbatical year in Kenya two years ago?  My deadline for this article is 4 p.m. We plan to run the story tomorrow morning.”

  The message went on to describe charges leveled to the Review’s reporter by a Kenyan woman who alleged that her 18 month old child was conceived after a rape by Fahey, and that he had also molested the woman’s 13 year old daughter.  Fahey, one of the college’s most distinguished faculty members, had indeed spent a year on sabbatical in Kenya.  When Simpson called him earlier, he categorically denied the accusation and said he had met the woman but had not had sexual relations with her, nor had he molested her daughter.  “Isn’t there some way we can stop them from publishing this report?” Fahey asked.  “At minimum, I would hope you would make a strong statement supporting me.  I would be glad to take a paternity test.”

What should Simpson do?

Kirk Hanson is the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.  This case was presented to the American Leadership Forum and to MBA students in SCU's Leavey School of Business.

January 2012

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