By Kayla Lemay
On Tuesday, Oct. 21, news was spread that Professor Sean Janson, of the English department, is a registered Level 2 sex offender.
What this means is that he is at “moderate risk” of committing another crime, according to the courts. He committed the crime 10 years ago, in 2004, and was charged with sexual assault on a minor over the age of 14. He served no jail time, though he did complete all mandated counseling and rehabilitation.
What many students, faculty, parents, and so many more are wondering is “why did Bridgewater State University hire him?”
“Every indication was that he was doing well,” said President Dana Mohler-Faria. “The English department made a recommendation that we hired him, and he’s been with us over seven years and we’ve not had one issue with him. In fact, he’s highly rated by his students, really respected by his colleagues, really nothing ever out of line.”
Many point to the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act, passed in 2002, claiming the University should have notified students about him. Many students have claimed online that they “don’t feel safe” because BSU did not directly state that a registered sex offender was a professor on campus.
Mohler-Faria, however, stood by the University’s decision not to broadcast Janson’s status.
“Let’s say [a student] was convicted at the age of 16 for stealing a car. So when [that student] registers, I’m going to let everybody know that [they] stole a car, so they should be careful around [that student],’” he said. “That’s not appropriate.”
University spokesperson Bryan Baldwin pointed out that all students are required to read and agree that they understand the Student Handbook.
“Contained within that handbook is information subject to your rights under the Clery Act, of which this is a component,” Baldwin said. “We have to make publicly available our Clery Report, which can be found online. Contained within that report is not just the statistics, but a statement of all of the policies of the institution that are covered by Clery.”
He said that the policy involving obtaining more information about registered sex offenders can be found within those policies in every Clery Report.
Many may wonder if Janson has changed or bettered himself in the 10 years since his conviction.
“I have interviewed him myself. All of the colleagues, students that he’s had over the years, students that he currently has, all are very supportive and feel as though not only has he made great strides, he’s outpaced a lot of people,” said Mohler-Faria.
Students stand by this statement. Alexi Idreos, a senior majoring in Marketing, said “I loved Janson’s class, he is a great professor and his class helped me through my freshman year. It really sucks to hear.”
Senior Brittney Mason said, “After reading what few details were available and considering the fact that this was 10 years ago, I believe it is irrelevant to his work here on campus. Everyone makes mistakes in their life and I’m sure he has atoned for them his in the past 10 years since the conviction.”
She also said that the original article by Maria Papadopoulos of the Brockton Enterprise “was an attempt to dig up any ‘dirt’ on BSU following the two sexual assaults on campus.”
The outpouring of support continued via social media, and students who had never had Janson before defended both him and the University.
Janson requested that the campus community does him a favor. “If you don’t know who I am, if you’ve never met me, find a former or current student of mine and ask them about me. See what they have to say. Most, if not all of them, will tell you about what a great time they had in my classes. Most, if not all of them, will tell you how angry they are about this.”
Mohler-Faria confirmed that he had received “dozens and dozens of emails, from students, from staff, from everyone” and that almost all of them were in support of the University’s stance on this issue.
“I cannot begin to describe the depth of support I’ve received from my colleagues, the administration, the community as a whole, and my current and former students,” said Janson. “Especially my current and former students. I am enormously humbled by your generosity, your kindness, and your rage on my behalf that you all expressed in classes [Wednesday], and I’m infinitely grateful that you were willing to judge me as a real person. I consider it the privilege of a lifetime to know that you guys are behind me.”
Kayla Lemay is the Editor-in-Chief of The Comment. Follow her on Twitter @klemay123.