Widgets Magazine

Resigning amid Title IX investigation, psychologist joins Stanford Medicine

Psychology researcher Emanuele Castano joined Stanford Medicine as a visiting professor this November after resigning from a tenured professorship at another institution amid a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation.

Castano, who was previously co-chair of the psychology department at The New School for Social Research (NSSR), resigned from the NSSR in October one day before the planned release of the decision in his Title IX case. The student who reported sexual misconduct and harassment was previously in a relationship with him as an undergraduate.

Castano’s office in The New School, which still bore his nameplate at the time of publication. NSSR said it does not comment on current or former employees. (Courtesy of source).

According to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda, Castano’s role at Stanford is unpaid and does not include teaching responsibilities. Instead, Castano is a research collaborator with the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE); his biography on the research center’s website describes him as a tenured professor at The New School. University Communications contacted Stanford’s Title IX office about the allegations against Castano after The Daily notified the University Tuesday night.

On Friday night, shortly after this story was posted, University spokesperson Lisa Lapin told The Daily that Castano’s visiting professorship has been suspended while Stanford investigates.

After learning of Castano’s recent move to Stanford, several students from the psychology department at the NSSR have spoken out about the investigation and what they describe as Castano’s long-standing reputation for pursuing and harassing students.

According to five graduate students in the department, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, fellow students who have taken classes with Castano said he made lewd comments, rubbed students’ shoulders inappropriately and flirted frequently with female undergraduate and graduate students during class. A former graduate student of Castano’s also recalled feeling uncomfortable during class and described it as an “unprofessional” environment.

Other rumors that Castano had sexual and romantic relationships with both undergraduate and graduate students circulated prior to the investigation against him. A NSSR psychology Ph.D. student who spoke to The Daily said she was not surprised to hear about the investigation – something others from the school echoed.

“Emanuele has always been known to be someone who has sex with students,” said the student, who requested anonymity for career reasons.

The student who filed the Title IX complaint against Castano in July released to The Daily an official letter about the case from Jennifer Francone, assistant vice president of student equity and access at The New School.

The letter, dated Oct. 17, informed the student of Castano’s official resignation from the NSSR, stating that a no-contact directive would remain in place as she finished her studies and adding that “in light of Professor Castano’s resignation, we consider this matter closed.” Other than this letter, the student says she did not receive any official notification of the outcome of the investigation.

The student added that her formal complaint included charges of threats and manipulation against Castano. Immediately following her initial report, she stated that Castano repeatedly called her from several different Italian phone numbers. She said that he called her from Italian numbers knowing she might respond because she has family members residing in the country and that he blocked the digits of the phone numbers to get her to answer. When she did respond, she stated, he would harass her about Human Resources contacting him.

Castano did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily.

The reporting student’s story

According to the student who made the complaint, she first met Castano at the age of 18 as an undergraduate at The New School and had her first class with him during her sophomore year. She said she was sexually harassed by Castano during her final semester as an undergraduate this past spring, when she was 22.

She recounted that she became seriously ill with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma after taking his class and joining his lab as an undergraduate researcher last year, going into remission for a period before becoming ill once again in her final semester. She emailed him to say she couldn’t make it to class one day during that semester, to which he responded saying he was sorry and asking if she wanted to have dinner with him and his child.

According to the student, after Castano’s child fell asleep, the professor asked her to stay up with him to finish watching the movie Pulp Fiction. She said that, at that point, she was intoxicated from the wine they had drunk during dinner as well as from marijuana that they had shared.

She recalled that Castano made a sexual advance toward her and that she didn’t hesitate because she felt pressured by the fact that he was not only her professor, advisor and boss, but also the co-chair of the psychology department. She added that she was unsure whether the encounter was consensual because she was under the influence.

“I was intoxicated, but from a legal standpoint I was conscious enough to not be considered sexually assaulted,” she said.

After that night, she returned to his home 15 to 20 times between March 6 and May 3 and occasionally slept over. She says that these instances included a mix of both consensual and nonconsensual sexual encounters with Castano.

During an early encounter, she reports that Castano didn’t ask for consent before penetrating her anally, and that he attempted to penetrate her anally on multiple later occasions despite her requests to the contrary. The student also said that Castano’s preference for restraining her during sex made her uncomfortable.

She added that she felt pressured to maintain a sexual relationship with him for academic reasons and because her income was dependent on babysitting his child.

“Everything I would do academically depended on his approval as chair of the department and as my advisor,” the student said.

According to the student, she found out in April that he was dating Namrata Goyal, a former Ph.D. student and current postdoctoral fellow at the NSSR, and confronted him about his habit of sleeping with students. She says that Castano responded by telling her that “these things happen in institutions all the time.” He reportedly told her that if she ever told the school about their relationship, she would be making his child fatherless as Castano would lose his job and have to move elsewhere. The student noted that she had formed a strong connection with Castano’s child, whom she had been babysitting for three years at that point.

“It was manipulation,” she said. “At the time it didn’t seem that way because he cooked me dinner, checked in on me daily regarding my health, offered to come to the hospital and took ‘care’ of me during a time I was scared.”

The last time she saw Castano was the night of May 2, she said, right before he left to teach in Italy.

That same summer, while the student was preparing to resume treatment for her illness, she received blood work results stating that she could not begin treatment because she had gotten pregnant. She recounted that she had not had sex with anyone else during that period of time, and reported the situation to Title IX after Castano denied responsibility when she tried to speak to him about it.

Growing concerns

In an email sent to psychology students in early September, Dean and Professor of Economics at the NSSR William Milberg announced that Castano was on leave and that William Hirst would be replacing him as the new co-chair of the psychology department.

The Ph.D. student quoted previously said that when she approached Castano’s office to get an administrative form signed, the psychology department’s secretary stated that he had been banned from campus and from having contact with his students while the investigation was ongoing. The student said she corroborated this information in August with several Ph.D. students working in Castano’s lab at the NSSR at the time, and that the students confirmed the investigation was under way.

Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the NSSR Amy Malsin declined to address specific allegations against Castano, stating that “the university does not comment on current or former employees.”

“The New School has no tolerance for sexual harassment by any member of the university community,” Malsin wrote in an email to The Daily. “We take our responsibility in these matters very seriously and have clear policies and procedures which we follow thoroughly.”

In mid-September, several students in the New School’s psychology department approached the Title IX committee about the investigation, but were told that Castano would not be removed from his faculty position at the NSSR unless he demonstrated a pattern of sexual misconduct. Frustrated by what they saw as the administration’s lack of transparency on the investigation, a group of psychology Ph.D. students drafted a formal letter and addendum to the Title IX committee regarding the allegations against Castano.

The letter pressed the university to take stronger action against Castano and to establish clearer codes of conduct for faculty members given the “attempts … made at a diversion of this investigation and outright intimidation of students to prevent them from coming forward.” In particular, the letter alleged that a postdoctoral fellow – later identified to The Daily as Goyal by one of its writers – tried “to coerce students to sign affidavits that blame the victim.”

According to the student who reported Castano, a friend of hers as well as a fellow lab member were asked to write affidavits claiming her to be of “bad nature”; the Ph.D. student who co-authored the letter added that the affidavit claimed the reporting student was lying and mentally unstable. A student reported the incident to the Title IX office, the Ph.D. student said. But according to Joan Miller, a psychology professor and postdoctoral advisor to Goyal,  Goyal was never subject to an investigation.

In the fall of 2015, Goyal was hired as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychology. She currently holds this position and teaches several required graduate courses. According to Miller, Castano disclosed his relationship to Goyal to the school’s dean before her hire and recused himself from departmental decisions about Goyal, who was approved in a unanimous faculty vote.

By the Ph.D. student’s account, Castano and Goyal have denied being in a relationship while Goyal was a student. However, several students in the psychology department stated that it is an open secret among members of the department that their relationship began while she was a Ph.D. student in the department during his stint as co-chair.

Goyal is not returning to teach next semester; according to Miller, this is at Goyal’s own request. Both Goyal and the administration from The New School did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment on her involvement in the Title IX case and her role at NSSR next semester.

The New School’s official policy on sexual harassment states that “faculty members (and administrative staff) should be aware that any romantic involvement with students (or staff members who report to them) is considered inappropriate, and it might make them liable to formal action.”

In their email to the Title IX committee, the NSSR students said that they felt Goyal too was a “victim in the situation Dr. Castano created” and that their main aim to make clear “the harm students have experienced due to his poor judgment, abuse of power and manipulation.” The letter ultimately garnered 60 signatures of support from students within the psychology department.

The Ph.D. student quoted earlier added that students who used to work in Castano’s former lab declined to sign the letter, some out of loyalty to Goyal and others out of fear.

Administrative response

Psychology students concerned about Castano’s behavior and previous incidents of sexual harassment and assault at NSSR said that some administrators at NSSR have impeded reports and investigations.

Within days, Milberg responded to the letter in an email to all students, faculty and staff in the psychology department. In his message, he promised to “convene a meeting to facilitate an open and safe dialogue on issues that have been raised about the culture and climate of the Department” and assured that “the ongoing investigation into the allegations raised is being conducted in a full and fair manner.”

Shortly thereafter, department co-chairs William Hirst and Howard Steele jointly responded in an email arguing that “it would be wrong for us, as a representative of the school, to discuss or even convene a meeting to address the specifics of the complaint that has been filed against a faculty member.”

They also cited the “principle of … confidentiality for both complainant and respondent” under Title IX and the need to allow the investigation to occur “without evoking external pressures” that such a meeting might cause, adding that they feared public discussion prior to the investigation’s completion could harm its integrity. They advised that for the time being, faculty, students and staff should focus on developing avenues for open dialogue after the investigation’s closure rather than discussing the case directly.

A week after Hirst and Steele’s statement, Milberg announced a psychology department town hall meeting to be held on Oct. 19. But on Oct. 18, Milberg sent another email announcing Castano’s resignation from the university without specifying a reason. The town hall was still held but framed as a more general discussion about student concerns with the university administration, including Title IX issues.

A student who attended the town hall meeting said that that several students from the psychology department, including herself, came forward during the meeting to say they had experienced sexual harassment and assault from within the department.

She added that it isn’t just students who are affected.

“Professors fear speaking out against their superiors, just as students do,” the town hall attendee said. “The administration thrives on silencing students … [and] is concerned about [its] reputation.”

Another graduate student expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the department has had “complicated power dynamics, historically.” According to the Ph.D. student mentioned earlier in the article, there exists an unhealthy power structure among university faculty.

She specifically claimed that co-chair “Hirst is [and] was Emanuele [Castano]’s main ally and supporter.” She also said that after Hirst was appointed co-chair, “no one could talk to him about it due to his personal ties to Emanuele. The other faculty who have tenure and could speak out, even those that disapprove of Emanuele, didn’t.”

“A few longtime faculty members within [the department] protect and support Castano, and even implicitly or explicitly discourage people from speaking out,” remarked another graduate student in the psychology department. “[Bill Hirst] has been vocal in support of Castano, protecting him for many years.”

Hirst did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment regarding the aforementioned allegations.

Miller, however, defended Hirst in a statement to The Daily following this article’s publication, emphasizing in particular that Hirst avoided discussing Castano’s case with students not out of any “personal bias” but because he sought to uphold the confidentiality of an ongoing case.

All faculty members were told by the school administration “not to provide any information related to Professor Castano” or his investigation, Miller said.

The Ph.D. student added that two professors, Wendy D’Andrea and Doris Chang, were supportive of students during the investigation. According to Chang, there has been no official discussion among faculty about Castano’s behavior up to this point.

In an email to New School community members sent three days after this article’s posting, the president and provost of The New School said the university will be reviewing its Title IX policies, appointing a new Title IX leader and expanding its training on sexual misconduct.

Shortly after, the school’s Graduate Faculty Student Senate issued a statement calling the Castano’s investigation “completely mismanaged” and urging the university to issue a decision in his now-closed case. The senate also called on the school to review its administration’s handling of the matter and work to end “any type of abuse of power by any administrator, faculty, or other persons that hold a significant degree of institutional authority over any member of the New School community.”

“The email sent today signed by [the president and provost] does too little too late,” the statement reads. “Perhaps disclosing New School grievances to the media is the only way to make any changes and to make the administrative authorities hear us.”

Other allegations of misconduct

The Title IX investigation into Castano’s behavior comes just two years after the retirement of Marcel Kinsbourne, a formerly tenured professor in the same division of the psychology department as Castano who was a prominent neuroscientist. According to several students in the department, Kinsbourne was forced to retire after being investigated by the Title IX office for sexual harassment of several undergraduate and graduate students and faced no repercussions related to the investigation.

The students added that Kinsbourne’s history of sexual harassment was widely known among students at the time of the investigation, when Castano was co-chair of the department.

Kinsbourne did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

According to the aforementioned Ph.D. student, a victim of Kinsbourne’s harassment who was a graduate student of Kinsbourne’s at the time approached Castano (then department co-chair) to report concern over Kinsbourne’s behavior. Castano allegedly dismissed the complaint and expressed concern about how such allegations would look if they were to come out while he was co-chair. The victim then went directly to the dean of the undergraduate college, Stephanie Browner, and Kinsbourne retired shortly after.

Castano’s appointment at Stanford, along with news of the Title IX investigation against him, comes as two former Stanford professors — Jay Fliegelman Ph.D. 77, who is now deceased, and Franco Moretti, who is now retired — face public accusations of sexual assault and harassment. Like Fliegelman and Moretti, Castano is well-established in his field.

According to his biography on Stanford Medicine’s CCARE website, Castano has over 60 publications in “top tier scientific journals” and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the European Union and the International Committee of the Red Cross, among others. Like Moretti, he has also been featured in The New York Times, which detailed his studies on empathy in a front-page article. Just last week, Castano, Kinsbourne and Goyal published a paper together about a study they conducted on empathy and willingness to help others.

“I think it’s really important that students are starting to speak openly and honestly about their experiences in the program,” said Chang, the NSSR professor. “I’m concerned that they’ve experienced this oppressive culture in which they have felt so silenced. That goes against my values as a faculty member and the kinds of values that I’m trying to promote in the department.”

Contact Claire Wang at clwang32 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Goyal was investigated by the Title IX committee at The New School. In fact, while a student reportedly took concerns about Goyal’s affidavit to Title IX, Goyal was not investigated.  The article now includes New School Psychology Professor Joan Miller’s statement that Goyal is leaving her post next semester at her own request. Castano also did not oversee Goyal’s hiring, as suggested in the initial version of the article; Castano recused himself from the hiring decision, which was voted on by faculty. The Daily regrets these errors.

Finally, this post has been updated to reflect that Stanford has suspended Castano while it investigates the allegations against him. The University told The Daily of the suspension shortly after this article’s posting. The article is also updated with communications that the president, provost and Graduate Faculty Student Senate of The New School made to the university’s community following publication, as well as with further comments  from Miller on the administration’s directive to all faculty not to discuss Castano’s case. 

 

About Claire Wang

Claire Wang is a sophomore from Detroit, Michigan studying Economics and Political Science. She's a fan of anything with tomatoes in it, and her favorite poet is Ocean Vuong. When she's not biking, her second-favorite mode of transportation is by rollerblade. Contact Claire at clwang32 'at' stanford.edu.