This week, students began speaking out about the Theatre Department director, Matthew Maguire. The tenured professor of 25 years, who currently teaches two classes per semester and advises students, recently settled a lawsuit brought by a former assistant professor which sought damages for sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
The New York Post cited Kris Stone’s documentation as claiming that Maguire “made sure all his colleagues knew he was in an open marriage and consistently devoted ‘the first 20 minutes’ of each faculty meeting to a ‘monologue’ about sex,” as well as “[forced] ‘attractive female students’ and faculty advisers to go on dates with him,” and “required ‘some students in his acting classes to perform in class acts of rape, masturbation and molestation” and “to perform acts of simulated anal sex on stage.” According to New York Daily News, the accusations also included that Maguire talked about sex “nearly every time Stone saw [him],” “often boasted to her that he had slept with ‘hundreds of women’” and volunteered “that he had ‘masturbated with a snake.’”
Fordham University denied the allegations and called them “deliberately provocative,” saying that the denial of Stone’s reappointment inspired her suit. On Feb. 15, a $20,000 settlement was reached in Manhattan Supreme Court. It included a gag order which silences any discussion of the case by Stone, whose position was not renewed in 2014. The Fordham administration did not notify students.
Maguire is a well-known playwright, director and actor in the theatre department. A New York Times profile on his one-man autobiographical 2010 show “Wild Man” described his play as “affable, absorbing [and] buzz-inducing” and the man himself as “an appealing, talented performer.” In a rollicking Observer interview from 2010 about his one-man autobiographical show “Wild Man,” Maguire said his “drug of choice” was “lust.”
Murmurs about Maguire’s case have prompted action by students anonymously, and attention from unofficial group Students for Sex and Gender Equity and Safety Coalition (SAGES).
On March 21, article printouts were left in public areas such as the Ram Cafe and the student lounge, with headlines like “Horny professor made students simulate sex in class: lawsuit” and “Fordham University theater professor Matthew Maguire boasted about ‘masturbating with a snake,’ made students act out sex, rape scenes in class, suit charges.” This effort to increase visibility was met with curiosity and sparked discussion amongst students. One student said, “I guess somebody’s got beef with Matt,” while another exclaimed instantly, “Oh yeah, that guy’s a dick.”
Over the last few weeks, SAGES members have spoken informally with members of the student body about the settlement. “A lot of students reached out to professors individually, saying they were generally feeling unsafe,” one SAGES member said. “What they found was that a lot of professors didn’t know about it. And we found that really disturbing.”
Representatives from SAGES, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the group planned to attend a theatre department meeting on Monday, March 27. It was meant to be “a full conversation about how Title IX works, particularly with regards to the Fordham Theatre Program,” and the department email strongly advised all students in the program to come. Fordham’s Title IX Coordinator and Director of Institutional Equity and Compliance Anastasia Coleman was to be in attendance to answer questions. The morning of, the department emailed to tell would-be attendees that the Title IX Coordinator would no longer be available due to a “Title IX emergency” and that the meeting would be postponed. No date was given.
The SAGES members said they plan to engage the theatre department in a dialogue about sexual threats on campus and administrative transparency. “Now that [coverage of the settlement] seems to have died down people want to claim that there are no problems, but it doesn’t mean that students are now safe,” they said.
They also are asking the university to speak out about similar cases in future. “We’re not allowed to let other students know about what’s going on and that’s really unfortunate,” they said. “All of this comes out in student networks, like ‘Avoid this guy because he’s an abuser,’ when it should be the university sending out emails that ‘someone was assaulted on campus today.’ But we just get emails about petty theft or students who play the card games in the street. Crimes happen here. Crimes are committed by our students and crimes are committed by our faculty.”
According to the Post, the settlement included no admission of guilt by Maguire or the university. The SAGES representatives said they wanted to open discussion not because they want to say the ruling should have been different, but because they ask the school to increase transparency with student safety issues to include informing the community about student safety cases that do not fall under confidentiality rules — which would apply if the case were under Title IX. This case was filed publicly.