The news broke yesterday that one of the professors who taught at my Alma Mater has resigned over allegations of “serious misconduct.”
According to a statement made by Taylor University:
Fourteen years ago (2004), a complaint was filed against Dr. Dennis Hensley by a student. Although the investigation at that time yielded conflicting stories, Hensley was disciplined and cautioned. During the next 14 years, two potential conduct concerns came to the university’s attention, neither of which involved students…
Recently we were made aware of significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct by Hensley. Although these allegations did not involve Taylor students or employees, we promptly commenced an investigation… On the same day that he was notified of his suspension, Hensley offered an unsolicited and unconditional resignation from Taylor University, which we accepted.
I don’t know what this means…
But I DO know what people are hearing.
They’re hearing, “A male teacher was allowed to prey upon his students over the course of 14 years because no one believed the girl who filed the complaint in 2004…”
Any maybe that’s true. Maybe he left a trail of abuse victims wherever he went.
I just feel it’s necessary to go on record saying: Dr. Hensley never behaved inappropriately toward me. At least, I don’t think he did.
Maybe it would be helpful to explain what the University means by “serious misconduct,” so I can be sure.
In all of my memories of Hensley, he was….simply… odd. He talked too loud. He repeated the same stories over and over. And he seemed to lack the social awareness which tells most of us how we’re being received.
Most of the time, I got the impression that Dr. Hensley learned how to interact with people the way I learned to do math: relying heavily on formulas explained to me by others.
All of Hensleys “relationships” with his favorite students (and–yes–he definitely played favorites) seemed awkward and unnatural to me.
Did some of those “relationships” cross a line into “serious misconduct?”
Perhaps. I wish I knew what qualifies as “serious.”
I remember when Dr. Hensley found out I was engaged to marry Luke. Hensley wasn’t very happy about it. The exact quote has faded over the years, but I recall being told something like, “Girls often get married and then slack off in their studies.”
For a couple months after warning me that I shouldn’t let marriage become a distraction, my arbitrarily-assigned A’s and B’s started slipping into arbitrarily-assigned C’s.
Until one day after chapel, when Dr. Hensley rushed up to me and presented a magazine he’d taken straight from his mailbox. He called over his shoulder, “I saw it and thought of you!” as he continued flying down the sidewalk at roughly 100 mph. (That was average Hensley speed.)
For a second I was confused, before realizing the magazine said “bride” in the corner. “Good!” I thought, assuming this strange offering meant he was beginning to accept my future status as a married woman.
Sure enough, my grades improved again after that day.
Is it wrong to allow your disapproval of a student’s personal life to influence the way you grade her writing? Yeah–probably.
Is it “serious misconduct”?
Meh, I never thought so.
Anyway, all of this to say, I don’t know how many female students will be coming forward in the next few weeks to testify that Dr. Hensley shared inappropriate jokes, or stood too close while whispering something that didn’t need to be whispered, or generally made them feel uncomfortable.
I’m not sure how many women will come forward and testify things even more “serious” than any of that.
But, I know how gossip works, and I know there will be students from the past 14 years playing their own sordid game of “Guess Who” with big question marks over all the girls’ faces, including my own.
So, in the spirit of #MeToo, I want to make a public declaration by saying #NotMe.
From my perspective, Dr. Hensley wasn’t a life-changing mentor. He was more of a salesman than a writer… and more of a quirky acquaintance than a father figure. But, in my experience, being weird never crossed into being evil.
And being weird isn’t “serious misconduct.”
Boy–it sure would be nice to know what that means…