Despite a sex abuse scandal unfolding at Syracuse University, the university’s Chancellor Nancy Cantor will still be one of four recipients of an honorary degree at the University of Michigan’s Winter Commencement ceremony.
Cantor, a former University of Michigan provost, will be awarded a Doctor of Laws degreeat the Dec. 18 ceremony at Crisler Arena. The University announced Cantor as an honorary degree recipient on Oct. 10.
On Sunday, Cantor fired Bernie Fine, former Syracuse University assistant men’s basketball coach, who is accused of molesting two former Syracuse ball boys and another child.
Despite the Syracuse scandal, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail interview that the University is not reconsidering its decision to award an honorary degree to Cantor.
Cantor informed Syracuse students, faculty and staff of her decision to fire Fine through an e-mail on Sunday.
“It is vital that we examine our protocols and actions in dealing with such serious allegations,” Cantor wrote. “We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson.”
On Nov. 18, the day after Fine was placed on administrative leave, Cantor sent a letter to Syracuse University alumni explaining the history of the allegations against Fine and the university’s response.
“We are aware that many wonder if university administrations are willing to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing that may disrupt a successful sports program,” Cantor wrote. “I can assure you I am not, and my fellow administrators are not. We hold everyone in our community to high standards and we don’t tolerate illegal, abusive or unethical behavior — no matter who you are.”
After multiple attempts, The Michigan Daily was unable to obtain comment from Syracuse University’s Division of Public Affairs.
Syracuse University was made aware of allegations against Fine in 2005 when an adult male came forward, saying he had reported to the Syracuse Police Department that Fine initiated “inappropriate contact” in the 1980s and 1990s. In response to the accusations, Syracuse University launched an internal investigation in 2005 that did not reveal any evidence to support the accuser’s claims.
Fine was initially accused of molesting two former Syracuse University ball boys, and on Nov. 27, a third person came forward accusing him of child molestation. Syracuse University was informed on Nov. 18 that Syracuse police opened an investigation of the accusations against Fine, according to Cantor’s letter.
Fine referred to the allegations as “patently false” at the onset of the new investigation.
Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim supported Fine as the allegations began to surface.
“We have to see what happens. I support Bernie, as I said,” Boeheim said at a Nov. 22 press conference in New York. “Known him for 50 years. If something else happens, surfaces — some factual thing — then we’ll have to adjust to that.”
Boeheim has changed his reaction to the scandal after news broke of Fine’s firing.
“What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found,” Boeheim told the Associated Press. “I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.”
Despite criticism of how Boeheim handled the allegations against Fine — some claim he verbally attacked the accusers — Cantor has continued to support Boeheim.
“Coach Boeheim is our coach; he’s getting the team ready tonight,” Cantor told the AP yesterday. “We’re very pleased with what he said Sunday night, and we stand by it.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.