Councilman calls for college president’s resignation

FRONT ROYAL – Town Councilman John Connolly, a Christendom College graduate, said he thinks Timothy O’Donnell, the school’s president, should resign or be fired amid the recent string of rape and sexual assaults that were alleged to have taken place under his watch.

“If he truly loves the college, he must step down,” Connolly said at Monday night’s council meeting.

The allegations date back to 1999, and Connolly is disappointed Christendom, which is located in Front Royal, did not institute “even a rudimentary policy to handle sexual assault until 2013.”

“The lack of institutional response is stunning, especially for an organization that has prided itself on a sacred bond between students, their families, and the school,” Connolly said.

O’Donnell initially responded in a news release by saying the allegations made on a blog post had “misleading information and serious inaccuracies,” and apologized to anyone involved in the incidents.

A second news release was made public soon after and stated that Christendom Executive Vice President Ken Ferguson offered to meet with victims. O’Donnell said in the release that the college failed some of its students.

Connolly did not express his opinion until the council’s regular Monday meeting because he was waiting for O’Donnell to step down or the school to fire him. Connolly added that recent comments by the school’s Board of Directors led him to believe neither will happen.

“It is not lightly that I must express my public disappointment with the gross lack of responsibility and accountability in the college that has been uncovered through many heart-rending accounts from victims,” Connolly said.

Connolly said he thinks that O’Donnell remaining in position “permanently erodes any vestige of trustworthiness for the college and will likely destroy the college’s viability as a place of faithful Catholic higher education in the future.

“It’s the lack of response and lack of support for the victims over the course of years that is the main issue at the college right now,” Connolly said.

Connolly attended Christendom from 2004 to 2008 and never caught wind of the allegations until recently, although he said he was not “well connected to the rumor mill.”

The accusations came to light in January when a blog post by New Hampshire resident Simcha Fisher, “Are women safe in Christendom’s bubble?” detailed a former student’s account of a campus that ultimately ignored sexual assault and rape victims.

As accusations have surfaced, Connolly said he learned of actions the community could take to provide better responses to sexual assault victims. He was “stunned” to find out that Warren County is one of the few Virginia localities that does not offer a full-time nonprofit organization that provides counseling and assistance to victims.

On the net

Read the blog post at https://tinyurl.com/y7397kcd