Viral videos containing accusations of sexual misconduct have prompted internal investigations at one of America’s most celebrated historically black colleges after two social media whistleblowers allege that they were victims of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of one of the college’s employees. Their revelations may have inspired other students to step forward with complaints against other employees.
On July 17, 20-year-old Michael Key, a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, publicly alleged that he had suffered assault and sexual harassment at the hands of an employee of the all-male institution.
“Since second semester of my freshman year, I was assaulted by a staff member at Morehouse College by the name of DeMarcus Crews,” Key recounts in the Twitter video. “It got to the point where I was going through a really bad depression.”
DeMarcus K. Crews, who has not responded to The Root’s requests for an interview, is listed as the assistant director of student services on the college’s website. He is a 2015 graduate of Morehouse and previously served as the college’s interim director of Housing and Residential Education.
“He was kinda trying to force me to come out about my sexuality,” Key added. “[He was] making advances at me, telling me I need dick, shit like that.”
In the two videos, Key claims that he told at least two college staff members about the incidents, including the Title IX coordinators who are charged with “identifying and addressing any patterns, and assessing effects on the campus climate...involving sexual harassment and violence,” according to the Department of Education. But Key says that when he met with coordinators in early 2018, the responses were “condescending,” resulting in several canceled meetings with the rising junior.
The Root has obtained a summary and an internal memo written by university employees describing one of those meetings, which occurred in January 2018, less than 24 hours after an alleged dispute with Crews, according to Key’s lawyers. The documents show that Key reported the incidents mentioned in the video to Joshua Troutman, Morehouse’s assistant coordinator of residential education. The summary and memo that followed Key’s complaint reflect many, if not all, of the same allegations from his Twitter video. The memorandum, whose date and authenticity was confirmed by The Root, was forwarded to Title IX coordinator Terrence Bailey and house dean Shawn Moore, according to Key’s attorney and the contents of the memo.
The original list of complaints include:
- A verbal disagreement that allegedly occurred between Key and Crews “that prompted Key to go out of his way to avoid Crews from that point forward.”
- Crews verbally harassing Key about his sexual identity “in a one-on-one meeting requested by Crews on or around January 29, 2018,” in which Crews reportedly told Key: “just get some dick and you’ll be alright, just kidding”
- Unwanted hugs and “touching of the cheeks” by Crews.
- Crews allegedly telling Key: “I told your bitch ass to text me. I could’ve looked out for you if you needed it.”
- Crews publicly telling Key, in front of a crowd, to “get your ass back here,” which put Key in an “awkward situation.”
After Key’s videos began spreading on social media, another student, Bryson Hill, who says he is a freshman at Morehouse, shared his experiences about the staffer he called “Dean Crews.” In a Twitter video, Hill said he met Crews during the summer prior to his freshman year at Morehouse.
“But going into my first semester at Morehouse College, this was where things started to get a little more uncomfortable,” explained Hill in the video. “I remember one time he said to me: ‘All the girls want your pussy, huh?’”
In the uproar following the videos, Morehouse President David A. Thomas and the Dean of the school, Maurice Washington, issued statements on July 18 informing students and alumni that the school has launched an internal investigation and placed Crews on unpaid administrative leave until the college has completed its inquiry.
But these two allegations may have only scratched the surface of possible abuse at Morehouse. More students have reportedly stepped forward with allegations against other Morehouse staffers. In an email to The Root, Dr. Aileen Dodd, the school’s senior manager of media and public relations wrote:
Morehouse College is expanding its sexual misconduct investigation to include the examination of new complaints filed against additional employees. The new complaints were reported Wednesday following allegations made by students on social media.
No further information is available at this time.
The education and development of the men of Morehouse is our top priority, and the College will take the necessary action to protect the safety of its students.
When The Root asked Dodd to clarify whether the new complaints were in addition to Key’s and Hill’s allegations, she responded: “New complaints filed against additional employees.”
In a separate statement, Dodd’s office informed The Root that the college is using a neutral third party for the investigation, adding that “anyone who feels that they are a victim of sexual misconduct at Morehouse [should] come forward and call the Ethics & Compliance Hotline at 888-299-9540.” School officials affirm that all contact information will be kept confidential.
“Morehouse’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures provide for disciplinary action, including dismissal, if any student, faculty, or staff member engages in inappropriate behavior,” said Dodd. “The case filed early this week against a Morehouse staff member is still under review.”
The New York Times reports that this situation is not new to the HBCU, writing:
Morehouse is facing a Title IX lawsuit filed on behalf of a former student who accused a faculty chaperone of ordering alcoholic drinks for him and groping him on an airplane en route to a study abroad program in Brazil in 2015.
The suit argues that Morehouse failed to take action and properly support the student, who later had to leave the school. The student, who was identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, filed a Title IX complaint in 2017, according to the suit.
The faculty member in that case, Robert Peterson, is no longer with the college, according to Morehouse. No lawyer is listed for him in the case, and he could not be reached for comment Friday. In court documents, he denied the allegations.
Lindsay Cordes, a lawyer representing the student, said that the complaints that surfaced this week showed a pattern of inaction at Morehouse. “It was shockingly similar to what happened to our client,” she said.
“For nearly two years, Morehouse has made public statements on its commitment to handle complaints of sexual misconduct with greater procedures and a zero tolerance policy,” said Key’s attorney Tiffany Simmons in a statement to The Root. Simmons vows to pursue criminal and civil charges in the matter. “Yet, here we are again with evidence that student safety and physical and mental well-being are not a priority.”
Through his attorney, Key said: “I just want to transfer to a new institution.”