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Students question University’s commitment to sexual misconduct prevention after accused CFA professor messages student through Bumble

BU Equal Opportunity office sign
The Boston University Equal Opportunity Office. The ongoing employment of College of Fine Arts professor Eric Ruske, who was sued for sexual harassment in 2016 by two former students, has sparked doubt in BU’s Title IX commitment after a student said Ruske tried messaging them on the dating app Bumble. SHANNON DAMIANO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

By Jesús Marrero Suárez and Madhri Yehiya

A Boston University student who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation and judgment said College of Fine Arts professor Eric Ruske messaged them through the dating app Bumble in May. 

Ruske, a current professor of music and horn performance, was sued by two former CFA students for sexual harassment in 2016. 

The anonymous student said they found Ruske on Bumble after being dared by their roommates to change the age of people they could match with to the highest it can go.

After having matched with Ruske, the student said in the messaging chat he flirted with them, invited them to “come over” and expressed he wanted to play for them sometime.

“It just happened, and it’s a shitty feeling,” the student said. “You can’t really feel it until it’s you.”

The student added that a culture of “victim-blaming” and a general distrust that anything would be taken seriously are the reasons they chose to not report the incident. 

In 2016, Ruske’s former students said he had made inappropriate comments, verbally harassed them online, hugged and kissed them on the cheek and asked them for pictures of themselves through text and email several times.

Screenshots given to The Daily Free Press show Ruske’s verified Bumble account, the student’s conversation with their roommates occurring in parallel as the Bumble messages, as well as the first four messages. 

His profile in the screenshot displays that he is 57 years old and a professor at BU. The student said their own profile similarly displays their name, age and occupation as a BU student.

They noted that if Ruske was able to match with them, a 19-year old BU student, it follows that Ruske both keeps the age he has at or below that range.

“This situation is so absurd,” they said. “After being sued for sexual misconduct, he’s still on Bumble messaging 19-year-old BU students and trying to get them to come over.”

Ruske’s continued position as a member of the CFA faculty after the 2016 law suit has led some students to doubt the University’s ability to create a safe environment for its students despite its recent commitments to respond to concerns about sexual harassment and assault.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley provided in an email a list of resources for students to report instances of sexual misconduct, anonymously or not.

“We strongly encourage students to report any conduct by a member of the faculty that they believe is inappropriate so that the University can investigate to determine whether any University policies have been violated or further action is warranted,” he wrote. 

Riley declined to comment on Ruske himself. 

Ruske did not respond to two requests for an interview over email. He currently teaches two 500-level horn classes as well as private lessons in Brass Orchestral Techniques, according to information available on Student Link.

Russell Thompson, a 2017 Master’s of music graduate from the College of Fine Arts, said he was classmates with one of Ruske’s accusers, Erin Shyr. 

Thompson said Ruske’s professorial position created a power imbalance in Ruske’s interactions with Shyr, and that no action was taken by the University at the time after his classmate reported it.

“He took advantage of his position and just was constantly soliciting her,” he said. “He’s a well known individual, he’s been doing this for a long time. Everyone in this school knew that ‘oh, that’s Eric.’”

Shyr and fellow accuser Maria Currie received minimal support from the University, leading them to file their 2016 lawsuit against Ruske for sexual harrassment and BU for failing to comply with Title IX regulations and mishandling their cases.

Thompson added that the cases of Shyr, Currie and the anonymous student are likely not the only incidents of Ruske soliciting BU students. 

“The thing is these are the ones that we can prove,” he said. “These are the ones that get covered and that we know about.”

Thompson said the fact that Ruske continues to be employed at the University makes him “ashamed,” adding he does not understand why nothing has been done despite a substantial amount of evidence. 

“How can there just be nothing [that] come[s] of that?” Thompson said. “To do something so irresponsible and callous, and then do it in the dumbest possible way and get caught, and then have nothing happen.”

Thompson said Ruske’s notoriety for misconduct is well known around major conservatories, adding he has heard of people avoiding applying to BU because he is a professor.

The anonymous student said they think Ruske’s reputation as a famous horn player is the only reason the University has not fired him, noting it doesn’t align with their supposed commitments to sexual misconduct prevention on campus.

“BU exhibits this performative pattern of activism where they claim to believe survivors,” they said. “They release these statements, they make councils to ‘look into things,’ but when someone comes forward, they treat them as allegations. They just don’t believe people despite having proof.”

Prisha Sujin Kumar, cofounder of the Instagram account Campus Survivors and a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she was part of the team that helped formulate BU’s recent commitments to sexual misconduct prevention announced by University Provost Jean Morrison, but did not see the immediate change she expected.

“A lot of this stuff does not seem like an active commitment,” she said. “It really seems like the University put a statement for the sake of it.”

She said one of the biggest hurdles BU faces is a lack of trust from the student body, adding the administration’s hesitance to release a statement of accountability hinders their relationship with students further.

Ruske’s case, Kumar noted, exemplifies the University’s willingness to protect offenders and not take accountability.

“There is substantial proof that he is a predator and he is harming the community actively,” she said. “[BU] can say so much, but they’re not actually doing anything to stop it.”

The anonymous student said awareness could ultimately bring about change, similar to the student-led push for grade reevaluation over the summer for those who had Benjamin Welton, an alleged white supremacist, as their teaching fellow.

“We just need another thing like that to gain traction,” they said. “Because if we know about it, if kids stop taking his class, that’s going do a whole lot more than a lawsuit apparently.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated Prisha Sujin Kumar is the founder of Campus Survivors. She is a cofounder.

3 Comments

  1. There’s some very important context missing here. On Bumble, the man cannot message first. So, did this person not realise who he was? IF they did, how on Earth could they consider themselves a victim if they chose to make the first move?

    • If the student is non-binary or a man themselves, the man can message first. You’re assuming this is a heterosexual interaction. Also, even if this person knew they matched with a BU professor under the pretense of a DARE, they can still be victimized by the PROFESSOR, who has the POWER in this situation, and decides to engage with the student in the first place. It is perfectly reasonable for a student to assume a professor would not message them on a dating app and flirt, regardless of if they “matched” or if the student sent a message (which may have not been flirtatious at all), because doing so violates the professor’s agreement with the university, NOT the student’s.

      • I did assume that the message was somehow flirtatious. That was a mistake. That said, all previous accusations against Ruske were made by women–but yes, he probably should have unmatched, and certainly shouldn’t have had the age filter set to 19 at most. Even if this isn’t a CFA student, he no longer gets the benefit of the doubt. Which he should not.
        I also assume that the student didn’t realise who he was exactly at first. It’s been five years since the lawsuit, and CFA is tiny.

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