When a UB student began an affair with a senior UB staffer in August 2016, she thought it would just be a fun story to tell at her bachelorette party one day.
But she became pregnant, the consensual relationship ended in June and she reported it to the university in August. She and the staffer – Patrick Crosby, a senior adviser in the Educational Opportunity Program – had sex in his office on multiple occasions, and he sent her sexually suggestive photos and videos taken in his office during work time, she told UB officials.
“I was in his office all the time and nobody said anything to me,” said the student, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I could have come in a clown suit and an AK-47, and no one would have noticed. I was very clearly not a freshman. I was very clearly not a part of EOP.”
UB removed Crosby from his job as counselor and put him on “special assignment,” which allowed him to work from home until last month. He resigned April 21.
Then, St. Bonaventure University hired Crosby as an academic adviser in its higher educational opportunity program. UB told the school he had been laid off for “budgetary reasons” and did not disclose the situation with the student, according to Tom Missel, interim vice president of university relations at St. Bonaventure. UB spokesperson John Della Contrada could not say what UB told St. Bonaventure.
UB’s policy is to confirm a former worker’s dates of employment when called by potential employers, according to Della Contrada.
Faculty and staff are allowed to have relationships with students as long as there is no conflict of interest, according to UB’s nepotism policy. The university also prohibits “unwelcome” sexual conduct.
Della Contrada declined to comment on Crosby’s case but provided a statement to The Spectrum that read, in part, “As a matter of practice, the university does not comment on individual personnel issues. Unwelcome sexual or romantic propositions and other forms of unwelcome sexual conduct are prohibited under university policies prohibiting sexual harassment.”
Tracy Johnson, assistant vice provost of educational affairs, also declined to comment.
Crosby, who had been at UB since July of 2016, declined to comment on the pictures he sent from his office. He said, “I wholeheartedly regret and am saddened by the difficulties and pain that I’ve caused my loved ones and those who support me.”
“Though my actions were unfavorable, she was a consenting adult and I violated no UB policy in my relationship with this student since there was no power dynamic; she was not a student of mine while at the university,” Crosby said in the statement. “Our relationship was very separate from any and all professional role[s] I held at the university.”
Crosby used two apps, Kik and Telegram, to communicate with the student, she said. She would go to his office a few times a week for lunch and more than once to have sex.
“I would just walk in and open his door,” she said.
When she came to UB, Crosby was the only familiar person to her, she said. The student met Crosby at Buffalo State College where he was her counselor for COMPASS, a college mentoring opportunity program.
When the student reported the situation and provided the videos and photos to Title IX Coordinator Sharon Nolan-Weiss in August, the university made sure she and Crosby had no further contact, the student said. The university, according to emails the student supplied to The Spectrum, told Crosby in September he wasn’t allowed to be in contact with students after September while he worked from home.
UB’s nepotism policy was last revised in 2015. Nolan-Weiss declined to talk to The Spectrum for this story.
UB’s policy focuses on the type of relationships between employees and students and if they involve conflicts of interest or unequal power relationships. If neither exists, the relationship is allowed, and faculty and staff, including advisers, do not have to report a consensual relationship. Officials said a conflict would involve coercion or a professor, adviser or staff member having a supervisory or evaluative role over a student. The university does not keep track of the number of relationship cases between staff and students unless someone reports a conflict, officials said.
In the past 10 years, universities nationwide have reevaluated and updated policies governing relationships between faculty, staff and undergraduate students. Harvard, Stanford, Yale, the University of Connecticut, and the College of William and Mary all prohibit sexual or romantic relationships between staff, faculty and students. In March, the University of Pennsylvania updated its policy to prohibit all sexual relations between faculty, staff, advisers and undergraduate students.
The hashtag #MeToo movement in the past year has also sparked new conversations about sexual dynamics and relationships in the workplace, including at universities.
Stanford’s policy says relationships have the potential to involve bias, favoritism and exploitation, and may have adverse effects on the school’s work environment during the relationship or post-breakup. It also says the relationships could “erode trust” in mentee-mentor relationships.
The College of William and Mary’s policy says the prohibition is to protect students and the “integrity of the university.”
UB is hesitant about revising its policy to prohibit all relationships between staff and students, but it’s something officials say is being discussed. The student said she was surprised that UB’s policy allowed her relationship, but she said sneaking around wasn’t hard.
“This is an example of a completely inappropriate relationship that should have never happened,” the student said. “And this is pretty bad, but our school is practically a mini-city and there’s definitely girls who’ve experienced more and greater terrible things that happen. They need to say something and not be embarrassed [to come forward].”
St. Bonaventure University hired Crosby as an academic counselor in the Higher Educational Opportunity Program on April 23 and suspended him on April 30, after learning of his relationship with the UB student, according to Missel. Missel said UB told St. Bonaventure upon Crosby’s hiring that Crosby was “laid off due to budgetary purposes.”
St. Bonaventure is “investigating” Crosby’s case, Missel said.
Correction: The original article stated the relationship began in June.