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Aidan Quigley discusses reporting on allegations against IC President Shirley Collado for sexual abuse [AUDIO]

IC President Shirley Collado's Inauguration at Ithaca College on November 4, 2017. Photo by Sheryl D. Sinkow / Courtesy of Ithaca College

Aidan Quigley, Editor-in-Chief of The Ithacan, talks to WRFI’s Laura Rosbrow-Telem on ‘Your Morning’ about his ethical considerations in breaking the big story of the week.

On Tuesday, he published a piece about sexual abuse charges made against Ithaca College President Shirley Collado. These charges came from a psych patient 17 years ago when Collado was a psychologist in a psychiatric ward. Collado pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest: This means she did not admit guilt but accepted a conviction. Collado denies having any sexual contact with the patient.

Quigley got the scoop from an anonymous source, who also sent material to Vanderbilt, Collado’s alma mater. But the IC administration is defending Collado.

He answers a number of questions, including what have been some of IC students’ reactions to this almost two decades-old legal case, particularly in the #metoo moment.

The interview is here and the transcript is underneath.

*Quigley requested that we include this note for clarification: “In the nature of being as clear as possible about my reporting process, I want to clarify that I did, in fact, communicate with the patient through an intermediary. I was initially hesitant to share that on air because I promised all involved that the nature of our conversations would be confidential, but for full disclosure I want to make that clear.”

Photo credit: Sheryl D. Sinkow / Courtesy of Ithaca College. The photo depicts IC President Shirley Collado’s Inauguration at Ithaca College on November 4, 2017.

Transcript of the interview

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Now, we’re here with Aidan Quigley, the editor-in-chief of the Ithacan. On Tuesday, he wrote an article about sexual abuse charges made against IC college president Shirley Collado. These charges came from a psych patient 17 years ago when Collado was a psychologist in a psychiatric ward. Collado pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest. This means that she did not admit guilt but she accepted a conviction. Collado denies having any sexual contact with the patient.

Quigley got the scoop from an anonymous source who also sent material to Vanderbilt, Collado’s alma mater. The IC administration is defending Collado as well as former colleagues and advisers. So, Aidan welcome to the show.

Aidan Quigley: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: So can you tell me about the moment that this package arrived, this anonymous tip in December?

Aidan Quigley: So our adviser Michael Serino gets the mail from upstairs. He goes downstairs to the Ithacan office. He walked in he said you know this feels like it’s like it’s newspapers because we get, we exchange newspapers with some other college newspapers. He gave it to me and I opened it up and I soon realized that it was you know not a newspaper from another school.

There was a note on it kind of explaining a little bit about what was included. And then I, you know, after after immediately after getting that I, he and I went and started looking at them and talking about what the what the document showed. And you know try to figure out whether or not, first off, is this legitimate? Second off, is this the same Shirley Collado who is now the president of Ithaca College.

The next day, I immediately started doing research and looking into it. And you know the day after we got the package I was able to conform with some certainty that it was her.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: How were you able to confirm that?

Aidan Quigley: Based on her, she had spoken with IC View, which was the alumni magazine in March. And in that interview, she made a very vague reference to claims made against her by a former patient and about a legal action that she had to bring to a close.

But that was about it. So if I hadn’t received this package, I wouldn’t know what that was about. But, you know, with the context of having that, and I hadn’t read that interview in March when I probably should have the first time around, but.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: So what was your first reaction when you were able to confirm that this package was real?

Aidan Quigley: It was difficult. You know, it was it was hard to read these things about someone who you know had come to campus and was really really well respected. I think reading her side of the story — and you know a piece of her side of the story — the alumni magazine made me realize this was going to be a very difficult reporting process in that there was a lot to look into and a lot of nuance in the story. And I really tried to portray that in the final story that I ended up writing.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Yeah and I mean I imagine this must have come during finals, or when exactly in the semester did this come?

Aidan Quigley: So it came like a week a week and a half before finals started. So it was right near the end. You know, after I had the decision to make whether to try to rush something and get up like during finals week, which just didn’t seem to be the right choice.

I knew I needed to take a step back and really try to contact as many as sources as possible and try to identify people from this period of time who were involved in the legal case and you know co-workers and whatnot and trying to, really, you know, this happened 17 years ago. So try to dig into where these people are now and you know. Thank God for the Internet because if it wasn’t for Google, I would have been, (it would have been) virtually impossible to track a lot of people.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And how many people at The Ithacan were involved in this fact tracking process?

Aidan Quigley: So the reporting process was you know mostly mostly me, but I was planning on…so a week before we published I brought in the two managing editors of the paper and the news editor to kind of explain to them, you know, I’ve been working on this story. You know I think it’s important and I think that you know I’m gonna need your help on editing and whatnot.

So the news editor ended up editing the story. And then we brought in the chief copy editor and the proofreader to fact check it. We usually only have one round of fact checking but we added a second one for the story. It took them pretty much all day on Monday to go through it, you know, so the documents and not just the documents from the initial package because I obviously had to verify.

So after I received the package I went to the District of Columbia Superior Court, their website and I requested the full case file. So you know, those were the documents that were used in the story along with some documents from the packet which I was able to confirm and verify.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And so did that process take about a month? Is that kind of what stalled this?

Aidan Quigley: The fact we had our winter break. I think that was a big part of it. You know everyone went home for Christmas and I was working during that period of time, but I was really trying to, you know, research and understand as much as I can. And, you know, obviously I did take a week or so off to enjoy Christmas with my family.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Sure, sure.

Aidan Quigley: You know I think that you know, working on, I worked on it pretty much throughout the course of break and just like researching the legal issues involved the ethical issues involved and just trying to get the best understanding of the story that I could.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And just to go back a second you said Monday your fact checkers were checking all day. You mean this Monday this week.

Aidan Quigley: I mean, this week on Monday.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: I see. And so basically. So this was your story for essentially a month and then you handed it off to news editors and fact checkers at the Ithacan. That’s what you’re saying?

Aidan Quigley: Yes pretty much.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Pretty much. Pretty much.

And was there any, like, also faculty advisers kind of mentoring you through this process? Because it seems just like pretty intense.

Aidan Quigley: Yeah no it was definitely very difficult. We have a staff advisor, Michael Serino, and he provided guidance. But all the reporting – and I did all the reporting. He was just there to support me and kind of got, you know, provide…if I needed to ask him for advice and that, he was there for me for that and that I really appreciated that from him.

But you know, this was, you know, at the Ithacan, he’s just an adviser who provides advice to us. And we, I make all the decisions about publishing. So anyway, when there’s questions about the story they should come to me because, you know, I did all the work.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Yeah, I mean, it was a ton of work. I mean, the article was very long – very long, it’s very thorough.

I guess I have to ask you something which is throughout this process was there ever a moment in which you considered not publishing this?

Aidan Quigley: You know at the, at the beginning, when we received the anonymous package. You know, looking at it. You know I really had to weigh whether or not it was you know…it’s obviously very difficult to read. You know the story and the allegations.

But I think it would have been, you know, ethically speaking, it would have been it would have been a worse decision to not publish it.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Why?

Aidan Quigley: I think the severity of the allegations really really stood out to me. I think that the community deserves to know that this is you know this is just. You know, President Collado herself has spoken about this as a formative time in her life. And I think that you know these these packages were circulating and I think that it was really important to you know help explain to the community the patient’s side of the story.

You know, after President Collado released her statement on Tuesday, everyone heard her voice and her side the story. But I think it’s also very important to explain what the patient.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And what exactly was the patient’s story, for people who haven’t read the article?

Aidan Quigley: So she she alleged that she and Dr. Collado began a sexual relationship while she was being treated by Dr. Collado at the at the center. And then after she left the center, she ended up moving in with Dr. Collado. And they lived together for a period of time, a couple of months. And, you know, the patient allegedly continued a sexual relationship.

And, you know, a patient cannot consent to sexual activity with a therapist based on the nature of that relationship. So it was pretty pretty serious. Yeah. And, you know, Collado says that she, you know, invited the patient to live with her because she was trying to be helpful and the patient was going through a really tough time.

But even that decision was against the ethical guidelines because of the effect on the patient after the patient asked to move out, which was pretty messed up. From the court documents, you can tell the patient, that it had a pretty big impact on her.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Did you talk to that patient?

Aidan Quigley: I don’t really want to…for her privacy, I don’t really want to get into the reporting around around that. And I have to I have to explain some sourcing things that, you know, have to remain confidential just for that.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: What can you tell me though? Because I think that’s really important if you’re claiming that her voice is super important and you can’t tell me that you actually talked to her.

Aidan Quigley: Yes…so, I just…I have to say that you know I don’t want to. She was aware that we were working on the story and she was aware that I was you know ready to talk to her if she wanted to talk about it.

And I talked to, you know, obviously, you know, I just, I really…I just can’t. Just based on conversations that I had with people really close to the situation, I just, I’m not comfortable getting to that. I think I’ll let what the story says speak for itself that the patient did not want to speak about it at this time.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: So then, I’m sorry, but I need to understand from an advocacy perspective, if, you know, you can’t verify that you talked to her or that she was interested in the story, what exactly is the advocacy element of the story? From her perspective, if her perspective is very important?

Aidan Quigley: I think that due to the ongoing…Sorry.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: I know this is hard.

Aidan Quigley: I know this is hard and I really wish that there’s more I could share with you on on air and in public.

But I just for the sake of conversations that I had with…I just I can’t. I can’t, I can’t get into it right now.

And I apologize for that, but I really…

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: All right. I’m going to rephrase the question. Why is this important to you?

Aidan Quigley: This is important to me because you know I think that the patient’s — especially in the initial reaction — the patient’s voice has been kind of, you know, over overshadowed, by, I think that this, the serious nature of the allegations should be considered in the reporting and in the conversations surrounding this.

I think that there’s a lot of nuance in the situation. I think it’s really important to our community to you know grapple with the issues in this story.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And what issues exactly?

Aidan Quigley: I mean, there’s mental health issues in this story, for sure. There’s sexual abuse issues in this story. And then there’s also like legal representation issues, and race issues, and class issues, and there’s a lot to unpack.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Can you be more specific about that?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah for sure. So there’s the patient therapist relationship is obviously really key here. And I think that, you know, that, that’s mental health issues, sexual abuse allegations kind of speak for themselves in that way. And then, you know, Collado’s version of the story. There’s legal representation. You know she was arguing that she didn’t quite have the resources to be able to fight these claims in court which is something that you know you should really consider, in, you know, in evaluating the story.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Yeah, I mean, I have to say, you know, when I — and okay, I’m going to just give a little reminder for anyone who’s just tuning in, we’re speaking with Aidan Quigley, the editor-in-chief of the Ithacan, Ithaca College’s newspaper. He broke a story this week about sexual abuse charges made against IC President Shirley Collado 17 years ago.

And for me, you know, reading this story, I had mixed reactions. You know, on the one hand, I can completely understand you publishing this and let the public have an important discussion about all this. If the allegations are true they are indeed very serious.

I myself actually used to be a social worker. So this stuff is really, you know, it’s obviously unethical to, you know, have a relationship with a patient, and all that.

The other thing that should be mentioned though is that at the time, Collado’s husband died by suicide. And actually I was talking to — I’m going to admit that both of my parents are psychologists on the radio — and they were actually both saying, and I think this is just generally true, that the kinds of therapists that tend to get into these sorts of ethical relationship problems tend to be going through some, like, very big tragedy.

So, in any case, I just had a mix of sort of emotional reactions. Like, it’s important to talk about, on the other hand, you know, and I think you did a fairly good job because the piece was also so long to give the full context, right?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Yeah. What have students’ reactions been?

Aidan Quigley: So I say we’ve gotten mixed reaction to this piece. Obviously it’s very difficult to read this kind of, about these kind of allegations. And, you know, a lot of people have decided that in Dr. Collado’s initial email, (she) was really emotional about this time in her life. And I think that a lot of students are very sympathetic to her, and her side of the story.

But I’ve also gotten some, I’ve also heard from students who said they really appreciated the journalism, and also kind of getting the patient’s side of this, of this out there. So, that meant a lot to me.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: I also saw that — and this was included in your piece — that the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, when they were, when Shirley Collado was a candidate, that they knew about this, that this wasn’t, you know, something that was swept under the rug. They discussed it. And, you know, and they back, you know, her being in this position. And they also backed the fact that she denies these allegations. What do you think about that?

Aidan Quigley: You know, it’s, it’s…I just try to tell the story in the most straightforward, fair way possible and, you know, they can, they can make their, they can make their judgments based on, based on the reporting and based on the situation. You know, the board of trustees says that they saw the full case files before making this decision. They talked to Dr. Collado about it during the process.

So that’s, you know, it’s up to them to, to come to their own conclusion – it’s up to anyone who reads the story to come to their own conclusion. I think it’s a really complicated situation and I think that, I just tried to lay out what I do in the most fair straightforward way possible. And I think I think he did that.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And did you speak with Shirley Collado herself?

Aidan Quigley: Yes, I sat down with her on Friday and it was a very…you know…it was, it was a very emotional conversation. Obviously, it was very difficult to talk about these kind of things but I try to be as responsible and sensitive as I could.

But, while at the same time asking her, you know, about, about what happened and trying to, you know, respond to a lot of the claims that the patient made.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Can you walk me through that conversation a little bit?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah, so, you know, basically I asked about some of the wider questions at play, about, you know, the search committee and did you talk to them about this. And then walk me through what happened and then I kind of went…I addressed some of the specifics in the story, kind of point by point in that.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And what was her reaction?

Aidan Quigley: You know, it was…she was, she was, she was prepared for it. She was ready.

Her office also received a similar package. So I think that she probably, you know…the administration probably suspected that we had gotten something along those lines. So she was, you know. She had talked about this in the search process with the board of trustees, so it felt like she was comfortable sharing her side of the story.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Was she emotional?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah, yeah.

She was pretty emotional especially…yeah, it was obviously a very difficult time in her life.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Was she mad? Sad? I mean, what was, what was the reaction?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah, I mean, just kind of…I wouldn’t say mad at all. I’d say more just, you know, obviously it was difficult for her to walk through this as a, you know, as someone who, this happened…just, you know, in her version of the story, this was something…

It was obviously a very traumatic time in her life and in her version of the story, this was something, something negative that happened to her. And it was hard for her to walk through it.

But I think that she was, you know, I think that she should be held accountable and that she should have to answer to these claims and discuss them, so.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And she, and she denied them with you, right?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah, yeah. She denied any sexual contact with the patient. We also talked about the ethical considerations involved with the, you know, inviting the patient to live with her and she once again stressed that she was just trying to help the patient and that, you know, that was her motivation there.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Right. And she admits and I think the search committee said that was a bad judgment call in terms of blurring the lines even with a past patient, to invite them into their home.

I have a final question for you which is, you know, this obviously echoes the #metoo moment, right? I think this case is a little bit different in that most #metoo cases are about, you know, sexual harassment or sexual assault that haven’t been reported. Right? And so then, a lot of the reactions sort of rectify the fact that these people are dealing with things have never been dealt in the legal system.

However, Collado’s case, you know, she had a legal judgment. She went through a court. She was convicted. She had a sentence. She had, like, probation and all this kind of stuff. So do you think it’s fair to put her through double jeopardy in this way?

Aidan Quigley: You know that’s not how I see this at all. I see is as an airing of, you know, a situation from her past that…you know, she’s in a position of power on campus. And I think it’s important for us to kind of, you know, look into what happened, the situation, and just lay it out in just as a fair, straightforward way as possible.

I don’t, you know, I don’t, I don’t see this as double jeopardy at all. I see this as, you know, trying to understand and trying to get the patient’s side of the story out there.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: And I guess then last, last question. In general, do you think Ithaca College students are more or less sympathetic to Collado after all this?

Aidan Quigley: Yeah, it’s still early in this process. This is all just starting to come out. But I’d say, you know, I guess we still have to wait and see.

I’d say that the initial reaction was very sympathetic to President Collado. She’s come to campus amid a, you know, and everyone has really…the mood at the inauguration was very festive and excited about her tenure.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: So you don’t think this is going to affect her stature as president?

Aidan Quigley: I don’t know.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: You don’t know.

Aidan Quigley: I think it’s too early to tell.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem: Okay. We’ve been speaking with Aidan Quigley, the editor in chief of the Ithacan. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate you coming here and this was a really hard piece to do. I commend you for your work.

Aidan Quigley: Thanks. I appreciate it.