Newly released documents reveal that Central Connecticut State University knew about allegations of sexual harassment against one of its professors as far back as 2005. But until recently, CCSU denied that it had records of complaints against Joshua Perlstein.
The theater professor was placed on leave by CCSU this past April after student reporter Ruth Bruno wrote a story about Perlstein’s alleged abuse. Bruno told Connecticut Public Radio shortly afterward that complaints had been made years prior but the school told her more than once that no record of complaints existed.
“November -- I asked for documents: ‘We don’t have documents.’ February — I asked for documents: ‘We don’t have documents.’ April — one last time I asked for documents: ‘We have no documents.’ Now, June—they have 168 pages worth of documents,” Bruno said. “It doesn’t look good. It looks like they had these documents all along and not only were they not addressing the victims' complaints, it looks like they were hiding it as well.”
The school released the documents after a reporter at the Hartford Courant was able to make a specific request about a past lawsuit that involved claims against Perlstein.
Maribel La Luz, the director of communications for the Connecticut Colleges and State Universities, said that CSCU stands behind CCSU’s President Zulma Toro. La Luz contended that Toro hasn’t been trying to hide evidence, but if anything, La Luz said Toro has done her best to uncover any prior reporting on Perlstein.
“The president says, ‘I’m sorry. Dig deeper. Find something.’ [She] hires an outside counsel to look into this and there you have 168 pages of complaints,” La Luz said. “It’s a problem that they have, that they are taking a lot of steps to address.”
La Luz said that in an effort to make sure this doesn’t happen again, CSCU recommends that its 17 member institutions follow up on every single sexual misconduct complaint—no matter how long after the incident occurred. And that even if it’s consensual, the state employees shouldn’t engage in relationships with students.
Bruno just graduated from the university in May. She doesn’t get a sense that students feel like CCSU has a handle on the situation.
“If you make a complaint to the university, a lot of people have the sentiment that it’s not being taken seriously,” Bruno said.
In a statement, CCSU President Zulma Toro said she aimed to hold others accountable for the lack of responsiveness from the university.
"I fully believe there are a number of incidents I would have handled quite differently had I been leading the University at the time," Toro said.
Perlstein, the professor, is still on leave. Toro said that’s because collective bargaining doesn’t allow her to take further action.