President Liebowitz wrote an open letter expressing his support for Ithaca College President Shirley Collado, who in 2001 pleaded no contest to allegations of sexual assault. Liebowitz worked with Collado during his time at Middlebury College. Pleading no contest, or nolo contendere, means a defendant does not admit guilt but accepts a sentence from the court.
A former patient of Collado’s accused her of sexual misconduct in 2000. In 2001, Collado pleaded no contest to the charges according to a report in the Ithacan, the college’s student newspaper. Collado treated the patient as a psychologist at a private psychiatric hospital in Washington, the Ithacan reports, and they lived together later.
“I am writing to express my unequivocal support for Dr. Shirley Collado as she confronts the resurfacing of decades-old allegations that impugn her reputation,” Liebowitz wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Ithacan on Jan. 17.
Though Collado maintains there was no sexual contact between her and the patient, she did not feel she had the legal and financial resources to fight the charges in court, she told the Ithacan. Collado was sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence, 80 hours of community service and 18 months of supervised probation.
Liebowitz worked with Collado while he was President of Middlebury College. In 2007, Collado became Vice President of Student Affairs under Liebowitz. She served as dean of the college from 2010 until 2015 and was named president of Ithaca College in 2017. Liebowitz was president of Middlebury from 2004 until 2015, and in 2016 became president of Brandeis University.
Liebowitz wrote the letter independently of his capacity as president of the university.
“I wrote the letter after seeing Shirley’s name and reputation impugned by those who did not know her and who never experienced her remarkable empathy and work on behalf of others,” said Liebowitz in an email to The Hoot. “I worked closely with Shirley for more than six years and watched her work through incredibly difficult situations with exemplary fairness and concern for all parties involved in those situations.”
“I felt it was important to offer the perspective of someone who knew her well, witnessed daily her work first hand, and could speak to her character during her time at Middlebury and before that at the Posse Foundation,” Liebowitz said.
The Ithaca Board of Trustees and the Ithaca College Faculty Council also expressed public support for Collado.
President Liebowitz is also quoted under the “Words of Support” section of the Office of the President of Ithaca College’s website. “Shirley is one of the very best colleagues at understanding and connecting with people from across a wide range of backgrounds,” Liebowitz said. “With Shirley, the Ithaca College community will have sustained, deep, and critical engagement on important issues, and they will have a fearless leader who will raise all the right, and often difficult, questions.”