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Update 2/14/2018: Here's our latest post on Tom Ashrbook's dismissal.
Boston University (BU) is hiring two firms to investigate allegations that On Point host Tom Ashbrook bullied some WBUR employees and, in the case of the female complainants, violated the university's sexual misconduct policy.
Eleven current and former WBUR employees delivered a collection of complaints to WBUR and BU on Dec. 7. The station and university placed Ashbrook on leave the following day, pending a review of the allegations.
BU laid out a two-pronged approach in an email Wednesday to WBUR staff impacted by the investigation. The law firm Holland & Knight will focus on complaints that "characterize certain aspects of Tom Ashbrook's actions as sexual harassment." In interviews with a WBUR reporter, current and former employees described unwanted hugs, back and neck rubs, as well as graphic sexual comments and stories. We agreed to grant them anonymity because they feared retaliation.
Allegations of name-calling, humiliating show producers during staff meetings, and tirades in the studio will be reviewed by Longpoint Consulting, a higher education management firm. Longpoint is expected to interview current staff and senior management directly responsible for On Point. But it's not clear if managers above them will be included. Several former show producers say they reported problems with Ashbrook to managers at all levels but, they say, the alleged misconduct continued.
"I'm committed to the process and to addressing anything that needs to be addressed," Ashbrook said in a text message to a WBUR reporter Wednesday.
One accuser said she's pleased the investigation is beginning. Another said it appears the university is taking these complaints seriously. But one employee isn't sure about testifying. The law protects people who file sexual misconduct charges against retaliation by their employers, but no such legal protections exist for those who complain about bullying or other emotional abuse.
The university and the outside firms plan to begin scheduling interviews early next week. There's no word on how long each investigation is expected to last. On Point will continue in the meantime with guest hosts.
Boston University says it's paying for the investigation. There is no set budget.
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