Earlier this week, Marybeth Gasman, who directed the Center for Minority-Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania, started a new job at Rutgers earning $250,000 a year, according to NJ Advance Media.
Though the Center for Minority-Serving Institutions earned more than $4 million in grants from a variety of foundations, what was unusual was that Gasman required all of her employees at the center to sign a blanket nondisclosure agreement, which was a document stating that anyone who worked in the center would not discuss publicly anything that occurred in the office. In the event that they did, they had the potential of being sued.
“Basically what is said or done at the center stays within the walls of the center!” according to the agreement.
In 2017, a group of assistants under Gasman filed a formal sexual harassment complaint with the University of Pennsylvania, according to Inside Higher Ed, which made the nondisclosure agreement an issue. The group accused her of making inappropriate sexual comments and promoting a "culture of sexual harassment" at the Center for Minority-Serving Institutions.
Recently, she was appointed the executive director of Rutgers' Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity and Justice, which will be the location of the center and include at least 15 administrators, visiting scholars and research assistants, according to its website. At the University, though, employees, researchers and graduate student workers will not be signing a nondisclosure agreement like the University of Pennsylvania.
“Rutgers University would not allow any professor to implement a nondisclosure agreement of the nature described in the news report,” said Neal Buccino, a University spokesman.
Gasman has not responded to requests for comment on the previous allegations against her, according to NJ Advance Media.
She announced last year that she was coming to Rutgers, and officially started her new job Sept. 1. Gasman is known for being an expert on historically Black colleges and universities. Rutgers announced her hire in December 2018. The report on her 2017 sexual harassment complaint by Inside Higher Ed was published Aug. 27, only four days before the start of her new role.
Officials from Rutgers have not commented on whether they knew previously about the sexual harassment complaint, but claim that Gasman has been vetted for the job properly.
"Rutgers is committed to maintaining an educational climate in which all members of the university community are valued, respected and treated with dignity,” Rutgers officials said in a statement. “The Graduate School of Education vetted Dr. Gasman before her appointment and eagerly looks forward to her joining the faculty as an internationally recognized expert in U.S. higher education.”
Her former assistants, though, have accused her of making references to her body and sex life, as well as coworkers' sex lives. She has also been accused of rubbing the arms and chests of workers, specifically Hispanic and Black coworkers, as well as encouraging staff to have sex with each other, according to the report.
These sexually explicit conversations typically took place in group texts for students and scholars, which under the nondisclosure agreement, kept them from talking about the alleged sexual harassment.
"I thought if I spoke out, Penn would sue me,” said one former assistant.
The University of Pennsylvania recently hired an outside investigator to look at the allegations, which led to sanctions being put in place to change the center, such as requiring people to undergo training. Master's students were also moved to another area of campus, according to the Inside Higher Ed.
Officials from University of Pennsylvania have declined to comment on their investigation, the center or the nondisclosure agreements. They told Inside Higher Ed Gasman “got an excellent offer from Rutgers and chose to take it.”
She will be hosting a launch event celebrating the new institute at the University today at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Education.
“Rutgers—New Brunswick is the ideal location to begin this work and I am excited to get started," Gasman said in a statement.