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‘Traumatic,’ ‘volatile’ and ‘torturous:’ BU students voice lasting impacts of working Orientation under Shiney James

Shiney James, Boston University’s Director of Orientation, introduces thousands of students to Comm Ave every summer, but some of her student employees claim she verbally berated and demeaned them while working for her. ILLUSTRATION BY COLBI EDMONDS/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

By Cameron Morsberger and Colbi Edmonds

Numerous Boston University students allege Orientation Director Shiney James created a “toxic” work environment and fostered a culture of fear during their time as Orientation leaders — an experience they say continues to impact them months and years later.

Allegations against James include verbally degrading students, harshly disciplining students who did not meet certain expectations and forcing employees to disclose personal information she would use against them.

Many said she wields such power over the University and the Orientation program that employees feared reporting her behavior.

James, who has run BU Orientation for nearly 15 years, greets thousands of incoming freshmen and their parents every summer, has taught new students in FY101 classes and works closely with many Orientation leaders for several months. 

BU Orientation holds five sessions for incoming freshmen and transfer students each summer, and training for the program begins toward the end of the Spring semester. Orientation student leaders go through an extensive application process, where they interview with James herself. Seventy members worked on the 2021 Orientation team.

Student leaders can work as ambassadors for different on-campus organizations, as program coordinators who plan Orientation activities, as student facilitators — group leaders for incoming freshmen and transfer students — or as program managers who work in the Orientation office. Regardless of their position, all students who spoke to The Daily Free Press had some contact with Shiney James.

James did not respond to requests for comment, including multiple emails and phone calls to her office.

Private Attacks and Public Humiliation

Behind the scenes of Orientation is where students claim James would lose her welcoming, approachable demeanor to “systematically” berate individual students and “rip them apart,” said one former Orientation leader who requested anonymity due to the specific nature of their role.

The person, who has since graduated from BU, said they remember James exerting extreme control over student employees, breaking their spirits and invading their privacy.

“[James] would take a student into the office, tear them down and make them feel grateful that she was telling them how they need to be a better person,” they said. “She would demand personal stories from us and personal pieces of information that, in my opinion, was just not her business … she basically expected that we should all tell her things, and if we don’t, we keep secrets, we’re liars, we’re not team players, we’re bad people.”

Rachel McLean, a 2018 graduate of the College of Communication, worked Orientation in 2016 under James. She said she remembers training exercises that “almost intentionally singled people out.”

One such exercise, she said, had students walk around the room to answer certain questions. For instance, if you were a first-generation college student, you moved to one side of the room, and if you were not, you stayed on the other. However, McLean noted some of the questions James asked were too personal, including one asking students about their sexuality.

Consequently, McLean said the activity forced one student “to out herself to her coworkers.”

“I understand what her intent of it might have been, I think a lot of the exercises that we did were to unify us in some way,” she said. “But sometimes, they were a little bit traumatic.”

Humiliating her employees, publicly and privately, was apparently commonplace and habitual, said other students who worked Orientation with James in-person and remotely.

Summer 2018 College of Engineering student advisor Allison Casey, who graduated in 2020, said her time as an Orientation leader was “extremely emotionally intense.” James would hold catered lunches at the George Sherman Union following every Orientation session and called out students for their mistakes to “publicly shame” them, Casey said.

“It was this really interesting dynamic where she would obliterate us while we were eating,” she said. “She would give this long-winded speech and basically call you out in front of all your peers and decimate you.”

Before her first-hand experience with James, McLean said she had not heard of James’ behavior. A 2017 BU Today profile on James mentions these end-of-Orientation meetings — the article paraphrases a then-student advisor for Orientation, writing “debriefing after Orientation sessions can be difficult.”

McLean said at the end of one week, she sat with other leaders as James yelled at them and made them all apologize to her one-by-one.

“She went off on all of us and listed off all these things that went wrong with Orientation,” McLean said. “After that whole experience, I ended up having to stand in a line behind other people to go up to her and tell her I was sorry individually.”

Berating and degrading female students

Boston University held orientation online summer 2020. ILLUSTRATION BY LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Multiple people claim James would specifically target female students.

A former student, who asked to remain anonymous because of “the severity of [her] experiences,” said during her time working at Orientation, James would seemingly only discipline women. The former student added some male workers, who she said was often not productive, would “never” get in trouble.

As a woman herself, she said she, along with another female employee with whom she worked closely, was “emotionally targeted” by James.

“It definitely became very anxiety-inducing for me, and to the point where I was kind of forced into therapy,” she said. “Being targeted for being a woman by a woman … that was what hurt the most.”

Despite this, the former employee added James would ask about her goals and her mental well-being, possibly to establish a mentor-mentee relationship. But because of how mistreated she felt, the student said those conversations “felt really odd.”

James allegedly invaded other students’ privacy, including one past Orientation leader who has since graduated, but asked to remain anonymous due to the “power” James wields.

There were multiple instances where she alleges James called her into her office, where she would “rip [her] a new one.” One day, James allegedly scolded the student for her inability to make friends at Orientation, which she said is not appropriate for a boss to discuss with an employee.

“She is not my therapist,” the former student said. “For some reason, she had a real vendetta against me and would like to tell me parts of my personality that she thought should be fixed or that I needed to do better, and she would rate me on it.”

Naveen Inim, a COM graduate student, served as a library ambassador for Orientation 2018. Even though Inim did not work directly under James, she said the environment was “scary” when James became angry at students, and she saw the effect it had on her friends who were student leaders.

“I didn’t believe it at first because the way she marketed herself to us at the beginning was this … woman of color who really ascended to this director role at BU in a place that is predominantly dominated by white male figures in higher ed,” she said. “It’s a very inspiring story, and I’d always thought she was really really cool at first, until this volatile, mean-spirited behavior started to happen.”

Another past Orientation student leader, who requested anonymity in fear of retaliation, said they noticed how some of their female coworkers would be called into James’ office, where James would bring them to tears in the name of strengthening their character.

“These girls just [leave] her office crying, feeling unworthy, and only [James] could save them,” they said. “This whole, weird, culty ‘I’m the mother’ kind of dynamic.”

The student claimed during initial introductions at training, one female student supposedly jokingly remarked that she did not know the full name of Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and that her Orientation position meant she wouldn’t have to remember it.

James supposedly became “really mad” at this comment and later confronted the employee in private, the anonymous source said.

“[James] basically verbally berated her … basically just completely tears her apart, her entire person, everything she wants to do,” they said. “She would bring you into her office, and she would berate you for 30 minutes, tearing these kind of impressionable girls apart.”

An additional former staffer confirmed this account. The student allegedly involved in the incident declined to comment.

When one of McLean’s female peers asked James for a letter of recommendation, McLean said James rejected the request, allegedly telling the student they “didn’t smile enough.”

“Who says that?” McLean said. “Who [says] that to a young woman and tells them that they don’t smile enough, as a woman?”

‘Do you see what you did wrong?’

Those working directly with James reported a similar pattern of behavior when it came to email correspondence. After sending an email about Orientation, the students claim James called them into her office and forced them to re-read their message to find errors in their writing. Several students said James would pick out minute mistakes and inappropriately punish and upset them.

While working for James, one anonymous student said their emails often sparked needless discussion and discipline. After sending an email to certain staff members, unaware they had to include the entire senior staff on the email chain, the student said James screamed their name from her office. Walking into the office, the student claimed James turned her computer screen toward them and demanded they re-read the email they sent only moments prior.

James allegedly asked the student what they did wrong.

“I know what I said, I wrote this literally five minutes ago, I don’t know what I’m looking for,” they said. “It was like a guessing game, every single time you just had to guess what [the mistake] was.”

After re-sending the email to other staffers, the former employee claimed James called her back into her office to further correct their apparent mistakes.

After months of working under James, the student said the experience has permanently altered their interactions with colleagues.

“Working in that office has really set back my professionalism,” the student said. “One of my networks the other day literally started off the call by saying, ‘You know, I could tell that you read your email three to four times and fix it every single time before sending it over.’”

McLean said she had “extreme anxiety” for a portion of Orientation when she had an “extremely hurtful” conversation with James about an email. McLean said she emailed James about an incident involving one of her students in her Orientation group, and James called her into her office to speak.

Upon entering, McLean alleges that James showed her a printed copy of the email and asked her what was wrong with it. McLean said James then proceeded to tell her what she had missed, and the situation escalated.

“She told me that I was a coward,” McLean said. “She told me that I gave students a bad experience. She told me that I hadn’t grown. Probably for 10 to 15 minutes said all these things … the way that she spoke to me was really inappropriate.”

James then supposedly left the room and told McLean she could take a moment to collect herself.

“Loyal to her out of fear” — James’ powerful network

BU orientation office
The Boston University Orientation office. Several Boston University students allege Orientation leader Shiney James created a “toxic” work environment and an atmosphere of fear during their time as orientation leaders. AMANDA CUCCINIELLO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Students working at Orientation claim they are subjected to a “toxic” environment that is carefully controlled by James and the power she has over the entire Orientation program. Because of her position and the small administrative team that runs Orientation, former employees say they felt like they had nowhere to turn.

“She created this whole vetting process, cult-like dynamic where she basically makes [program managers] very loyal to her out of fear,” one student said. “Some girls would be extremely loyal, but were the ones that clearly had Stockholm Syndrome.”

Inim said she did not know of anyone reporting James. McLean said she told her College of Communication advisors about her experience.

McLean said students may have been scared to report James due to her “huge network” that was often touted over students, who knew that James could write recommendations for them.

One former student employee said James “fosters such a fear-mongering work environment that no one really says anything to her,” let alone reports the behavior to a higher authority.

Another student who worked at Orientation in 2019 said others may not want to relive or remember aspects of their work experience because of its lingering negative impact.

“​​I think she’s just hurt so many students and mentally abused just hordes of students through fear and intimidation and this manipulation,” the former staffer said. “Some of my memories I just don’t remember from Orientation … and I think that’s pretty consistent with other people I know that are just like, ‘I’ve really tried to not think about it, and now, I just know it was an awful summer.’”

While she didn’t understand how James’ alleged behavior continued, Casey said the Orientation director would reference her network of connections and inadvertently prevent students from coming forward with allegations of mistreatment.

“I think because she carried such weight in the way she spoke of herself in being involved in the University and that everyone knew her,” she said. “It felt like if you were to say something, then it would negatively affect you.”

Despite rumors of James’ behavior among former staff and alleged knowledge of her harsh attitude and practices among other faculty members, it is unclear whether anyone has lodged a formal complaint with Human Resources or other University entities.

BU’s Office of the Ombuds, a resource through which community members can seek confidential guidance and support, declined to comment as a part of standard practice. The Office of Human Resources deferred to BU Spokesperson Colin Riley.

The Daily Free Press initially emailed James directly in June, during Orientation, but Riley wrote in an email that she forwarded the request to him, and he declined to comment on the allegations.

“There are avenues open to students, staff, and faculty who have concerns about their work environment,” he wrote. “BU student employees are essential to the University’s operations in so many ways, and by-and-large the students involved in summer Orientation are among the very best.”

James never responded to multiple follow-up emails and phone calls this Fall.

The allegations against Shiney James, though varying in impact, span several years, including the completely virtual Orientation 2020. Despite this, an anonymous student said “institutional politics” may prevent the University from doing anything.

Without large-scale changes to the structure of Orientation, as well as its management, the student said young staff may continue to mentally suffer. After hearing other people’s experiences with James, the former employee said her behavior can no longer go unchecked.

“[My boss] talked with people, and basically nothing really happened, I think it was hushed up,” the student said. “I want her fired, but also I want better for my university.”

Rachel McLean was a staff photographer at The Daily Free Press. She was not involved in the editing of this article.


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  1. 2019 Student Staff

    As former orientation staff (student advisor, 2019) here are some things i experienced:

    – having my hours edited after I submitted them, so I had anywhere from 3-6 hours per week go unpaid
    – being denied breaks but also being reprimanded for not entering breaks into time sheets
    – being yelled at for appearing to be afraid of shiney, by shiney (which i was)
    – working from 5am to past midnight to get up and do it again, and then being easier to manipulate and abuse because we were all sleep deprived
    – favorite students being rewarded by being assigned to fancy indoor events with food and AC, and least favorite students being stuck with earliest morning duties, standing outside for the majority of the day in the heat just to hold balloons or signs
    and many many more

    • I worked for a separate, higher up office then Orientation for years. Whenever our supervisors asked us to bring papers to Shiney’s office absolutely none of us would volunteer because of the way she treated students. She would call and we would play “nose goes” to answer her phone calls. One time one of the students forwarded her an email through our official account and the computer autocorrected her name but didn’t capitalize the S and she CALLED to yell at the student about his professionalism in typing emails to student staff. None of us ever wanted to be near her. I had a roommate that was a PA that was “closer” to Shiney, but she would still come home every day of Orientation crying because of how Shiney treated her. How Shiney made her feel like she would never be good enough.

    • 2020 Facilitator

      I’m curious if anyone in 2021 had their hours edited. As a 2020 Orientation Student Facilitator, I actually challenged staff on this and reminded them that it goes against federal labor laws to not pay us for breaks less than 30 minutes. They sent me about 30min-1 hour additional pay and called it even and claimed ignorance of the law as an excuse.

      • I worked as an SA during the 2019 summer and this happened every week (we were in-person; we were also told we would be paid full time, 35-40 hours). However, I’m not sure if this was Shiney’s doing or the Orientation Senior Staff who had control over this.

        • 2021 Facilitator

          Hey, 2021 SA here. Can confirm that we did have our hours edited to be less. We would talk with our individual college but they still would decrease them. Also, I understand it was during a pandemic but they lied about how much we would work. They told us it would be 25-30 hrs/week but it would decrease week to week starting at 22 and ending with 16.

    • I was a student advisor during orientation 2015 and I 100% agree with everything in this article. In fact just two weeks ago I had messaged a fellow SA after years of not speaking and we joked about how terrible Shiney was which shows how years later we still remembered that as a common theme from that summer. I vividly remember one time walking into the orientation office and I greeted my fellow SA’s by name and then saw this girl I had never seen before and said “hey I don’t know you. What’s your name?” Apparently that was the most scandalous greeting ever because when I went to go talk to Shiney about something she ripped me a new one after one of her cronies (as the article said, some of Shiney’s loyal supporters had Stockholm syndrome) told her what I had said. She yelled at me and said I hadn’t grown as a person like she thought. I was there to seek summer employment opportunities for the next summer and because of my alleged rude behavior Shiney told me I couldn’t work for the school next summer. I remember crying and feeling so terrible about myself. I remember always feeling under constant stress while working that summer because I never knew when she was going to get mad and blow up. It was extremely toxic and the only good from that summer was that my fellow SA’s had each other’s backs

  2. Student Orientation Ambassador Summer '19

    I did not contribute to this article, but every word in it is true — I know of several students in therapy as a direct result of their orientation employment experiences, and my own time working for orientation and the false image of friendliness it advertised (as contrasted with the emotional brutality behind the scenes) certainly negatively impacted my relationship with BU & made me less proud to be part of the university…after that, my sense of pride/community came from my friends and other students rather than anything associated with the university. Absolutely unacceptable, and the other deans & authority figures who let Shiney’s behavior go unchecked for YEARS need to be held accountable as well.

  3. Really excellent reporting. Well done.

    • 2018 SA, I can also confirm the toxic environment. I remember specifically one of the first intense incidents that occurred was when another SA fell asleep during a shift being situated in the sun near the Stuvi parking lot. Somehow Shiney found out and after publicly reprimanding them, she took further measures to retaliate. During sessions, we’d have to wake up incredibly early and while we’d be staying in West campus it was intense. There would be people assigned the earliest shift to wake out summer staff, and what would often happen is that who ever was publicly reprimanded during the session would be listed for the wake up shifts. It was intentional and one of her petty punishments. Anyways, that SA from Engineering obviously had to then wake up people the following morning. Later on, I was slightly late for some meeting, and I wasn’t the only one. All of our names were added to the morning shift list. That’s how it was working with Shiney, constant fear of being publicly berated and then retaliation with the worst and longest shifts. I remember how sleep deprived I was that summer, and how we were excepted to work non stop with irregular breaks provided, while also not being properly paid for hours worked.

  4. Hi – 2015 BU grad here. I worked for Shiney summer 2014 and personally submitted my complaints to formal avenues like the various Deans of the orientation program. Nothing was done – and it’s very triggering to see how many of her behaviors are persistent and planned and quite frankly – sick. Makes me upset to think my whole group spoke up to have people be victimized years later. To any ladies who want a channel to talk about it – email me. I promise the real world isn’t like this and I’m here for you if you feel the lasting emotional affects of this behavior. <3

    • Also happy to talk if y’all need it. I was a PA the same summer as Or and all of this behavior was reported to the Deans SEVERAL times, including the fact that we were not given the state mandated lunch breaks while working 12 hour+ shifts, and they did nothing. I’m on Twitter @rezid3nte, but you can email me at

      • I worked Summer 2016 orientation and heard countless stories as well as witnessed multiple students crying and self-doubting themselves due to her berating them in private AND public. My most distinct memory is after an orientation session one evening, we weren’t allowed to eat dinner until she finished telling everyone everything they did wrong that day. In addition, her training sessions often made myself and others feel coerced into sharing personal details we wouldn’t have otherwise offered up. I believe this was an effort by her and those who enabled her to make us orientation leaders, often no older than 18-19 years old, feel inferior and at her beck and call.

      • 2014 Orientation Leader

        As title says 2014 O-tation . Everything from her demeanor to the games she’d play are all true. To her fairness she was tough in a world that’s much more tough and brutal. She did help foster some key engagement skills that I was lacking. But as one of 3 freshman working for orientation it was definitely shocking and eye opening working for Shiny. One instance made every coworker break down and was reprimanded for not “showing enough passion.” I think this article really sheds light and even paints a better picture than the one I experienced.

        • The last thing a “tough and brutal” world needs is more brutality. There’s a difference between constructive criticism and emotionally abusing very young adults that don’t know what a hostile work environment is yet. As a different one of those freshman in 2014 I have to say the opposite about fostering engagement skills. I was not keen on opening up to people going into the summer, and the repeated attempts at forcing deep, personal conversations that I didn’t want to have did nothing but push me further into my shell. In reality it was none of her or anyone’s business to know such personal things about the rest of the staff unless they felt safe and secure enough to tell people. As a loud and outspoken person that did great with the students, that should’ve been enough. I went on to do a ton at BU engaging with current and incoming students, and I didn’t need to be able to talk about my family problems or my deepest darkest secrets to do it.

  5. This is phenomenal reporting from the Freep. I worked under James in the summer of 2013 and have specific memories of every single action outlined above. The orientation schedule is beyond grueling, forcing Student Advisors to work for nearly three days straight with minimal sleep. During one particularly challenging session, myself and two other staff forgot to retrieve a sign from behind StuVi2 that frankly none of us knew was there. She started off our debrief meeting (over a wonderful, catered lunch as described above) by slamming the propped up sign below, and blaming us for taking her away from her ill parents to retrieve the sign herself, instead of wondering if maybe the 18-21 year old staff members were exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Summer 2013 was one of the most difficult of my life, largely due to the toxic culture built by James. I hope that BU does the right thing by conducting an investigation and replacing her with one of the myriad of talented and compassionate staff at BU.

  6. Shiney James is the most emotionally abusive boss i’ve ever had in my life! I worked orientation summer 2016 and am still not over how needlessly cruel she was. She broke me down to a vulnerable state and then used my vulnerabilities against me- would grant me a day off to deal with health concerns and then turn around and say that I owed her for that. One day we forgot to say goodbye to her when we left at the end of our shifts and she was so outraged she called us into her office the next day one by one to essentially try to make us cry. She is a deeply bad person!!!!!!!!

  7. As someone who worked for BU orientation over a decade ago, I’m more surprised it took this long for an article like this to come out. Proud of the brave students that stepped forward to seek change and accountability for the office of orientation.

  8. I’ve heard so many similar stories from peers that worked for Orientation. This is a very important article. Thank you!!

  9. Thank you for shedding light on this – although Shiney was not my direct boss while I worked at Orientation, I witnessed friends and co-workers constantly panicking over the mind games and emotional manipulation. Employees were pressured to share their traumas with the group, and looked down upon if they declined. I have an immense amount respect for all of the students/alumni who shared their stories in this article.

  10. Summer 2018 Orientation Staff Member

    I still remember when Shiney yelled at our group of workers for allowing dean elmore to go back to her office without stopping him first and then checking in with her. Said it was “embarassing” for her, unprofessional, and that “none of us even care” about our jobs. “This is why Trump was elected” she said, “nobody cares about anything anymore.”
    The moment is only topped for me by when we sat by race/ethnicity and had to create a list of things we were proud of our group having invented. Shiney was very upset at one of the two “white” groups for failing to come up with any inventions they felt should be solely attributed to white people. The whole exercise definitely brought up some individual good conversations (which I attribute to all the wonderful students on staff), but it was a really uncomfortable group discussion and Shiney seemed not to care about her employee’s objections to the exercise and she seemed to be oblivious to the fact “white culture” isn’t real. Having international students and white people from across the US try to form a united list of inventions to be “proud of” to then share with students of other ethnicities at A SUMMER JOB is an experience I will never forget and I’m not sure why anyone ever thought it was appropriate.

  11. I worked as a Program Advisor during the Summer of 2014. I echo all of these sentiments.

  12. She needs to be held accountable for her trauma. BU needs to do the right thing here. Great reporting, but this was a horrendous read.

    • Stephanie Castillo

      I had this article sent to me by a close friend because they were aware of the harassment I experienced as an employee of Orientation. I was a Student Advisor for the College of Fine arts in the Summer of 2017 and I can confirm that all of the allegations outlined above are true. My own experience included:

      – Before I even started the position, we had a training we had to participate in. I knew I would not be able to participate in this training due to a previous doctors appointment I had made. I sent a very professional email stating the conflict and asked if the training could be made up, my email was met with utter disdain by Shiney James herself. If the writer of this article would like screenshots, I have them. She replied with everything that was wrong with my email and made me feel stupid for even asking to make up the training because I clearly didn’t “read all of the information” before applying for the position. She then asked to have a one-on-one meeting with her. When I met with her in her office, she told me I had made a terrible first impression. She told me I was uninformed about the position I had accepted and then pulled out phone records of every call I had made to the orientation office asking questions/clarification on aspects of the position. As a student of the School of Theatre, she made me feel as though I had no idea how to conduct myself professionally.

      – After the Summer began, my peers and I would regularly exchange horror stories about our one-on-one experiences with Shiney James. Apparently I was not the only one who was pulled aside before the summer even started.

      – Orientation Sessions outside of Shiney’s glare were always fun. I had a great time connecting with students and meeting new people, but as soon as the sessions would end the debriefs with Shiney would immediately put out that light. Over meals, she would berate us about everything that was done wrong despite everyone feeling positive about the session. She would call out specific students to tell them what they “messed up” on in front of everyone.

      Everyone I knew wanted to submit formal complaints but we knew she had the administration wrapped around her fingers and it wouldn’t amount to anything. This is brilliant reporting, and I truly hope she is removed. Shiney James is a poor reflection of Boston University’s values.

      • This story hurts my heart to read as it brings up so many traumatic events during my time as an Orientation leader in 2011/2012. In all of the hurt, i feel a sense of joy that the story is finally being told! I thank goodness that a monster is being revealed, however, I know she is one of so many at Boston University !!

        Flashes of the ridiculous hoops she made you jump through to get the position as a student advisor/orientation leader, to the inappropriate conversations she would force you to have with her to make her feel wanted, or the constant belittling and verbal abuse she made you endure during her “check ins” – they all shine so clear and cause a wave of rage all over again. It’s sad though, as it wasn’t only her. She had a team of people who didn’t put us students (current and incoming) at the forefront and because of that, she was able to continue doing this for 15+ years.

        Shiney Charomahatil (spelling?) James, you should be ashamed.

        Many of her team were too concerned about sex, drugs , and alcohol to even notice what we were enduring.

        Where were the Deans during all of this?! Im sure I let many of you know!

        Dean Elmore, we needed you.

      • hi steph!! long time no see. lol I was steph’s year as an SA for College of Arts of Science. Basically same thing happened to me. i had something scheduled during the summer but didn’t bring it up during the interview because………………….it is extremely weird to be like “hi for a job that is nearly constant for 3 months, and I have no idea if I will be offered said job, I might need one day off. also, this is as time i responded to a stressful time at work” like what? after getting the job offer, I asked her about it BEFORE ACCEPTING THE JOB, acknowledging that I understand if missing meant i couldnt work for the program…she calls me in, called me a liar, said i didn’t believe in personal relationships or respect. attacked my email etiquette. also found a way to …say my good grades meant I didn’t care about people enough? just super weird stuff lol. but then said she knew I had potential <3333333 and used the fact that i cried to comment on my mental health and act like she cared about it. such a strange lady and job

      • 2020 Virtual Orientation Staff Member

        All students who have reported and experienced these terrible experiences MUST be compensated by BU! James’ behavior during the virtual 2020 orientation was out of line, and we all assumed that it was because of the stress of adapting to covid and creating virtual orientation in just months. However, these past experiences by fellow facilitators has proven that we were wrong. I and so many of my fellow student staff members worked in this toxic environment she created for months and were too afraid to say anything.

      • 2020 Virtual Orientation Facilitator

        All students who have reported and experienced these terrible experiences MUST be compensated by BU! James’ behavior during the virtual 2020 orientation was out of line, and we all assumed that it was because of the stress of adapting to covid and creating virtual orientation in just months. However, these past experiences by fellow facilitators has proven that we were wrong. I and so many of my fellow student staff members worked in this toxic environment she created for months and were too afraid to say anything.

  13. Ah, yes. The woman who used to pass out plastic googly eyes as metaphors to remind us that she had eyes all over campus, the train, and Boston as whole, so if we ever spoke ill of her it would get back to her and she would fire/punish us.

    I think that’s a fair example of psychological abuse? Or the time she was mad at an employee and forced him to walk across campus during a storm without an umbrella.

    Or how she would take advantage of the fact that our job gave us free housing, so when she’d threaten to fire us she was really threatening to take away our homes. Which she literally said. Out loud.

    Once, she took away our lunch breaks and forced us to work though them. When someone complained to the school, she gave them back. But then to retaliate forced students to come in at 4:30 AM to start work to account for “the lunches”.

    And of course, the students forced to go in early were the ones who she decided she liked the least that week.

    BU is well aware of this woman. Around ten of us reported her to the university in 2014, so there is a paper trail.

  14. Shiney read about the Stanford Prison Experiment and thought, “What a great way to run Orientation!”

  15. As a former 2013 BU Orientation leader, I can confirm all of these types of allegations are true. Truly sickening that power reigns supreme over morality, and the same exact tactics remain after all these years, but that’s BU.

  16. I worked orientation many years ago and can confirm how true this all is. Back then we were paid on a stipend per week and absolutely not given the hourly minimum wage, on top of not being allowed to take breaks or lunch but being forced to record them as if we did. Everyone was tense going into the end of session lunches because we knew something would have happened that we’d get absolutely berated for, whether it be a misplaced sign or being caught leaning on something. I think about it now and wonder why we didn’t speak up, but here I still am, posting anonymously, because I work at BU and am fearful of retaliation from her and her many connections.

  17. Student Advisor 2015

    I was a 2015 orientation advisor and an active member of the BU community. As a woman, Shiney would repeatedly call me out for “being too loud, being too opinionated, talking too much,” whenever I pushed back on unfair treatment or questionable behavior.

    The memory I have repressed for years that truly stuck with me was when halfway through the summer were notified that an incoming student had abruptly lost her mother right before she was to start college. As someone whose own mother died right before their senior year of high school, I was devastated for this student and asked Shiney if I could reach out to this student. Navigating your freshman year and dealing with tremendous grief is difficult and I had hoped to provide this student with support.

    Shiney told me that since this student was not in my orientation group that “it was none of my business” and that I should stick to my own students. I was shocked by her response and pushed back on her answer. She then proceeded to yell at me for being emotional and unprofessional and left me in tears while my other SA’s consoled me. I was then told that I owed her an apology where I had to visit her office and apologize for my “irrational outburst.”

    I will always remember my otation summer fondly and have made lifelong friends from it. However, I hope the university will hold Shiney accountable for her behavior and do better by its students; past, current, and future.

    • Fellow Summer 15 SA

      Remember that day vividly and just couldn’t believe this was even happening. Thanks for sharing and hope you’re doing well gal!

  18. Where is the Office of Student Employment to make sure these types of alleged actions do not manifest in any on campus position?

    • I worked orientation and this was exactly my experience. Shiney made students feel inadequate and uncomfortable any opportunity she could get. I recall asking her to be a reference my senior year to make sure I had someone to speak to my professionalism from every job I’d held in school. She refused, not because she hadn’t felt I’d excelled at the job, but because she felt I hadn’t maintained enough of a relationship with her to warrant a reference. If that’s what she felt was necessary to provide a *professional* reference then so be it, but she then proceeded to diagnose me with depression because of my quiet nature. Completely inappropriate and unprofessional. She has no place working with students who are under enough stress and pressure as it is. Thank you for writing this, I hope it brings some much needed change.

  19. Summer 2017 Orientation Staff

    Finally! I am so grateful that people are finally speaking out about this. The summer I worked for orientation was, without a doubt, the worst summer of my entire life. Many of the events mentioned in this article also occurred during my time working there. In particular, I am struck by the fact that she would often manipulate her employees, including myself, into believing they were in a mentor/mentee relationship. Under the guise of being our “mentor” she would verbally berate and abuse us to make us “better people.” In one particular instance, she implied that people would think I’m stupid because I’m blond (it’s so cliched, it’s almost funny). The abuse was so bad that my hair started to fall out. While this article is truly great, I am also concerned about the people who enabled this behavior. It is clear there is a pattern of abuse and that it was well-known amongst DOS. There needs to be repercussions for Shiney and all those that enabled her.

    • I was 2017 summer staff too, and I remember that incident. I’m so sorry. I wish BU administration would actually do something about this but we all know they’re all bark no bite. I was lucky enough to slide under the radar and didn’t get too much of the abuse but some of the things she did were just disgusting. In any other professional capacity so many things she did would be completely inappropriate and would get her disciplined. She gets away with so much because her employees are usually only 18-20 years old and depend on the job for housing, and because most of the abuse isn’t in writing. I’m glad the students in the article chose to speak up and I hope this article will make the admin take this seriously.

  20. Thank you for writing this piece. I worked for Shiney James in 2011, right after my freshman year. During this time I was bullied and belittled by Shiney and made to feel small and inferior. She told me that I “needed therapy” after I told her about one of her favorite staff who made me uncomfortable. I never understood why the university celebrates her the way they do. She needs to be fired immediately. No other students should experience her treatment.

  21. Can we talk about how none of her staff ever stood up for the student employees when she would belittle and remand us?

    • Honestly. I went back and re-read the piece BU Today published about Shiney in 2017 and the article and comments are filled with her staff and colleagues praising her for being tough and a good mentor. That piece feels like propaganda, not journalism.

      • I commented on that piece back in 2017. I used my burner email and an anonymous name. I wrote about the bullshit she put us through. Then, my comment was taken down. Hmm.

  22. Previous Student Advisor

    i had an experience during my time as a student advisor during my summer, where shiney brought me into her office under the guise of speaking to me about a student who needed additional accessibility acommodations, and then proceeded to, in front of a recent graduate student manager called a coordinator of programs, or COP for short (!!!), and berate me for being “selfish” by bringing up trivial, small examples of me advocating for my boundaries / juggling various responsibilities outside of my summer position and how i only think about myself and my needs and how i will never be an effective leader. she brought up other “student advisors” who relayed these concerns to her, which in hindsight, i find to be very unlikely. i am so sad and angry to read the true scope of her behavior. i am praying that the university will take action with more stories being told.

  23. Saira Malhotra, LCSW

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing and exposing this. I had an extremely negative experience with Shiney, which was alarming because we are both women of color and I had identified her initially as a safe person. It took so much work I can imagine to write this. Be proud of yourselves and take care of yourselves.

  24. I worked with the team for all four years of college. I wish I could say that these allegations were false. I wish I could also say that in my leadership role I could have protected the team. I am so hurt that so many individuals went through the same experience as I, but I am optimistic that moving forward this won’t continue. It’s not fair to be accused of not being prescribed enough meds for “giving attitude”, it’s not fair to have your housing held over your head, and it’s not fair to work 90+ hours in four days without recognition. It was exhausting. I think her heart is in the right place, but it was just so so so difficult.

  25. I haven’t kept up with the FreeP in some time but this article popped up organically on my socials. Big congrats to the staff for covering a topic that clearly resonates with a decade of BU alumni! This is well written and reported and an important issue. Love to see it!

  26. 2019 Orientation Leader

    A a former orientation leader I echo all of these statements. I am thankful that I was never yelled at or disciplined in the way some of my peers were, but regardless of direct interaction, Shiney was feared by most if not all of the Orientation staff.

    I mainly want to echo the notion of forged time sheets and being overworked. Not only is it greuling where you have to deal with little to no sleep, on top of being constantly watched and reprimanded by Shiney, but she and the orientation staff made us forge time sheets to be “legal”. As an impressionable 20 year old, I didn’t think twice but hindsight 20-20. We were consistently forced to complete 9+ hour shifts, with no breaks. Shiney and the rest of the orientation staff told us to put in our time sheet by sectioning breaks every 6 hours regardless of if you actually got one.

    Thankful Shiney did not ruin my summer and I had an awesome group of co-workers that that redeemed the experience. I’m sure most of us heard the rumors about Shiney before signing up for Orientation but the comments here just highlight the complicity of BU. Complaints have been filed against her for nearly a decade and there was no change. Very upsetting to hear and hopefully something is done this time.

  27. I worked Orientation Summer 2015 and can verify I witnessed very similar behaviors as well. Instead of celebrating that students can be different types of leaders and working with the strengths of our many different personalities, student workers were corralled to be molded into only the type of leader Shiney wanted us to be through these very concerning scare tactics. The only way most of us Student Advisors & Program Advisors made it through the summer was through bonding with and supporting each other.

    Also once our employment by Orientation was over at the end of the summer, students were shamed by Shiney if they did not come “visit the office” enough during the semester, in an attempt to keep the hold she had over us.

    Once I started my first full time job after graduating from BU was when I truly realized how toxic, negative and brainwashing my student employment experience was with Orientation. I am not shocked this behavior has been occurring for so long based on the influence Shiney holds, but I am disappointed in BU administration for not respecting their student population enough to recognize and attempting to make a change. Future student leaders should not continue to have this experience.

  28. I regret not standing up for myself. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to cry and quit the job because that gave her too much power.

    There was this time where I directed a phone call to a different department because it had nothing to do with orientation. She made fun of my major and said that “see that why people like you don’t know how to handle these situations”…something like that. Another time, I didn’t write an email how SHE wanted it, and she made me rewrite the email and apologize. I tried to shove all these bad memories at the back of my mind so I don’t remember her exact words but I will never forget the time when she yelled at me in front of full time employee. She told me that I don’t pay attention to details and I wasn’t listening. And then she was like “look at you right now, you’re not even listening, you’re half listening to me. You’re not getting anywhere with that.” I was too shook to cry I just stayed silent so she kept on going.

    I don’t want to ruin anyone one’s career but some action needs to be placed to make sure she’s held accountable for bullying students.

    • Fellow Orientation Leader

      I just wanted to respond and say that it’s important not be critical of your actions in these moment where you were demoralized and belittled. What are you supposed to do when your boss is saying things like that to you? Nothing about the way she treated you or anybody else on this thread is okay and it’s clear that she has caused so many people a lot of pain. Thank you for your bravery and for sharing your story- it means a lot.

  29. I informally complained to the chief of staff of the dean’s office about Shiney during summer 2018 and I was completely brushed aside. Her reputation at BU as someone with connections everywhere, and her reputation as someone who is hard on her employees (but ultimitely wants the best for them) really allowed serious concerns brought up to be dismissed as “just how Shiney is”. BU has a really bad reputation amongst me and all my alumni friends as someplace that protects dangerous and incompetent faculty at the cost of students. Hope BU will actually do better in this one case now that it’s public.

  30. A day that stands out from my time working for Shiney was when she screamed at us for a good ten minutes (I don’t remember the reason). She told us, all 18-21 year olds, that we “disgusted” her, and called out individuals for mistakes made over the summer. She didn’t talk to us for the rest of the day following the incident, but bought us a bag of cookies while on her lunch break.

    We also were told what hours to put on our timesheets. It was well known Shiney had gotten in trouble for not giving breaks in the past, so it was really important that our timesheets showed us having breaks so it wouldn’t happen again (we never actually got the breaks).

    I have so many more stories to tell, and so does everyone I know who worked for her. BU is aware of her behaviour and does nothing.

  31. 2010 Orientation Staffer

    I had the strange experience going from being one of Shiney’s **favorites** to barely even meriting a “hello” from her by the end of my summer working for Orientation. After my initial interviews/training and when I’d come by the office to submit paperwork leading up to the summer, she’d often have me sit in her office and ask me about different aspects of my life, family, and work experience–I actually thought it was really nice and I opened up about being a first generation college student who grew up in a religious environment before coming to BU (this was also my first professional job; I really had no idea what a professional experience was even supposed to be like). But as the summer went on, I made a handful of silly communication errors with the “professional” staff–my job required me to be on the move and not at a desk and, due to the fact that I was struggling financially, I had to work other jobs on the days while not at Orientation so I missed some emails in the days before real smartphones–and she did not approve of the friends I’d grown close with on staff. At one point, she pulled me and other peers into a room and screamed at us about not being professional enough/poorly representing BU right before a session–three days of GRUELING work and insane hours–was about to start. I lost so much respect for her during that time and am lucky to say I had so many other work experiences at BU that renewed my faith in their staff. This has been going on for over a DECADE. She needs to be held accountable.

    • Sarah (Doyle) Melendez - SA 2010

      Fellow 2010 staff here. Just wanted to extend my love and solidarity to whoever you are. I had an awful experience with Shiney, one that took me years to heal from. I am so glad to see people speaking out. I never thought I would see the day. All the best.

  32. Former program advisor

    Summer (won’t say the year) PA here….I’ll echo all that was said and know that several folks from my cohort have had to seek therapy because of Shiney. I think I only made it through because I had an even more toxic boss in my previous summer job. Even now, writing these comments, I’m worried that Shiney will look through them and be able to tell it was me, so I’m not going to share much here (and I was a PA over 10 years ago). I will say, though, that there was an incident where one of her Coordinator of Programs (COPs…hope she doesn’t use that acronym anymore) called one of my fellow PAs the c word. Don’t think he was EVER disciplined for that and it still makes me angry.

  33. Just another Student Advisor

    I worked for Shiney James the summer of 2018, right after my freshman year. Many students interviewed for this story were a part of my year’s staff. Nothing said in this article was false–in fact, reading the article brought me right back to the chilling memories from that summer. Our shared experiences of trauma were the reason why orientation staff became so close. The meals were a hit or miss, I remember us filing in, placing all our things on the perimeter of the room and grabbing food, walking on eggshells because it would either be a really good debriefing where Shiney would bring out cake for someone’s birthday and tell us we did good, or the complete opposite where we were told that we lost our humanity and the silence in the room was so deafening you didn’t even dare take a bite of your food. She gave 5:00am wakeup duty to people who didn’t do their timesheets right the week before–the punishments were comparable to that of a military camp. She had no shame in making people cry and the fact that ordinary people with no mutual friends or connections are instantly bonded when finding out that they both did orientation…. that’s saying something.

  34. Really sucks that everyone had these horrible experiences. I don’t write this to negate your trauma or diminish it any way. I genuinely believe I became a harder worker because of my experience that summer working orientation. She picked a group of really amazing people who, eight years later, still make up some of my best friends. She held us to high standards, sure, but keep in mind – she was responsible for thousands of people every weekend. To be always cheerful with 20 year-olds who just want to party all day and night without real responsibilities sounds like an impossible job and I’m sure she did her best. I Perhaps I went into an industry known for emotional abuse that gives me a different perspective on the situation, but I will say that summer was one of the best of my life.

    I will, however, say that I vehemently disagree with the praise for the reporting. This is a complainer piece. There’s one perspective. Thousands of students over decades have worked for Shiney – many of which would disagree with these sentiments. If you were working on this since last summer when you contacted her, you could’ve definitely found someone to defend her and their experience. This is bad journalism, plain and simple.

    • Found Shiney’s burner

    • This is not bad journalism. There are not always “two-sides” to the story. There is nothing other people could say to negate the abusive experiences that these people have had. While some people may have had better experiences with Shiney, that does not mean that other peoples’ experiences are less true or less valid. Now if some people wanted to claim that the reported experiences didn’t happen and it wasn’t included in this article, that would be different. Your comment very much reads like people who defend abusers because, “well, they never did anything bad to me.”

    • *Shiney James enters the chat

    • Program Advisor Alumni

      I just found it interesting that you said you didn’t want to “negate anyone’s experience.” But yet you also characterize BU 20 year olds as “wanting to party day and night,” when I can’t imagine a more invalidating (are you saying the people Shiney yelled at were just party people? That these young professionals were just completely unmanageable?) and completely false generalization. Even IF that claim is 100% true, I find it an insane thing to say in response to an article that describes deep levels of emotional abuse the worst employee in the world wouldn’t deserve. She told low income students they couldn’t work other jobs in their free time, she refused to write a letter of rec for “not smiling”, someone said they had their first ever panic attack on her office while Shiney sat and watched, she broke worker compensation laws…. and much much more.
      I am happy you had a positive experience, but please don’t come on here and say someone needs to play devil’s advocate when an overwhelming number of students are sharing personal stories. Shiney could have given other students millions of dollars and been the kindest person ever (and she was very kind to her favorites), but if these terrible things still happened then her selective kindness is besides the point.

    • “I don’t write this to negate your trauma or diminish it any way”

      *proceeds to try and negate and diminish*

    • “I don’t want to diminish other people’s trauma”….. goes on to diminish people’s trauma. If you witnessed Shiney’s tactics, and these are your takeaways I can’t help but conclude that you are replicating this behavior in your current profession.

    • A current BU employee

      You clearly didn’t read the article, and are being completely insensitive to the people she has negatively affected. Shame on you for not understanding the principle of this article: providing fearful students a platforms to voice their own indiscretions against someone who continuously does not display professionalism (which is clear by the overwhelming amounts of comments left underneath this article), nor provide a safe working environment. Furthermore, if you had actually taken the time to read this piece, you’ll note the instances in which they reached out to collect Shiney statements and perspective on the matter, and by the multiple missed emails, calls, and additional referral to another office, I think it is safe to say she does not want to “defend” herself, to use your own rhetoric.

    • “Staff experienced abuse”

      “Really sucks”

      – a thoughtful response from a nitwit

    • Former Student Advisor

      I have to agree that this is a one-sided piece. It’s important to validate impact and feelings – this though is borderline slanderous.

      I would specifically note that many of these examples seem to be without context or associated facts. For example, the vignette about “the activity” sounds to me like the “Identity Wheel” team builder that has been used by many across BU, including the Howard Thurman Center, to promote shared understanding that identity is multi-faceted. What the example shared does not explain is that when the activity is facilitated, no one is forced to share or move to places that call out specific personal details – in fact, the prompts are open-ended such as “which part of your identity do you think of most often” – participants then can select a different part of the room to move to which represents the “facet” of their identity they think of (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, etc.). Participants are usually asked to share if they feel comfortable.

      This is just one example that I feel is poorly explained or reported on to advance the idea that Shiney James is horrible. I personally disagree with the framing of this piece, and am frankly upset by the quality of “journalism” that is displayed here.

      • Why is it that all of the messages here from various ‘past employees’ supporting Shiney read the exact same and use many dashes? Seems fishy to me.

      • Former Staff Member

        Ugh. I don’t understand the comments saying this piece is “one-sided.” What’s the other side of this? “Shiney treated me well so therefore none of this other stuff matters”??? I’m very confused by this idea that journalism is about “both sides” with the other side just being the opposite of what one side is claiming regardless of what’s true or not. Also, they did try to get the other side by going directly to Shiney to present her side. She chose not to and that’s on her.

        Also, let’s all acknowledge that two things can be true at once. Shiney can be a good mentor to some (apparently), while also being manipulative and abusive to others. Those two things don’t cancel each other out, but she needs to be held accountable for the harm she’s done.

        • Before this story, everything else online was exclusively pro-Shiney. Even Orientation itself is Shiney James propaganda (in my year, she was always introduced to incoming freshmen as “the magical Shiney James”). You can say there are two sides, but this is really the first time this side has been public. Go to BU Today and you’ll see plenty of stories from people who have been positively impacted by Shiney. Good for them. Those stories never showed “the other side,” which was the daily abuse and degradation I and so many others experienced. Hats off to the Freep for finally letting us be heard.

      • Okay Shiney lol

      • Sounds like Shiney finally decided to comment on the article.

      • Identity Exercise Trauma

        This is clearly someone who currently works at the HTC or Orientation office. How else do you remember the details of the Identity Wheel so clearly that you can quote it? I was a former staff member who was very negatively impacted by that exercise. Are team building exercises and reflecting on our identities important? Yes, with appropriate support. We were put on the spot to publicly acknowledge very personal details about ourselves. I remember that day so clearly (but not the specific quotes from the activity like this person who clearly is employed by the University/brainwashed by Shiney’s behavior does).

  35. Shiney needs to be held accountable for the trauma she caused. I will never forget leaving her office in tears after she called me a disgrace to women in an attempt to try and “make me stronger”. She is far from a leader and the power she threatens over students makes it hard to speak the truth about her. I am so thankful for the Freep for producing this article and giving a voice to those who suffered from working with her.

  36. Sam, 2013 Student Advisor

    As a Student Advisor in Summer 2013, I have to say this article caught me off guard. I don’t want to diminish others’ trauma; it’s terrible that students felt demeaned and abused at one of their first jobs. I mean that. But I seriously disagree with the vehemently biased picture painted by this article. It’s not quite fair. And it needs to be rectified.

    Shiney was tough—that’s known. Shiney made us uncomfortable—also known. Shiney made us question ourselves, sometimes to a frustrating fault—even more well-known. But there are people who feel (myself included) that Shiney made us better people, fostered connection between us and our coworkers, and set us up to succeed in the future. Orientation was one of the most memorable summers of my life, even if it was rough around the edges and exhausting. At its worst, Orientation was emotionally decimating, but at its best, it gave a nearly indestructible toolkit to deal with complicated person-to-person problems, and to be prepared to handle them at a moment’s notice. I thank Shiney for helping me gain those skills.

    I’m disappointed the reporters didn’t take the time to seek out the many who treasured their summer working for Shiney, those of us who were thankful for the bittersweet lessons, those of us who made some of our lifelong friends in part because of Shiney James and her tactics.

    Again, trauma is not something to be undervalued, and I am sorry for the students who have suffered. Really. But that’s not the only side of the story.

    • Positive experiences of one side do not negate the harm she caused countless others.

      • You’re right—I agree with you. The harm is crucial to report on. But it isn’t the entire picture. That’s all. Reporting matters, this story included. This one holds a lot of weight and significance, so it’s important to judge with as much information as possible. That’s all. Again, I don’t want to undermine anyone else’s experience. What they feel and experienced matters.

    • Freep reached out to people who bravely brought their grievances to light when the systems in place as well as the leadership at the university failed these students. Clearly from the comments, there’s a lot more of them that also didn’t get contacted so if you and the people who feel Shiney made you better people want to speak up, you found your platform. A supervisor who makes you “uncomfortable”, makes you “question yourself”, and makes for an “emotionally decimating” environment is not fit for leadership; especially an environment where young adults who may not understand what a professional working environment should and shouldn’t be, and that ain’t it.

      • Sorry other people who already had parents to raise them didn’t find comfort in her support through “emotionally decimating,” punishing, teaching moments

    • I would agree that /Orientation/ made me a stronger professional and harder worker, but it’s very possible that’s because you had to be perfect at every moment to survive to the next week. What brought me and my fellow PAs together were the long nights after the long nights talking about facing the next day, not any of the group meetings or lessons and reflections on what it means to be a good person or anything else revolving around Shiney’s interactions with us. Working Orientation is hard enough—week-to-week turnarounds; thousands of students, parents, meals, and moving parts; millions of dollars in spend—there doesn’t need to be ANY level of emotional, psychological, or (as witnessed by folks in these comments) physical abuse in order to get it done. Relying on that is indefensible.

    • Hey, I think you might have been my student advisor (COM?), and I think you did a great job! When I mentioned you as my inspiration for wanting to become an SA myself, Shiney scoffed. She did do some good things, but that does not excuse all of the experiences folks are sharing

    • “I’m disappointed the reporters didn’t take the time to seek out the many who treasured their summer working for Shiney, those of us who were thankful for the bittersweet lessons, those of us who made some of our lifelong friends in part because of Shiney James and her tactics.”

      reads as

      “I’m disappointed that reporters didn’t take the time to ask Jeffery Epstein’s close friends and family instead of just his victims :/ ” uwu!!

      • Exactly. She may have been emotionally abusive and a manipulator, but she was always very nice to me.

    • Hey Sam! If you don’t want to diminish other people’s traumas then you should not comment on their traumas. Can you explain how this article is biased if Shiney knew it was coming for months and the FreeP wasn’t able to find you to offer your words of support? If you have a list of people you’d like to offer to vouch your love and support for this woman, I’m sure the FreeP would would investigate your claims. That said, I’d warn you against the practice of centering yourself in the experiences of survivors to reduce their trauma to something trivial. I’d encourage you to look into your own biases, because they clearly run deep.

      • Look—Mike, I’m not reducing their trauma. The story was surprising. So I commented since journalism is a forum for discussion. That’s a good thing.

        My experience doesn’t, shouldn’t, and won’t ever invalidate the irreparable experiences these students have suffered through—or prove that Shiney’s treatment was justified. It very clearly wasn’t. And I’m not trying to prove that it was. I don’t want to prove that it was. But I do want this complex story to be more fleshed out—it affects a lot of people.

        Like I said in my reply, student well being is an important thing to cover. People’s feelings matter. Hell, what we feel is who we ARE.

        The FreeP has courage to report this story. Maybe I let my own experience cloud what I was reading, and reacted. My own positive experience doesn’t in any way negate the trauma reported here. But it’s still a piece of the story. It’s not the center; I guess it’s not even consequential. Still, that doesn’t mean it should be completely muted, or leveraged as an accusation that I don’t care about what these people went through. There is nothing in my comment disparaging anyone in the story.

        Anyway—this is a rabbit hole. Good on the FreeP for the exposé. It’s not easy to monitor authority. It’s a central tenet of journalism.

        • “ My experience doesn’t, shouldn’t, and won’t ever invalidate the irreparable experiences these students have suffered through—or prove that Shiney’s treatment was justified. It very clearly wasn’t. And I’m not trying to prove that it was. I don’t want to prove that it was. But I do want this complex story to be more fleshed out—it affects a lot of people.”

          I think this says it all. The magnitude of harm—expressed in the article and the comments—outweighs your positive experience. No one has muted you or the other person expressing support, so definitely, feel free to advocate for her as the community grapples with where to go from here.

          • I agree with you. It does outweigh my experience. Why would I want to advocate for trauma? Anyway—you’ve shown me I was wrong to share; it was inappropriate considering the article’s content. That’s really all there is left to say. I take accountability if my comments made anyone feel diminished. Wasn’t my intention, but doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. All we can do is keep learning.

    • Hi! I don’t want to diminish any good experiences you had, as I’m very glad that’s what you were able to gain. I’ve never worked/attended this school, but I’ve worked in higher ed and student affairs for 15+ years. Orientation (or any student job, honestly) should not ever be emotionally decimating, and if it is, it needs to be redesigned. Student experiences should be developmental, supportive, and positive. It sounds like this Ms. James does not comprehend or adhere to that philosophy.
      Someone tearing students down or making them feel afraid or weak is doing it wrong.

  37. I worked as one of Shiney’s coordinators of programs in 2011. I was one of 3 COPs that summer. Working under shiney was a bizarre experience to say the least. I desperately wanted the position because it was hourly and we were basically forced to work 20 hour shifts for the 7 or 8 orientation weekends back then. You got free housing and time and half pay once you hit 40 hours and as a poor college student drowning in debt seemed like an absolute dream. Shiney uses that position of power to mentally manipulate the 80 students that work with her over the summer. She uses the personal information that she uncovers during a very personal interview process against people. She doesn’t say much in a multiple round interview process instead opting to take diligent notes on everything you say to use it against you once you accept the position. She keeps journaling all summer as she meets with you regularly and brings up personal information you divulged earlier. She keeps the notes on past students locked in her office. There a lot more but honestly the toxic culture didn’t start or end with Shiney James. Dan Soloworth (spelling?) Dean Elmore’s right hand man back in the day used to have inappropriate relationships with incoming students. Zach Hobbs the head of the CSC at the time did the same (one of shineys closest former employees). It’s all a sick pool of people who prey on young kids. Keep digging for stories there’s much more about others. Glad their time is finally coming.

    • This is the first time I’ve ever seen Zach’s name mentioned in this light and I so appreciate it because it’s how a lot of my friends and I felt working for him. The CSC could be its own piece, too. These jobs exploit 18-22 y/os and honestly puts them against each other. It’s so sad. Has stayed with me for years. I’m never giving BU another penny. Thank you again for mentioning Zach.

    • Dan Solworth told a student who reported sexual harassment that “people are just like that” where the student was from. When the issue was raised to other professional staff and addressed he pretended not to know about it, and continued to minimize the experience by allowing posters featuring the student to stay up around campus even after he had been found guilty by title 9. The Dean’s Office is aware that these same people have been in power for years, and isn’t interested in doing anything to actually change the status quo.

      • Freep: Your next story needs to be Dan Solworth. He has recently left the University but engaged in inappropriate behavior with students throughout his time at BU. Just look through his Instagram (@solworth, it’s public right now but might change soon so act quick) and look at the young adults he openly spends his free time with, and look at all the young BU students (many still college-aged) he follows and likes on Instagram. It goes beyond being friendly, he was supposed to be in charge of Title IX reporting and shouldn’t have been anywhere near crossing those boundaries. It’s all there hiding in plain sight. And behind him and SJ are numerous others who let it happen and who will continue to do so. Fabulous reporting and I hope you all keep it up.

        • Dan is now in a high position at another university in Boston. As of this summer, he was still inappropriately DMing students on Instagram and giving drink tickets to underage summer staff at the Midsummer Spree. There is a lot of predatory behavior within DOS and it is honestly terrifying to think what is happening behind closed doors with so much already widely known.

    • The next shoe to drop should be every single person working in the Dean of Student’s Office, up to Dean Elmore. It’s an open secret that all of these people are engaging in creepy, predatory behavior, and that they are all protecting each other.

      • Seriously!!! Dean Elmore pretty openly buys underage students alcoholic drinks, including one night during my summer (2018) working orientation when there were a group of student advisors with him for a community-building informal chat (or something like that) at Scoozi. He gave all of us several drink tickets and the students who were underage were told (by other students) that he didn’t believe in the drinking age and to just go with it. The contrast between the Shiney-led atmosphere and his off-duty attitude was jarring to say the least, made for a bizarre summer. Pretty sure most undergrads at BU have either had drinks bought for them by Dean Elmore or know someone who has, can’t tell you the number of snapchat stories I’ve seen of ‘taking shots with Dean Elmore!’ or ‘the Dean bought us drinks’ etc etc, it’s just weird how differently the office presents itself vs. how they themselves behave.

        Honestly, I’m more disturbed by him not dealing with Shiney’s pattern of behavior. There’s absolutely no way the dean’s office didn’t know about this. I hope that the people who not just enabled but perpetuated this treatment of students — particularly lower income students, who relied on the orientation program as a way to have a job and free housing in Boston during the summers — to continue are held responsible as well. Judging by the comments (going back to 2010!) it has been brought to their attention many times.

        • Orientation Staff

          Yes! I just wanted to corroborate this and say I got the same information you mention from Shiney herself. She told the people working in the office that Dean Elmore would knowingly provide underage students with drink tickets, and if we went to a DOS event and accepted these drink tickets, she was going to find out and punish us!

          • Also received this message from Shiney during training, and it was one of the few times she gave sound advice (though the “I’m going to find you and punish you” was way overkill, as always). I recall a specific incident when we were on the clock at an event with Dean Elmore. He gathered us all in a circle and told us to make use of the open bar. Someone raised that Shiney would not approve, and he responded “who do you think Shiney’s boss is” with a smirk.

      • Would love to see a similar article exposing the DOS office, especially Dean Elmore. He projects as a charismatic, “cool” role model and uses that persona to get close to students. I’m sure that’s what got him the job. He proceeds to use those relationships to drink with and share incredibly inappropriate stories with students. I know many people with disturbing stories about this Office, but they have been too afraid to come forward due to the Dean’s powerful position and influence on campus.

    • Sarah (Doyle) Melendez - SA 2010

      Moneil! Thank you for sharing this, it is validating to hear. I remember wanting that position that summer. It looked great from the outside. It’s so insightful to hear what it was like from the inside. Hope you are well.

  38. BU still has their puff piece on Siney up on their website (

    They are not allowing any comments that mention this article.

    BU – Hold your faculty accountable!

    • Former SA and COP, those summers under Shiney were brutal. I did not like who I was and I know I was a bad coworker/leader to my fellow student employees. Shiney hurt my spirit and I know I reported her to DOS and tried to confront her directly about things as well and nothing ever happened (except more verbal abuse). Like many others mentioned, I took the jobs because it came with free housing and time and half. As a broke college student those jobs were my financial life line to paying off my semester balances so I could actually start classes. Shiney knew this and took advantage of my vulnerabilities. If anyone ever wants to talk please feel free to reach out to me as well:

  39. Orientation alum here to say thank you for shedding light on toxic, abusive behavior that has gone unchecked (but not unnoticed) for too long.

    I remember being called to her office where she scolded me until I cried and then being sent to the storage room to compose myself.

    To this day, she is the only boss (or coworker, for that matter) that has ever made me cry. To younger alums of her reign of terror, I promise you that is not the norm in the real working world. But she wouldn’t know that given she’s never left campus.

    I can also attest to my hours being edited after I submitted them and my breaks being nonexistent.

    One thing I urge the FreeP to do next: dive into why the professional staff, including the deans, have allowed 15 years of complaints against Shiney to go unresolved. You’ve got an important story here, keep going.

  40. Concerned BU Alumni

    Ah, I see the cancer on the BU community that is Shiney James is finally being diagnosed and shared publicly.

    Every word mentioned in the article is true, and many of the commenters are also dead on. Shiney is a disaster for the BU community. She needs to go. She should have been terminated years ago, and her continued employment is a stain on the BU community.

    Additionally, administration has known about this for years, and done nothing. Multiple deans have been made aware. Complaints were registered. And everything swept under the rug, including the very illegal modification of hours and pay.

    A full investigation needs to be done. Open, transparent, accurate. And anyone involved in the cover-up needs to be terminated.

    Dean Elmore, you first.

  41. 2016 Orientation Program Advisor

    How awful Shiney is to work for was and still is an open secret. I was warned away from taking the job as a program advisor by students who had worked in the position previously. Other full time (adult) staff who worked alongside her would acknowledge that she was “difficult” and “demanding” but never did anything about her behavior. They knew that she was emotionally abusing her staff and did nothing about it.

  42. Anon Alum & Former Employee

    Bravo to the FreePers who worked to bring this to light. To echo an earlier comment, you’re onto something important and huge and need to keep holding her and her enablers to account.

    Close friends of mine have described everything stated above during their time working for Shiney: grueling hours that probably violated labor laws (plus timesheet fraud, apparently? Really, Shiney?); manipulative, predatory and sadistic behavior that sought to break people down only to use that vulnerability against them; and no accountability after repeated complaints and inquiries. How many Deans, Associate Deans, and other staff knew about this and helped perpetuate this cruelty and minimize people’s pain?

    Shiney and her enablers should be investigated and fired.

  43. Summer '19 Orientation Leader

    Wow – this all so true and it’s about time her harmful actions were brought to light. I worked with her in 2019 and can confirm the fear-based work culture that she fostered. She made us feel like she was watching our every move, turning Orientation into this perfectionist, hyper-professional, no-mistakes-allowed workplace when it was supposed to be a fun summer of leadership for students. She made students “earn” their right to do certain tasks (such as leading Common Ground), and if you weren’t given the chance to lead it, you felt like there was something wrong with you. How can students grow when they’re feeling shut-down and unsafe to be themselves?

  44. Former Orientation Employee

    I worked for Shiney James many years ago. After working for her, I wrote this e-mail to the Boston Globe but never received an answer. I can’t stress how happy I am for something to have finally been published. This woman should have been removed from her post years ago.

    Dear Boston Globe,

    My name is X and I am writing you in regards to the recent firing of WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook. During the summer after my freshman year of college, I worked for the Boston University Orientation Program. I was granted a position in the program and I was overjoyed. However, my excitement quickly faded as I discovered that the director of the orientation, Shiney James, was a mean, abusive, domineering and manipulative person.

    Shiney used fear and intimidation as a means of control. She would routinely cause fellow employees to cry. She would direct employees into her office, close the door behind her, and scream at them endlessly. She would often ask people about their personal lives, only to use it against them later while berating them for failing to complete a task to her standards. She would often cite her gender and ethnicity as a reason she believed people didn’t follow her directions; She seemed to believe the world held some sort of prejudice against her. I recall vividly how on my second day of work, she asked me to put on a music playlist to accompany a community breakfast. I came in early to work, with a playlist prepared, only to find that there were no speakers in the room. I asked fellow employees, other managers, anyone I could for a solution but no one seemed to know of one. Shiney only showed up when the breakfast started and, despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to find a viable way of playing music. After the breakfast (mind you this was my second day of work), she called me into her office and started screaming at me. She labelled me dishonest, untrustworthy, disloyal, disorganized, unprofessional. She was belittling and condescending. She threatened to fire me on the spot if something like this occurred again and told me to get out. Needless to say, I left that room confused, dumbstruck and I was shaking. My fellow employees overheard everything that was said and the mood of our office shifted instantly.

    Shiney also threatened that she would ensure none of us got a job anywhere else on campus if we didn’t comply with her rules. She would reduce our lunch breaks if she wasn’t happy with our performance. She would fail to give us directions, and then punish us if we didn’t complete a task ‘correctly.’ We were sometimes working from 5:30am until 9pm at night, yet she failed to acknowledge our efforts and instead reprimanded us at any chance. This was the Director of the Orientation program. Her job was to build community, welcome incoming students, and ensure a safe and comfortable environment in which students could thrive and experience growth. Instead, she created an extremely toxic, unsafe, uncomfortable, and for lack of a better word, terrible work environment.

    Shiney James was the definition of toxic. She brought it upon herself to make the office space toxic everyday. My coworkers and I were miserable. We despised her. We felt uncomfortable speaking to her and being alone in a room with her. We never knew when she might erupt and start scolding us. We felt uncomfortable talking to each other. It was a fun, welcome, professional environment. It was an extremely toxic and authoritarian environment. This is exactly why I’m writing you. My coworkers and I tried to appeal to authority figures at BU. We tried to schedule meetings with deans but to no avail. The one time we did get to meet with a dean, he gave us a few words of encouragement but nothing every came of it. We wrote e-mails to other faculty members/staff explaining our situation, only to receive: “Thanks for reaching out, I’ve forwarded your e-mail to the Dean of Students office for them to review.” We reported that we experienced extreme toxicity and harassment in the workplace. Nothing was ever done about our complaints. The whole situation was just swept under the rug, and to no one’s surprise, Shiney is still the director or orientation. I think this is incredibly inappropriate, especially given her department and position. This was the first real job for many of us, and our perception of a work environment was immediately tarnished by this person.

    I’m writing this because I strongly believe that BU has a problem dealing with reports of workplace harassment/toxicity/abuse. There have been other scandals within the BU community, such as Jim Petosa’s (Director of the School of Theatre) failure to report sexual assault cases in the College of Fine Arts. This was in direct violation of Title 9 compliance. The recent allegations against Tom Ashbrook brought me straight back to that summer, in which my coworkers and I experienced constant toxicity and harassment. I am still in contact with many of those coworkers and they would be more than happy to share their experiences. We tried and failed to have Shiney investigated, but given the current social climate, I think the time is right reopen the discussion. It is my strong opinion that she should not hold her position and she should absolutely not be working with students, ever. I don’t know if anything will come of this e-mail, but I thank you for taking the time to read it. I would be more than happy to talk over the phone and share any other information that may be pertinent.



    • This article reminds me

      of what I was like as a 19 or 20 year old college student. A whiny, ungrateful ninny.

      What a poorly written and terribly one-sided hit piece. Cancel culture at its very worst. This would have been a great opportunity to recognize and better understand how a manager’s leadership style can have a positive influence on some, yet such a negative impact on others. Safe to say it’s a little too late for quality journalism now that this woman has been convicted by a jury of enemies who in all likelihood sucked at their jobs.

      • “Back in my day, we just took the abuse by our bootstraps and didn’t eat avocado toast!” What a dismissive, arrogant, harmful, and thoughtless response. Yikes.

        Former employees of Shiney, I’m so sorry for the trauma you’ve experienced. I hope she is removed from the University.

  45. Alessandra Kellermann of BU Parents United

    Where does the buck stop? Looking at her Linked In profile she has only worked at BU for the past 18 years including in mental health screening which is concerning as well. With the mental health and well-being of our students even more precarious during this pandemic and not enough action and focus on improving this on campus, this is alarming. My heart goes out to every single one of you who endured any abuse and harassment while trying to represent this amazing university. You deserved better and there should have been a way for all of you to feel safe speaking up. This needs to change at BU in every department and circumstance. Students need to know it’s okay to speak out and speak up when abused or witnessing abuse and always when their wellbeing is affected. YOU MATTER.

    • This coming from the creating of BU Parents United, a group chat that kicked parents out when they didn’t follow rules exactly, and talked poorly about the institution. How hypocritical.

  46. I am so grateful this is finally out, and the fact that it took as long as it did is a further sign of her abuse of power.

    For someone who boasts their care and commitment for BU students, she tormented us all, and in turn created lie after lie for incoming freshman. My students (I was an SA in 2016 and commend Rachel McLean for her advocacy and vulnerability. I distinctly remember her being scapegoated and tortured by Shiney) had no clue what was going on behind the scenes. Now all of those students know, and their orientation experience is forever tainted. And honestly, Thank God.

    This woman pulled me into her office for a “review”and told me I was not doing enough, was ungrateful, and needed to feel my feelings more. She ordered me to cry more and accused me of being avoidant, so I sat there and forced myself to cry so that I could leave.

    This woman also pulled me into a pitch black room in the GSU and berated me over my job performance because my coworker and I left — and returned for — a student at the MFA. TOTALLY our bad, but it was resolved. We did not even need to inform her, but I was so afraid that she’d find out somehow and I’d get in trouble, so I did. My coworker got praised. I got that. She then sent me home down a back stairwell so nobody would see me.

    She preyed on high achieving students without the career experience necessary to detect abuse when it was happening in the workplace. We worked for three days straight, somehow never doing a good enough job to get an ounce of praise. We ended each session over a catered meal that we had to individually thank her for or else we were deemed ungrateful and disrespectful, despite the fact that those lunches occurred while she stood in front of us, yelling at us, and calling us out individually on what we did wrong or bad.

    We were afraid of her. To this day I am afraid of her. I won’t even put my name on this because I am afraid of her. She created an abusive, toxic environment that pitted students against one another, chiseled away at our self-worth, and wildly exhausted us along the way.

    BU should be ashamed. This woman has been a tyrant for far too long and to their absolute knowledge. The deans from the Dean of Students would come in often and yuck it up with her, all the while knowing her practices were disgusting. This is another example of higher education’s obsession with productivity, success, reputation, output, and image.

    I cannot say enough about this woman and experience. My friends and I who worked together for Orientation have been in contact all day sharing our experiences and feeling very seen and validated. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing the stories of MANY that she harmed.

  47. Daniel Reichling

    I worked for Shiney during the summer of 2014. We submitted reports and complaints to BU administration and no one batted an eye. We were effectively silenced and we have paper trails. I wrote this letter to the Boston Globe years later and received no answer. Shiney needs to be removed and someone has to be held accountable for enabling this abuse.

    Dear Boston Globe,

    My name is Daniel Reichling and I am writing you in regards to the recent firing of WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook. During the summer after my freshman year of college, I worked as a program advisor for the Boston University Orientation Program. I was granted a position that was rarely handed to freshmen and I was overjoyed. However, my excitement quickly faded as I discovered that the director of the orientation, Shiney James, was a mean, abusive, domineering and manipulative person.

    Shiney used fear and intimidation as a means of control. She would routinely cause fellow employees to cry. She would direct employees into her office, close the door behind her, and scream at them endlessly. She would often ask people about their personal lives, only to use it against them later while berating them for failing to complete a task to her standards. She would often cite her gender and ethnicity as a reason she believed people didn’t follow her directions; She seemed to believe the world held some sort of prejudice against her. I recall vividly how on my second day of work, she asked me to put on a music playlist to accompany a community breakfast. I came in early to work, with a playlist prepared, only to find that there were no speakers in the room. I asked fellow employees, other managers, anyone I could for a solution but no one seemed to know of one. Shiney only showed up when the breakfast started and, despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to find a viable way of playing music. After the breakfast (mind you this was my second day of work), she called me into her office and started screaming at me. She labelled me dishonest, untrustworthy, disloyal, disorganized, unprofessional. She was belittling and condescending. She threatened to fire me on the spot if something like this occurred again and told me to get out. Needless to say, I left that room confused, dumbstruck and I was shaking. My fellow employees overheard everything that was said and the mood of our office shifted instantly.

    Shiney also threatened that she would ensure none of us got a job anywhere else on campus if we didn’t comply with her rules. She would reduce our lunch breaks if she wasn’t happy with our performance. She would fail to give us directions, and then punish us if we didn’t complete a task ‘correctly.’ We were sometimes working from 5:30am until 9pm at night, yet she failed to acknowledge our efforts and instead reprimanded us at any chance. This was the Director of the Orientation program. Her job was to build community, welcome incoming students, and ensure a safe and comfortable environment in which students could thrive and experience growth. Instead, she created an extremely toxic, unsafe, uncomfortable, and for lack of a better word, terrible work environment.

    Shiney James was the definition of toxic. She brought it upon herself to make the office space toxic everyday. My coworkers and I were miserable. We despised her. We felt uncomfortable speaking to her and being alone in a room with her. We never knew when she might erupt and start scolding us. We felt uncomfortable talking to each other. It was a fun, welcome, professional environment. It was an extremely toxic and authoritarian environment. This is exactly why I’m writing you. My coworkers and I tried to appeal to authority figures at BU. We tried to schedule meetings with deans but to no avail. The one time we did get to meet with a dean, he gave us a few words of encouragement but nothing every came of it. We wrote e-mails to other faculty members/staff explaining our situation, only to receive: “Thanks for reaching out, I’ve forwarded your e-mail to the Dean of Students office for them to review.” We reported that we experienced extreme toxicity and harassment in the workplace. Nothing was ever done about our complaints. The whole situation was just swept under the rug, and to no one’s surprise, Shiney is still the director or orientation. I think this is incredibly inappropriate, especially given her department and position. This was the first real job for many of us, and our perception of a work environment was immediately tarnished by this person.

    I’m writing this because I strongly believe that BU has a problem dealing with reports of workplace harassment/toxicity/abuse. There have been other scandals within the BU community, such as Jim Petosa’s (Director of the School of Theatre) failure to report sexual assault cases in the College of Fine Arts. This was in direct violation of Title 9 compliance. The recent allegations against Tom Ashbrook brought me straight back to that summer, in which my coworkers and I experienced constant toxicity and harassment. I am still in contact with many of those coworkers and they would be more than happy to share their experiences. We tried and failed to have Shiney investigated, but given the current social climate, I think the time is right reopen the discussion. It is my strong opinion that she should not hold her position and she should absolutely not be working with students, ever. I don’t know if anything will come of this e-mail, but I thank you for taking the time to read it. I would be more than happy to talk over the phone and share any other information that may be pertinent.



  48. This is a crazy read, I hope the right steps are taken!

  49. A friend just sent me this link out of the blue – I feel so vindicated after reading this. Everything in this article matches my experiences with Shiney. Thank you for publishing this.

  50. As a former COP (and SA), all of this is so true. I feel so much anger and pain from reading this that I had repressed years ago. I was not happy in either role, but went on to be a COP because I needed the money and I was trying to get a job in higher ed. That summer, I worked 75-hour work weeks making just above minimum wage. Yes, 75. This is not an exaggeration. The days were so damn long, and I was copied on every Orientation email, so I was expected to keep up with over 100 emails a day on top of all my responsibilities—and god forbid I forgot one thing or detail. I remember receiving vague, unclear emails that were essentially mind games, and if you didn’t play right, there were consequences (from being yelled at in her office to just constant questioning if you were on her “good side” that day). There’s so much crap that went down that I can’t even remember it all b/c I repressed it, but in a nutshell, it was the most stressful, exhausting, and unhealthy work experience I’ve ever had. I’m too tired to write more.

  51. Although I never interacted with Shiney herself, her abusive behavior was well known to me—and frankly, to everyone else. I worked for Events and Conferences for two summers and there was some overlap with Orientation. I remember hearing that one of our EvCon staff members who was working an early morning shift at Rich Hall was invited to get some of the free coffee by the Orientation staff members only to be screamed at by Shiney. And that wasn’t even a member of her own staff. I’m not sure if he’s still at BU, but our boss at the time was Danny Camacho and he was wonderful. He would often handle interactions between EvCon and Orientation to protect us, and it certainly felt like we needed protecting.

    NUMEROUS friends have been circulating this article today, and we all know every word is true. Many of these people were former RAs and other people who held student leadership positions at BU.

    And to the people defending Shiney as being “tough” and “demanding” but ultimately “making them better people?” I feel for you, I truly do, because you don’t seem to know that Shiney’s behavior is /never/ acceptable, in any circumstance, even if it “gets results.” I had some marvelous mentors at BU who truly did make me better people, and they never had to tear me down and make me feel worthless to make an impression.

    • I worked for Dan Camacho during a few summers at EvCon and he is the man. Agreed, he was a marvel like protector against Shiney and the cult of orientation cronies. I never understood how this woman was so highly regarded but sadistic in her management.

      Also her being “woman hating” of her personality is spot on. She LOVED men.

    • evcon in solidarity

      Yes to this!!!! while the extent of my interactions with Shiney were also those early Evcon mornings checking students in for orientation, she was even rude to those of us who did not work for her. And I absolutely want to echo these sentiments about Danny. He knew how to insert himself between us and Shiney and make us feel safe. Not only with Shiney, but he would often verbalize his trust in me to others or go to bat for me when he sensed that people saw me as lesser.

      Evcon was a great example of how you don’t need that “tough love” grueling environment to “push you”. The kindness I felt from everyone at Evcon gave me an incredible summer despite our similarly intense schedule, and I felt for my friends at Orientation and the fear I felt among them. I was pushed to be better because I felt safe and important. And everyone who experienced that abuse by Shiney deserves to feel safe and important too.

      • Very much want to highlight and corroborate how great Danny was to EvCon staff! Perfect example of an enriching professional environment without the Shiney James method of emotional abuse. He would always stick up for his staff and trusted us fully.

        While I was working for EvCon this summer, my roommate worked for Orientation. There were many weeks when I did not see her at all. She would come home late into the night and leave before I did (even when I had a 6am shift). When we did have time to catch up, she would discuss her position and the amount of stress she was under. These conversations made me so sad and all the more grateful to be working for EvCon.

    • Absolutely – as the EvCon employee for those early morning shifts, I highly commend Danny and the EvCon staff for guarding us against this behavior. I remember dreading the moments I would have to deliver paperwork to the Orientation office and the EvCon staff almost always found a way around it.

    • Liz - orientation SA 15 EvCon RHC 16

      I can completely attest to these statements about EvCon vs Orientation. I worked orientation as an SA in 2015 and the following year I was a residence hall coordinator for EvCon. It was so incredibly refreshing to work for Danny who truly cared about my well-being and was fair and kind to his staff. Cannot say the same for the orientation office. the anxieties I developed while working for Shiney have affected me as recently as working at my CURRENT JOB years later. I often have anxiety that I have done something wrong at work when I haven’t. I never realized until two days ago when this article was published that working in the orientation office was where a lot of my generalized anxiety began.

    • Hi Abby!! Absolutely. I worked for EvCon during the summers and academic year, and remember hearing about the coffee incident you mentioned. I remember people alluding to how difficult Shiney was as well but had no idea things were this bad until now. As other people have mentioned below I also want to reiterate that Danny, and other EvCon FTEs, were truly wonderful to work for as student employees. I loved the summers I spent working at EvCon and got to know a lot of great people! I feel that we were pushed to improve and learn how to work independently and in a professional office environment, but we had managers who were kind and understood that we were also students. Danny and some of the Event Managers would step in in difficult situations, whether with someone like Shiney or a difficult client, and made it a safe, fun and productive working environment.

  52. 2015 student advisor here as well. I made friendships I keep to this day, so I think I’ve buried a lot of the bad stuff in the back of my mind. But everything I’m reading here today…none of it is hard to believe. These stories reminded me that I got called in for an email mistake. I wasn’t even a PA working in the office – I had to schedule time to come in and see her. She berated me for the mistake, said that I wasn’t treating her with “humanity” because of it. I thought I was going to get fired over this email, before the summer even started.

  53. Summer SA (2016)

    I worked BU Summer Orientation and would like to validate what is being said here (work hours, etc.). While I never personally experienced any sort of direct targeting from Shiney, I remember the experience of being yelled at as a group. And I have plenty of friends and colleagues who told me horrible stories about the things Shiney said to them or did to them (some of them included in this thread). I was constantly afraid of messing up, and reading these accounts is making me remember all the mental gymnastics I had to go through to try and just have an uneventful workday. That is not a healthy work environment. I also remember receiving a text message from a student I had in one of my groups who later went on to work for Orientation too. And they were expressing many of the concerns listed here.

    It is complicated because I met some incredible people during that Summer that I am still close with today. And Shiney does not mistreat everyone she comes into contact with, so of course, there will be other perspectives and nuance. It is easier to frame it as a “tough learning experience that helped me grow” instead of trauma. Perhaps some may hold that it could’ve been both (a tough experience and trauma). Again, two things can be true. But none of this excuses the impact of her actions.

    While I would like to see Shiney held accountable for the harm she has caused, I would also call for further investigation into the Dean of Students’ Office, the Community Service Center, and any other affiliated individuals or groups who have been complicit in this. There is more to this story, and I hope the rest of it gets told.


    Could never understand the cult following this woman had from the deans/upper level administration. Our year the pay structure changed from hourly to per session leaving us with basically days and days of unpaid work. Of course it was never resolved and we were berated for bringing it up. Had an absolute blast that summer and met some of my favorite people in the world…all in despite of not because of Shiney James.

  55. Former Student Advisor

    I was a student advisor a few years ago. Reading this article reminded me of before I started my job, when I was asked to meet Shiney one-on-one in her office for what I thought was a check-in about the summer. When I walked in, she showed me a print out of an email that I had incorrectly addressed to the leadership team instead of her specifically. She told me that her staff said I was “anxious” when I had come in as a new employee to show them my employment forms, and that I should be lucky to still have my job because I was selected as an alternate for the position. She even said that I wouldn’t be successful studying abroad because of how I presented myself to her team, even though I had never mentioned studying abroad at any point. Imagine how that would sound to a freshman girl in college, just starting to figure out her place at a huge university.

    While I was crying, she offered me a tissue and asked me how my freshmen year was going, like nothing had happened. It was quite strange.

    These experiences have stayed with me over the past years, and during my internships and job applications I have always been hyperaware of what Shiney said about me. Despite my success in other positions after that summer, I still doubt myself because of the way she berated me that day. I am deeply saddened to see this is a similar experience to others, even though I have already known this and heard countless stories. BU needs to do better.

  56. This pales in comparison to the stories all of the former SAs are sharing, but I think it’s worth mentioning anyways. I ended up in her FY101 section my first semester at BU. I wanted to meet people and do all of the fun things! On the first day, we were asked to share extremely personal and uncomfortable details with a room of students we barely knew. As a group of brand new freshmen who were excited about college, it really killed the mood fast. We were told that not being able to be vulnerable would hurt our ability to make friends, and students who didn’t share were implied to be at risk of failing the supposedly “just for fun!” freshmen experience class. I dropped after one day and never got to do any of the things I’d hoped. This attitude seems to follow her just about everywhere she goes, and I can only imagine being on her staff during orientation.

  57. Claudia Benincasa, past SA, ur fav lefty

    I was CAS Student Advisor for the year 2017. Shiney did indeed treat me horribly as well as others. But I’m not writing about that. Shiney is a particularly narcissistic and abusive and I commend the FREEP and all those who spoke out for doing so and hope this isn’t read as saying it shouldn’t have been done (it should have! and keep going!!)

    But this piece is about MORE than Shiney James. It is about labor. It is about workplace conditions and specifically the predatory nature of jobs with student workers. Colin Riley, BU’s “damage control” guy says, There are avenues open to students, staff, and faculty who have concerns about their work environment…“BU student employees are essential to the University’s operations in so many ways, and by-and-large the students involved in summer Orientation are among the very best.” Hm. It seems people in the comments tried that and it didnt work! More importantly, BU does not have a Union for undergraduate or graduate student workers. Unions aren’t a magical fix, but they are able to bring about third party arbitration.

    Also, let’s ask ourselves. Why do students take this job? Some students had 0 idea about how Shiney is/was. Others like myself and those in the article mentioned they heard euphemisms like “she is tough. You’ll learn. etc” but we still all applied. Why? Orientation and similar positions are extremely coveted. you get free on campus housing. when you work, your meals are paid for. you learn about higher ed and network and are paid above minimum wage (though someone hinted in the comments that the pay structure may no longer be hourly?) your coworkers are your age so you make friends and the job is one that is a silent pre-requisite for other jobs. you might not NEED it but if you want to apply to be a resident assistant (to get free room and board during the school year) it looks VERY good to have worked there. For ANY student this is attractive, but especially for low-middle income students/ students who do not feel happy or safe returning home for the summers. Also most orientation employees apply as sophomore so it is unlikely they are going to find a summer job that has such benefits. The lack of work inexperience present in all student workers make them extra vulnerable to people like Shiney. They may identify her as a “bad boss” but not register that she is literally abusive. Another particularly insidious wrinkle in this is that like all higher ED, BU does this gross thing where they seek out marginalized people for customer facing positions to make the uni seem woke despite our undergrad pop being less than 4% black and queer students constantly having to fight for the bare minimum.

    all of this is to say. organize your work place, have your friends’ backs. people’s participation in shitty workplaces are a result of larger forces that make things like this seem normal or “worth it”

    • Anyone else just in bed scrolling through all these comments? I’m obsessed.

      I think something this piece and these comments opened my eyes to is how messed up and complicit lots of staff members are, especially the ones meant to make us comfortable. All of these people are on insane power trips. Zach Hobbs, Dean Elmore, and Professor Cav (my BUTV10 folks know what I’m talking about!) need to be stopped.

      Shiney acting like she has this massive network when she’s only been working at the same place for a trillion years. Go home…we are TIREDDDD!

    • This is about Shiney James and this is about the abysmal labor conditions in these university programs that exploit students who need to make money to survive.

      I interviewed with James in 2012/2013 for an UNPAID International Student Mentor position. They told me it would be an unpaid position because it was a pilot program. I felt uncomfortable during my interview with her but I couldn’t really articulate why. There was nothing overt to it. Soon after, I heard from others about how toxic she was and decided it was simply not worth dedicating the time to without pay. I commend the Freep for the extraordinary reporting they have done here. I hope that this house of cards begins to unravel — at Orientation Programs, the CSC, dean of students office, and The Howard Thurman Center where things of this nature have also occurred.

      I agree with Claudia that this is far bigger than just James the individual. We must fight to protect students in their workplaces and to afford them the labor protections that they deserve.

    • This is absolutely spot on and there are so many more toxic workplaces and abusive bosses like James throughout BU that thrive on threatening students into silence.

  58. am anon bc this happened to my coworker. Shiney often weaponized her ethnicity and gender which is not to say she has not endured harmful discrimination, but rather she used those experiences in the past to denigrate others. The article’s assertion that Shiney targeted women seems true with my experience as a student advisor. A group of male incoming students were being extremely misogynistic toward a white student advisor. When she asked for some help/advice (not to shiney directly, but one of her underlings) she was chastised and basically told that Shiney and other WOC have to deal with much worse so she should stop being weak. It is without question white women are spared extra hardship due to their race, but not centering white women as feminists doesn’t mean telling white women that they *deserve* misogyny. It was insane to hear about regardless but especially, as the article and people in the comments noted, she tried to grossly paint herself as a martyr for social justice and as a safe person to talk to

  59. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. Yes, Shiney also pulled me into her office for one of her episodes in 2015 when I was a Program Advisor after I informed the Coordinator of Programs (“COPS,” I still can’t believe she was bold enough to label them that) a mail-merge I assisted them with may have went to another week’s incoming students and would need to be revised. She claimed I tried to “hide my mistake” when I did just the opposite: I informed the COPS, proceeded to my duties (which were 12+hours long), and asked the COPS to advise on next steps after my shift. She was intentionally abusive (and BU knew it, cc: Dean of Students Office, which appeased all of this behavior). Shiney is an absolute monster. Dean Elmore, etc. They all knew. Disgraceful that BU buried all the complaints….

  60. Do a piece about the abuse and manipulation in ResLife next!

    • Agreed. Except it would take about four times the length of even this article. ResLife needs a major overhaul for its blatantly emotionally abusive treatment toward students.

    • Anonymous Former RA

      Yes! That is your next story, FreeP. I’ve never worked in a more emotionally manipulative work environment. Berating students for the smallest of percieved missteps, forcing students to share things that they are uncomfortable with and leveraging that against them, and differential treatment based on a student worker’s identity is rampant in ResLife as well. BU protects so many of these abusive, toxic supervisors because they are in higher-up positions. Shiney James is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Patra Hsu ENG'23

      I had such a bad experience with Réa Kyani-Rogers (the Assistant Director of Warren Towers) in 2019 (yes I am calling her out) where I was basically screamed at and threatened with police without any information on my wrongdoings (I had no part in anything she accused me of and I had to piece together the situation myself). It messed me up so much that my supervisors in my campus job (BU School of Social Work Office) encouraged me to leave work and go meet with the upper directors of housing. They literally were licensed social workers and they agreed it was abuse. I don’t think upper admin did anything about it and it still makes me mad to this day. I did not come to BU to be put through emotional and verbal abuse and neither does any other person that has come through or still is here.

  61. Savanah Macdonald

    I worked As a FYCO for the FYSOP program Summer of 2017 and we worked very closely alongside Orientation Student Leaders and shared many of the lunches discussed each session. During the training program where we’re taken to a cabin in the woods early in the morning to undergo “Career Development and Team Building Exercises,” that were often made harsh and uncomfortable by James, I was sat next to an orientation leader who was having a panic attack, and I think this student was later targeted by James due to her emotional vulnerabilities and was made to cry and feel terrible about herself all summer long by James but in the name of “Career Development.” I never saw one of James’s fits personally but I knew her personality was volatile and I remember students either loved her or were very, very afraid to be in the same room as her. I am so happy to see this article come out.

    • That camp was actually wild. I remember having to go around and tell people what our first impressions of each other were and what we thought they could improve on. Obviously this led to a lot of stereotyping and just seemed needlessly mean. We were basically being encouraged to say bad things about people we didn’t even know yet. I can maybe see what her intentions were behind it, but I saw a lot of people who were hurt by that exercise.

  62. Anon - Summer PA 2013

    I was a Program Advisor for summer 2013 and was one of Shiney’s scape goats. It wasn’t until years later that I realized her behavior was textbook abuse and manipulation.

    It’s gut wrenching to read how many students tried to report this and were ignored. Shame on the University for protecting a bully who has caused hundreds of students (many of whom are first generation, low income, and/or people of color – the population BU loves to uplift in their marketing) extreme trauma and distress.

    Everything in this article is true. The worst was being threatened by Shiney, told that “if I ever wanted another job at BU” and “if I wanted to keep my housing.” This was panic inducing as a low income student who specifically applied for this job to build my resume and secure free housing. I felt I had no choice but to grin and bear it. It was a terrible experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    Bravo to Rachel McLean and the FreeP for courageously shining a light on this dark corner of BU.

    Love to all fellow Orientation survivors.

  63. I was a PA almost 10 years ago and came from a similarly invasive degree program (CFA) at BU so I don’t think the inappropriateness registered with me right away. Shiney pressured me into admitting that I was homeless between semesters and needed my job at orientation for housing. She used this against me constantly, using my working class status as a “motivator” for me. She also realized that one of my coworkers had an unreciprocated but rather innocent crush on me and repeatedly assigned me to work intimately with them in order to learn how to navigate sexual harassment culture. I’m so sorry for all of us who have experienced this and normalized this as “professional” working culture.

  64. '14 FYSOP Staffer

    I was never a direct employee of Shiney’s, but did work for FYSOP summer of 2014 which had a decent amount of overlap with orientation. I witnessed a lot of the behavior described throughout this article and comments and am deeply saddened to hear it went much deeper than I imagined. Shiney without a doubt created a culture of fear amongst the summer staff and I remember feeling incredibly lucky that she was not my boss. I also wanted to chime in and say that I had conversations with three separate orientation leaders that summer who told me they felt their work environment was unhealthy and that they had filed complaints with higher ups. What I find most infuriating reading this article and comments is that those complaints were ignored by the school for years. If there’s a specific office at BU we can pressure to make sure this gets a full investigation I’m happy to support. I worked at BU in some capacity during every summer of my undergrad, and honestly feel that the students working orientation are some of the most motivated and kind students on campus, the fact that these students are working their asses off to make BU look good only to suffer in an emotionally abusive environment with IILEGAL LABOR PRACTICES behind the scenes is a true tragedy.

  65. Former Orientation Leader

    So, I have read all 101 current comments and spent the last 24 hours reaching out to former coworkers and friends. I am still unpacking a lot of this. Without knowing or understanding the extent of the abuse, and as a naive 20-something, I realize I also always just thought that she really thought she was just helping everyone. Maybe she still does think she was just helping, but clearly, that doesn’t matter – not even a little. It is so clear to me now how messed up it all was, how it totally is not normal to have such deep-rooted fear of making a mistake, to worry that if you don’t have a “perfect” attitude or forget to grab a balloon from the hallway that you might just lose your free housing or a chance to get another job at BU. How did I not see how completely irrational it was for her to get so angry at young staff, during one of their first jobs, and for something so miniscule? I also find it insane that we were all chosen to be the happy faces that welcomed these new students yet we weren’t allowed to have a good time unless it was on her terms.

    I felt inclined to share my story because I see some defensive comments, and I want to see if these folks can find something more familiar in my experience. As a “favorite” for a good period of time, I was on the receiving end on Shiney’s generous side. Aside from actually thinking she was helping me grow professionally at the time, she also helped me get other employment, referring me to other opportunities and writing recommendations for me, and for a while, the office was a space I could escape to on some of my worst days. I was vulnerable, and I actually thought she was looking out for me. However, even though she was kind to me, it was never unconditional. There was always a catch – that I had to come visit, that I had to show immense gratitude, that I couldn’t challenge her. There was always a risk she would turn on me, and I was never free of that fear even for years after I worked for her.

    I knew she was toxic, especially by the end of my time there. I will always remember the hurtful comments she made about my relationship, to my face and also behind my back to a friend of mine, even though the relationship was the best thing I had going for me at the time, and even though she had never even met my significant other. Similar to a comment above – she also made serious attacks on my character after the summer I worked for her, and when I broke down crying in her office that day, she blamed it on my mental health. Yet I stayed loyal to her, because I actually thought she was just looking out for me, and I needed work. But I definitely knew by the end that it was not a good relationship, and after graduation, I was lucky to be able to slowly lose touch and free myself of it all. However, she is someone that ALWAYS comes up when I see other friends who worked for her, as we *laugh* off the trauma of those experiences. I also still avoid walking near campus just so I don’t risk seeing her, because I don’t want to have to decide if it is better to say hi or not say hi to her, still worrying about her being mad at me even though we haven’t spoken in multiple years now.

    All this to say, before yesterday, it always seemed like an individual issue, not this huge, horrible glaring virus.

    Thank you to the Freep and everyone in the comments for sharing their stories and opening my eyes to the extent of the damage done, that it wasn’t just me or the people who got yelled at during those summers for making minor mistakes who experienced the emotional abuse. Even for those who were on “her good side”, there was a manipulative, fear-mongering, toxic culture that ran deep through the whole Orientation program, and clearly it stuck with all of us for years to come.

    I know I couldn’t have afforded to give up the toxic relationship at the time, so I don’t blame myself for not seeing it then. But I feel very remorseful that I didn’t realize that by staying on good terms with her, I was perpetuating this system of abuse. I am so very sorry for those who experienced the extent of her abuse. I wish this article had come out 10+ years ago, and spared everyone this trauma. But I am grateful I have made so many connections through Orientation and that we have each other to process and move on, and realize the working world, as boring as it can be, gets much, much better – and that as you grow up, you don’t need to hold on to any relationship that doesn’t lift you up and help you live a happier life.

    Much love to you all.

  66. It’s hard to get rid of people like this, but one thing that can be done is for her employees to individually go to employment lawyers and get letters drafted demanding a change of manager and refusing to be forced to meet alone with her. All they would need to do is list a legitimate complaint or two in order to make such a demand. This would be a one time cost of $500 to $1000 per person, and would put an end to their abuse.

    • A previous student employee

      Most of her employees are low income. Who depend on these jobs for housing. $500-$1000 is not easy money.

      • I’m sure there are a number of alum (like myself) who’d be more than happy to contribute to a fund for students to be able to do that if someone set up a GoFundMe or something similar. I wasn’t part of the world spoken of in this article, but I was involved with some BU groups that had what I think of as perhaps some lower-level toxicity — definitely still toxic, but not as to this horrifying an extent. As such, I’m not necessarily surprised that that toxicity permeated throughout campus, but I am VERY disappointed to hear of all the myriad of ways this was swept under the rug, despite the multiple avenues students used in an attempt to bring attention to the issue. It sounds like from the comments here that it wasn’t just one person going up to Dean Elmore and mentioning it one time; it was through many formal and informal avenues over the past decade. This makes me really embarrassed to be a BU alum. It’s one thing to be ill-prepared or ignorant of bad things happening to students (which is still bad, don’t get me wrong), but at least you can claim you didn’t know what was going on. To actively enable those bad things to occur despite multiple reports spanning years, though, is willfully immoral.

  67. I was a CGSSA during the summer of 2012. I remember being one of several who were two minutes late for one morning meeting and for two days of the three-day session had to wake up an additional hour early to give each individual employee a wake up call by knocking on their door alone with none the others needing to join. Then, after having gone above and beyond to make sure one family felt safe on campus–and even getting a handwritten thank you note from that family afterwards–Shiney made sure to single me out in our breakdown meeting as a staff saying that I shirked responsibility while complimenting me in the same breath. She then later that summer told me a specific student/colleague/friend said I had sorely offended then and created a hostile work environment for them. She proceeded to make me apologize to that student and then called me a bully thereafter watching perched behind her desk as I hysterically cried in her office. After confronting that friend, they said I was crazy and that they never told Shiney anything of the sort. Shiney has left a lasting impression on me and my professional career to the point of always feeling I’m going to be fired for one mistake regardless of its severity. I will never forget having worked for her and the bells let me know she’s coming are constant nightmares…

  68. I’m so thankful that this is finally coming out instead of remaining an open secret. Also I’m so proud of you Allie and Naveen for speaking out, I’m proud to have worked with you both. I witnessed Shiney emotionally manipulate many of colleagues during orientation and I specifically remember her mercilessly bullying one of the male PAs. I quietly suffered with my mental illness the summer that I was an SA but I was lucky enough to mostly fly under Shiney’s radar but make no mistakes, I was also punished for this. I approached Shiney about a summer position that I heard had not been filled my senior year. She told me that reaching out to her after not visiting the office to say “hi” enough or eat lunch with her “didn’t reflect well” on me. She continued to break me down and claimed that she basically had to trick me into coming into her office until I was in tears. As if I was committing a crime by asking a former boss about a position without months of worshipping and brown-nosing. I now look back and thank God that all of that fell through, yet I’m still saddened by the collective abuse me and my colleagues endured that summer, a lot of which has had severe and lasting effects even in our real world jobs. The sad thing is that Shiney herself shared her own experience of being harassed in a job, yet she continually does this. Classic trauma response of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. I really hope this leads to actionable change and also that Shiney gets help and healing for her very real issues instead of using low-income college kids to act out her sick power-drunk revenge fantasies. Also Freep, you need to cover Elmore and the whole of DOS next.

  69. Mike Barry (CAS/COM '13)

    I worked for Orientation in Summer 2011. I can confirm that the abusive tactics (cycles of abuse, gaslighting, humiliation) described in this article and the comments have extended for over a decade. I thank Shiney for several personal experiences that were deeply upsetting and, truly, some of the most humiliating and – counter to the idea of “professionalism” Shiney preaches – professionally inappropriate things I have ever experienced. At 31, memories of her mean-spirited, unpredictable outbursts (which, at the time, I perceived were primarily against (1) woman-identified and (2) gay man-identified students) still upset me. I think what upsets me most is that her actions say “the way I speak to you is what you should expect from every future boss you have.” No! BU Alum should be prepared to speak out against horrific work supervisors, not be their victims. There is a rather wide line between professional mentor employing tough love and abuser; Shiney has leapt across that line.

    Perhaps the comments here will be used to actually take action against this person; she has no business interacting with developing adolescents – many of whom look to her as a mentor (since she advertises herself as one). I plead with University Administration to remove Shiney before she victimizes more students.

  70. Boston University Program Advisor, Summer of 2012. First of all, I can corroborate every single thing Brandon Epstein said above — I remember how she targeted him especially throughout the summer.

    Here are just a few of the things weird things that happened that summer. Honestly, it’s been so long, a lot of it has been blacked out—but a week didn’t go by when she didn’t make someone cry, and I hid in the bathroom shaking and sobbing at least once a session. Not normal.

    (1) During spring training before the summer, the Program Advisors were taken aside and told to sit in a circle and she made all of us—new colleagues—go around in a circle and describe our first impressions of one another, with flaws. As in, we had to explain what we did not like about one another, how we thought one another came off, what we thought one another’s problems were. We were encouraged to cite verbal tics, vocal tics, etc.

    (2) PAs had to take MBTI personality tests during the first week of the summer, and then each of us was called into her office to discuss our results. Since I’d taken psychology classes I knew Myers Briggs to be basically meaningless and fake, a fact about which I kept mum. Shiney told me specifically that she did not like people of my type (INTP) and that she did not like or trust introverts and that she did not think we would get along.

    (3) As mentioned above, Shiney would regularly made it known—implicitly or explicitly—how much sway she had not just in the school, but in the city. We were not allowed to wear our name badges off campus or when we were off the clock. She told us she had “eyes everywhere” and we could expect to be reamed out in front of the office if any of us slipped up.

    Program Advisors worked under her supervision all summer. I can guarantee the women in the office, both student workers and administrators, would have stories like mine. But what could we do? Our housing was tied to employment, and many of us needed the money. I regret not saying something sooner, not going to HR sooner, but from the sound of it it seems like it would not have mattered.

    Thank you Daily Free Press for finally bringing this to light.

    • I worked for Shiney in 2017. All staff that year participated in the “first impressions” exercise. We were then given the opportunity to share our reactions to what people said about us, during which time many people shared personal information I don’t think they would otherwise share with a group of people they just met. It felt highly invasive and inappropriate. Some groups we chastised for not being “mean” enough in the evaluations of each other (though some groups were pretty mean, I believe one colleague was told that she “looked like a bitch”). We were told this exercise was meant to prepare us for how students and parents would make first-impression judgments of us during the summer and to make us more aware of how we come across to others. It fit with the whole experience that summer of forced vulnerability and having your entire being dissected in the name of personal and professional growth (for a goddamn minimum wage summer job).

      • I remember this exercise (and the “look like a bitch” incident). The whole backdrop especially of doing this at that camp in the woods (Sargent camp I think?) contributes to how strange and contrived the forced vulnerability part is. Like, you’re taking students to a place they’ve never been, having to share rooms with people they’ve never met (also if I remember correctly there were no showers?), and then forcing them to say mean things to each other and pretending it’s for their own good? If anything, having this experience made me less willing to be vulnerable in professional settings

    • I was a PA in 2012, hi friend. I feel like our group trauma-bonded. Especially when one of us was forcibly removed from his position and housing without any notice.

  71. There’s so much to unpack here. I often recommended Orientation to fellow BU students because I really did feel as though I grew a ton over that summer and I made great friendships in the process. I worked in various student life and cultural offices at BU and in Res Life, and often found that former SAs were really great leaders and high performing staff. Being a part of Orientation really sets one up to become a leader on campus and is really useful for networking and professional development. I am most-certainly who I am today because of that summer.

    That being said, it is because the work itself is emotionally deep and requires both practical skills and emotional skills. The servant leadership work of orientation crafts good leaders and good people. It is in-spite of Shiney. In my work after summer 2016, I had to actively unlearn the anxiety-driven attitude I had towards emails and other professional etiquette because of how Shiney made me cry over an email in a way that made no sense to me. I now know this was not an isolated incidence — that I’m not the only one who felt worthless as a result of her comments and “mentorship.”

    Her attitude reflects a rot at the core of a lot of BU student life departments. There needs to be a massive overhaul of the structures (especially in Orientation) because the evil that lies within has gone on causing harm for far, far, too long. BU is a wonderful, wonderful school. The common ground values of Howard Thurman and the legacy of a responsible and grounded justice framework that embraces knowledge, virtue, and piety format students to become wonderful leaders all around the world. But this wonder cannot cover up the unspeakable harms within an office that harbors disturbing stories such as these ones.

  72. GSU Operations and Programs Assistant

    I used to treat the ‘professional staff’ in the Dean of Student’s office as role models. The way they take pride in ‘understanding our struggles’ and making sure to communicate that was very promising when I first started to work for this office. However, it became evident that they prioritize institutional politics much over the well being of students, using the excuse that legally they can’t help or that it takes time to get to all the right people. We understand that there is a process and protocol to be followed, but after repeatedly asking for updates months later, both actions were not taken and repercussions were not seen. The professional staff we work for are very good at listening and sympathizing, but they seldom take actions or make changes with the students best interests in mind. Up front, many of the professional staff seem personable and even friendly, but their loyalty to institutional politics often binds them from doing the right thing. I hope they will be more transparent and prioritize students over profit.

  73. FYSOP PM 2014/ Student Leader

    This article reflects fantastic reporting. As a FYSOP PM and leader of multiple student clubs, I knew to stay away from her. I witnessed the manipulation and emotional abuse on my peers from up close. I personally experienced similar manipulation, lack of support, and abuse from Dean Elmore. I hope he´s next. BU is a wonderful school, but the truth about student life and student activities leadership needs to come out! Great job Freep.

  74. Fomer SA (B.S. - Before Shiney) and current BU employee

    As someone who had a wonderful experience as an Orientation Student Advisor before Shiney James worked at BU, I’m angered and saddened by all of these accounts of the emotional and mental abuse Shiney caused on many student leaders.

    As a long-time BU employee, I’m also painfully aware of the institutional politics at play; from my observations, unless a major issue (such as this) gets exposed to the public and into mainstream media, BU will often look the other way. BU is notorious for underreacting or not reacting to issues that remain internal, while overreacting to stories that get leaked to the media. Bob Brown is hyper-sensitive towards bad PR about BU, so it’ll be interesting to see whether follow-up stories from the FreeP are written as well as if local media outlets pick up on this story, and how the BU PR machine (a.k.a. Colin Riley) responds on the surface and how BU internally might respond.

    • Like so many others, what surprises me most about this article is that it took so long for all of this to come out. I was (fortunately for me) one of Shiney’s “favorites”, so I was never on the receiving end of her abuse. But I certainly saw how poorly she treated so many of my friends and peers. The needlessly public degradation was traumatic for all of us–not just for those at whom it was directed. I personally brought this up to Dean Elmore, who dismissed my concern by saying that “Shiney just has high standards, which is a good thing.” But the issue wasn’t her high standards: it was her mercurial temperament and bullying.
      As others have suggested, the problem extends beyond Shiney and Orientation. The pernicious “cult-like dynamic” is endemic to all of student affairs, and Dean Elmore is at its center. I hope the Freep and other news outlets will investigate further and expose the full extent of this toxic environment. And I hope that BU takes action to hold Shiney James, Dean Elmore, Dan Solworth and so many others accountable for the harm they’ve caused to so many student leaders.

      • Former SA (B.S. - Before Shiney) and current BU employee

        Angry Alum: I’m aware of multiple occasions going back numerous years where lines were crossed – in different ways – in student interactions involving some staff under Dean Elmore’s domain. Agree with your description of a cult-like dynamic; one can argue the extent Dean Elmore propagates this culture, but agree that Shiney and others reporting up to Dean Elmore are exploit it abusively.

  75. anon (I’m afraid lol)

    I had a running joke the year I worked orientation that I had cried in every bathroom of the GSU (it wasn’t a joke). I remember the first time she yelled at us after a session I genuinely didn’t understand what was going on. I called my parents who have experienced a wide variety of employment environments, and both of them told me immediately that this wasn’t normal. After that I honestly avoided her and regarded her as a bully I had to get past. I still refer to my friends I made working orientation as trauma-bonded. We worked insane hours and I know not a single session went by without me crying or having a panic attack. I worked many service jobs before orientation, and have worked in many service and office roles since, and have never encountered anyone else who loves power and exhibits cruelty with so much glee. Let’s be honest BU isn’t going to do anything because they don’t care!! They know this happens. Someone has tried to report her every single year and she’s been doing this for over a decade. My heart goes out to everyone who has experienced her- sending you healing and love.

  76. While I was never on the receiving end of Shiney’s tirades, I’ve seen it happen to others, and have heard plenty of other stories to know that all of this excellent reporting—and the outpouring of anecdotes in the comments and on Twitter—is 100% accurate.

    Shiney has gotten away with this manipulation for so long because she and her stans will frame her abuse as “I’m only tough on you because I care about you and want you to succeed!!” The BU Today article from 2017 that others have linked to is a puff piece, but also a perfect example of how this behavior goes unchecked. Public humiliation, cruelty, and manipulation are all disguised and dismissed as “high standards of excellence.” If Shiney makes you break down and have a panic attack, it’s just because you’re not cut out for this.

    There’s a way to deliver feedback and show “tough love” (if that’s what you even want to call it) without being abusive. Shiney and the folks in her orbit—Community Service Center, Howard Thurman Center, Dean of Students, et al.—might be detached or delusional enough to believe she has good intentions, but they *all* need to be held accountable for their role in ignoring, perpetuating, and otherwise being complicit in her system of abuse.

  77. Retired Professor

    The testimonies here present a vivid and disturbing picture of this woman’s behavior. She clearly needs professional help. Her evident rage issue poses a danger to her and those around her.

  78. Student Employee 2019, 2020

    I worked for a summer leadership department in 2019 and again in 2020, and while Shiney was never my direct supervisor, I interacted with her often and was good friends with many of her direct reports. Unfortunately, based on my experiences in those roles, I can corroborate many of the injustices shared in this article and in the hundreds of comments.

    Specifically, Shiney’s employees spoke of the toxic work culture, being made to cry in her office, her episodes of rage under the guise of making us better employees, and her emotional manipulation tactics which often seemed targeted towards women of color employees. I also remember firsthand the debrief lunches where Shiney would publicly humiliate and berate employees, most of whom were 18-21 year olds, for supposedly not doing our jobs well enough. Several of my fellow employees said she could read lips and warned me against speaking ill of her even when she wasn’t in earshot. All of this contributed to a climate of fear and discouraged anyone from speaking out against her. I commend those who did and continue to do so.

    I also had my timesheet edited by her even though she was not in charge of it, and when I challenged her on it, she did not respond.

    I wish I felt comfortable sharing my name here, but knowing Shiney, she would probably serve me with a defamation suit because that’s just the kind of person she is. She always talked about being a woman of color who had to fight for everything she had achieved, and I used to admire her for that. But after reading the testimonials here, it is clear that she only did this to encourage vulnerability among her employees so she could use it against them.

    Maybe the worst thing Shiney does to her employees is occasionally giving praise or helping them get another job on campus so that they feel “loyalty” to her and will never push back on her manipulative behavior. This is worse than if she were just a terrible person all the time, because it makes everyone doubt whether she’s actually “that bad” when in reality if you’re asking yourself that question the answer is almost always yes. That, along with her extensive “network” at BU, is likely why it’s taken so long for these allegations to be highlighted despite them having been common knowledge for decades among those familiar with her.

    It is my hope that she is terminated and that the entire structure of student employment at BU is revised so that this can never happen again, with any employer. She is definitely not the only one.

  79. Bravo to the FreeP for this piece, and for shedding light on the living nightmare that was BU’s Orientation office. Work-study students (myself included) in other BU offices/departments went into panics when Shiney came around and were desperate to avoid her. The lucky ones had grad assistants and COPs who would provide cover.

    The problem runs far deeper than just Shiney. Her abuse was not at all a secret among undergrads, or junior-level staff, and it was consistently brushed off by more senior-level administrators. Beyond turning blind eyes, a number of comments already highlight similar abusive and predatory behavior from other “professional” staff in the CSC, and those working under Dean Elmore (including Dean Elmore himself). One hopes that whole department will clean house. For years, it’s been a cult of personality with no room for dissent or disagreement.

  80. I just finished the annual mandatory training for all BU employees and supervisors regarding harassment, retaliation, hostility, abuse etc. What the article and the comments describe is textbook what we are NEVER EVER to do. It is also the type of stuff that we must report via official channels if we hear about it or see it. If indeed the allegations are true, there is a major disconnect between what we are trained to do, what the university say we should do, and what was done to stop this: appallingly nothing. I am so sorry that this was not addressed years ago. It saddens me deeply.

  81. Any alum wanting to see change should call the president’s office: 617-353-2200. Introduce yourself, be polite and communicate that you expect to see changes from this. Calling the dean of students office to complain will probably not be useful based on the experiences recounted above.

    • I feel fortunate that I never was on the direct end of this behavior, but working in similar circles (the CSC & EvCon) during my time at BU from 2009-2013, I frequently heard horror stories echoing the ones here. I avoided working for Orientation directly because of these stories. It saddens me that this continues to happen 10+ years later and that nothing has been changed. Institutional politics should never protect this type of behavior and, instead, makes Boston University a place I’m less proud to represent.

      I worked in higher education for a while after graduating and this type of behavior is NOT needed for student development and growth. You can encourage students to fulfill potential and grow in ways that are not damaging to their mental well-being. Anyone who excuses Shiney’s actions as okay under that guise of “being tough” is masking her problematic behavior and not doing what’s best for the Boston University student body.

  82. This article is spot on. In 2014, Latin American students submitted yet another request to the school to approve the creation of a student club. Our proposal was rejected. After gathering hundreds of signatures from students and faculty, I asked Shiney for help. As a CSC PM, I interacted with her pretty frequently and thought she stood for supporting student initiatives and diversity. She refused to help us or to sign the petition, and accused me of being insensitive towards student life administration as well as “overly dramatic”. Without her help, LATAM was eventually approved, and remains an active club and a safe space for latin american students to connect and create community. From that moment on, I knew she didn´t have my back.

  83. There’s so much right about this article, and not much any particular story can add to the existing body of evidence.

    But I wonder if anyone from our year remembers the time she announced to the full assembled staff that she received a big offer from Northeastern to come over and lead their program, and slowly proclaimed to everyone that she declined the offer—standing and smiling for a long applause from the crew. Just wild and crazy things to pull for an administrator working with 19-20 year olds, even if she never once raised her voice or singled any of the kids out (which… she did).

  84. shiney james cancelled party - who's next?

    I worked in an orientation-adjacent office the summer after my freshman year. Though I did not directly report to Shiney, this exposé really unearthed a lot of memories I suppressed from that summer. The toxic work environment she cultivated extended beyond the orientation office. It has been several years, but now that I am almost the same age as my former employers, I feel sick. If adult staff members in my department weren’t turning a blind eye to her abuse, they were cracking jokes about it. Like, it was literally treated as an inside joke. The older I get the more I look back and think: that was SO fucked up! I cannot IMAGINE allowing a colleague to treat 19 year olds like that, let alone laughing about it. (haha shiney threw a sign at so and so and made them cry, she’s so crazy… like WHAT???) To the adult staff members working in orientation, student affairs, DOS, the HTC, the CSC, etc., who knew: you should be ashamed of yourselves. You FAILED the students you were supposed to protect.

    To echo what many have already said: this was an open secret. Her systematic targeting of young, impressionable, usually female students, excusing sexual harassment, coaxing private information out of those working under her, even having files with extensive notes on every single person who has ever worked for or even applied to work with her- they were aware of all of it. There’s a reason people are afraid to speak out; she has led her former employees believe that she has the ability to retaliate against them and ruin their professional careers. Even I’m too afraid to give any personal details.

    I cannot emphasize enough how normalized her behavior was. Students upset by her behavior were seen as weak, incompetent employees who just “didn’t get it.” People also really lacked nuance when it came to discussing her behavior, including her victims. After hearing about and even witnessing her abuse and manipulative tactics, I remember remarking to a few SAs that her behavior didn’t sit right with me. Some would immediately jumped to her defense, saying how difficult it was for her to get where she is as a woman of color. And the thing is, they aren’t WRONG! There is no doubt in my mind that much of the treatment and criticisms she receives is rooted in racism and sexism (even saw a tweet saying she systematically targeted white students which like, ughhhh). She can be both a victim and perpetrator of abuse.

    The fact that she is the only one that has a chance of facing consequences for her abuse despite so many suffering from the same (or worse) abuse from white men in equal or higher positions at BU speaks to that. The problem isn’t that Shiney shouldn’t be fired – she deserves everything that’s coming to her and more. She just shouldn’t be the only one. In the meantime, I hope this article has provided her victims a sense of peace and vindication. As for her enablers, DO BETTER!

    • Let’s be real, even if Shiney leaves, the toxic culture starts at the top. DoS would have to clear house if there is going to be any lasting changes.

  85. Int’l Student Volunteer

    Incredibly well done! When I worked under James, she asked me to supply photos of a trip I was on to when I submitted something late, to prove I was on the trip….It felt really disrespectful at the time, but I shrugged it off as being overbearing. I didn’t know how much worse some people have had it!

  86. I was an SA in the early 2000s. Shiney had a secretarial role in Orientation at the time, so I knew her slightly but she didn’t have any supervisory responsibilities over students. Working for Orientation was, hands down, the highlight of my undergrad experience. I made so many lifelong friends, had a lot of fun, and also grew as a student leader and developed a number of skills that have benefited me in my professional career. The Director of Orientation at the time, Craig Mack, was a patient, kind, supportive supervisor. I never heard him raise his voice, and I cannot imagine him ever berating an employee, either privately or publicly. Whenever I made a mistake or could have done something better, he spoke to me about it–as a good supervisor should–but always privately and in a constructive way. I came out of those conversations understanding how I could improve and motivated to do so, but I never felt belittled by Craig. If anything, I felt more respected by him, given his sympathetic, encouraging approach to supervision. I respected him all the more in return.

    So with all of that as background, I must say that as I read this article and the comments above, I can’t help but be deeply saddened that recent Orientation staff members have been deprived of the wonderfully rewarding and formative Orientation experience I had. Shiney’s behavior toward her student staff seems to be at the other end of the spectrum from Craig Mack’s. It’s striking that in addition to the handful of students whose experiences are recounted in the article, there are (at current count) 157 out of 160 comments that corroborate and extend the vivid accounts of Shiney’s abusive and unprofessional behavior. This suggests that it’s not just one or two disgruntled former employees griping out of spite. Rather, this is a serious, widespread, and prolonged pattern of bullying. It’s also particularly disturbing that Shiney seems to have convinced herself that her blatantly tyrannical behavior was somehow in her students’ best interest. Being cruel to someone does not “build character”. It boggles the mind that someone with such poor judgment could have been entrusted with the management of dozens of student employees every summer.

    Given that Shiney’s behavior apparently has persisted for the entire decade and a half she’s been in charge of Orientation, I am appalled that the university administration hasn’t addressed this problem sooner. As the article and comments make clear, this was not some well kept secret–everyone (including the Dean’s office) was aware of it. Kenn Elmore surely bears responsibility for this, and he must be held to account too. His disregard of multiple reports of student concerns makes him complicit. It reminds me of the Catholic bishops who for years ignored accounts of sexual abuse by priests in their charge.

    Shiney’s inexcusable behavior makes clear that she cannot continue as Director of Orientation. I would hope that after reading here the scores of accounts of the damage she’s caused, she would realize this and resign. If not, the administration should remove her. BU must then find someone to lead Orientation who can turn the page on this deplorable and destructive chapter and ensure that future student staff will have the same kind of positive, enjoyable, character-building experience I had in the era before Shiney’s reign of terror.

  87. Adrienne Suter PA 2011

    Here’s the deal. I’m 100% done being anonymous. Shines, if you’re reading this, you and everyone else can know exactly who I am. I’m Adrienne Suter, PA 2011, and was verbally abused by you all summer under the “guise” of mentor ship.

    The first thing I felt when I read this article was horrific guilt because for years I was too scared to do anything. The googly eyes stunt, her telling you she’d find out every single place you ever applied for a job and telling them not to hire you before you even interviewed…toxic, toxic shit.

    I no longer live in Boston and I’m succeeding at a career I’ve been in for 9 years. I have tons of people in my corner who believe in me, support me and love me. They know I’m great at what I do.

    That summer I pulled out my eyebrows from the anxiety of it. I still struggle with the repercussions of how low I felt about myself in that job.

    Shiney, on the off chance you’re actually reading this, I hope you can find help. (AWAY from young, impressionable 20 year olds who just want to succeed at their jobs and impress their bosses). I suspect that “hurt people hurt people” comes into play here and that you’ve also been gaslit and verbally abused to perpetuate this against young college kids. I’m sad for you and hope you can figure out a way to exist in the world that is genuinely good and kind and loving, and not destructive, narcissistic and abusive.

    • Sage Huston ‘13

      All of this is so true to me tooooo (except the 9 years of success- way to go, Adrienne!).

      I’ve just recently started unpacking how my summer made me feel worthless, unprofessional, and deserving of mistreatment for *years*.

      I’ve worked many jobs with toxic cultures because I figured that’s all I deserved, and I’ve been afraid to look into more “professional” spaces because, if Shines was the model of what to expect, I wanted no part of it.

  88. Emilia Cowell- CA 2011

    All of the above is absolutely true. In my experience, Shiney told me at the beginning of an orientation session that she wanted to talk to me but not till the end of the session. I experienced intense physical symptoms of anxiety For the next 3 days, because everyone knew what these meetings really were and for the life of me I didn’t know what I had done. I talked to coworkers to try to guess why she was upset with me and found an answer- one senior staff member ( also a college kid) , and One of Shineys favorite male students , thought my tone of voice was rude to him on a particular occasion. The other girls coached me. At that point, all other female staff had cried in these meetings. They told me that if I tried to argue in any way to defend myself It would be worse. I went into this meeting stone faced with the resolve to not let her get to me. She started off by saying “ You are a Very rude person.” With no explanation. I said ok, can you give me some examples of when I’ve been rude. She responded “ I’m not going to do that, but many people tell me you are rude. “ I asked if she would tell me who so I could talk to them about it and she refused to do that. For the rest of the time I simply said “ ok” and remained stone faced as she lectured me about my character. I Felt victorious because I managed not to cry. My experience was comparatively mild in comparison to many others. The whole thing was compounded by the fact that she would frequently tell us that she was “ the nicest Boss we would ever have.” And that we were all abusing her kindness. I am amazed this has gone on so long , but am grateful it is now being discussed. I urge the university to remove Shiney and address the culture that allowed for an emotionally abusive work place to occur.

    • Hey Emilia and Adrienne – just a note to say I remember working with you both and – TEN years later still hold you in high regard as lovely, professional coworkers. Emilia: you were not rude. Ever. Adrienne: you are probably off teaching and serving as a fabulous, well-qualified mentor. Glad to know you!

      • Thanks Mike, hope you are well! Hopefully, more of us older Alum can come forward with our names attached as we no longer need references. I imagine many of the anonymous are younger and still fearful of retribution in some way.

      • Thank you Mike! I remember you fondly as well. If I recall correctly, you went on to work in the PA office during the school year, yes? So you were subject to even more of it over a longer period of time.

        Emilia’s recounting of those meetings is so chillingly accurate. We were roommates that summer and commiserated nightly. It was in our coworkers that I found relief, validation and love.

        I agree with Emilia’s comment about us using our names. I think since we’re in our 30s we’re well-established in careers where she has zero influence. (She probably never had as much influence as she made us believe when we were 20 years old, wide-eyed, eager to work hard and gain experience).

        It’s so funny. Last summer I considered writing her a letter, using my real name, not publicly—but just to let her know of the harm she had done to me, and that I had recovered and gone on to be (in my own estimation) a successful high school teacher. I wanted to entreat her to examine how she treats staff and examine her words, tone and actions. I never sent it. I don’t think I wanted to delve back into it.

        I hope you’re doing well, Mike. If the University wants to talk to me about this I gladly volunteer. My family remembers this summer surprisingly well because of how often I called home to cry. I have a preponderance of evidence to share, if BU wants it!

  89. As just a mere witness to this overwhelming outcry, all I am laser focused on now is participating in our community’s collective responsibility to ensure there is a just resolution. BU was deeply transformative experience that I cherish, and the thought of a bad faith actor disenfranchising people in our community from the very institution and experiences that should be nurturing and formative is very troubling. I am so proud of everyone who has come forward. Your experiences are real, valid, and (finally) are being heard. I will participate in any effort I can to apply the pressure required to hold the BU administration accountable. For better or worse, we must take ownership of our alma matter and ensure abusive individuals like James are stripped of any opportunity to harm even one more student.

  90. Zach Hobbs’s name has come up a few times- I’m curious what stories people have about him. I didn’t work for his office during my summer, but I remember liking him, Pedro, and Katherine Kennedy a lot more than most of the other senior staff.

    Everything else discussed in the article and comments has been spot on, so I would like to learn more. Thanks, y’all!

    • Zach definitely played favorites. He was known to make “personality hires” and excuse toxic/abusive workplace behavior from FYSOP PMs (who managed FYCOs) if he liked them. I never worked for him, but the stories are out there, just whispered more quietly since (1) he left (2) he took on far fewer students (3) the CSC is probably the only place at BU that’s more cult-like than Orientation.

      • Dean of Students Office Needs to be Held Accountable

        I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, only my own. I was a PM at the CSC when Zach first started and was around during that summer as staff. I felt there was a lot of tension behind his hire after Lindsey left. Orpheo was not promoted like he thought he would be and didn’t seem to try and assist Zach with navigating this new found position. I remember Zach talking about being the “tokenized queer” that orientation and Shiney would often call on last minute to do presentations during orientation to show LGBTQ+ representation. I think he struggled A LOT with figuring out how to be authentic and support students during a tumultuous year first year– it was the year Prof. Saida Grundy was almost fired for talking about white male privilege on her twitter and there were hate groups on campus. For me, I felt Zach was very helpful in navigating the Dean of Students office during this time when many of us were trying to ask for more student voice unlike Orpheo who told me “politics don’t belong in the CSC.”

        From my understanding of Zach, I think he really struggled with the bureaucracy at BU and how the Dean of Students office conducted themselves. That being said, I was there for the first year and I’m not sure how things were handled afterward.

  91. Sophia Richardson, SA 2015

    Although I was not personally the target of Shiney’s ire, I can corroborate everything in this article. When I was considering applying to the position I reached out to a former SA, and when I asked them for advice on working with Shiney they said “just keep your head down, and when she has you apologize to her over something cry because that’s what she’s looking for.”

    For some reason our year had less communal berating from Shiney than previous years, but the environment was still tense. I watched her single out my coworkers for small “mistakes”, and you got the sense that at any moment you could be pulled into her office for a verbal beating or have your housing taken away over something trivial. The adults in the room made it seem like the students deserved the punishments that Shiney handed down to them, and Shiney made us believe that this is what jobs in the real world were like. If we failed here we would fail anywhere. And if we failed here we believed that Shiney would use her enormous and powerful network to make sure we’d never work again.

    I’ve seen some comments to the effect of “well that’s the how you wrangle 20-somethings who just want to party at their summer jobs.” Since graduating I have not worked with a single group of people that matched the level of competence, drive, and kindness of the students I worked with that summer. Shiney used the compassion of her staff as a bargaining chip to control them, convincing us that if we did not operate the exact way she wanted that we were bad people who didn’t care.

    Since the article was released I’ve had a lot of conversations with my staff from that year about how working in that environment has bled into the rest of our lives. I still have a deep anxiety of doing anything wrong at work, and assume that every mistake will result in unemployment and disgrace. I’ve tolerated abusive behavior from other bosses and terrible working conditions because they seemed normal. In every job I’m in I feel the need to work against the assumption that I am bad and do not care about my work.

    Shiney James is an emotional abuser, and the adults and BU administrators that enable her are cowards. I’m glad this is being talked about publicly, but nothing that has been said here is new information.

  92. Truly surprised that John Battaglino hasn’t been mentioned yet, because if we’re talking about toxic, predatory people in DOS, look no further. He’s been Elmore’s drinking buddy for years and his favorite leisure activity is hitting on any female student or employee within 5 feet. He once flirted with me so obviously in front of his own wife that my friend who was present asked, “Does he do this to everyone? Doesn’t she notice?” He does do it to everyone, he doesn’t care who notices.

    • John Battaglino’s behavior towards female students and employees is just as much of an open secret as the enablement of Shiney’s abusive behavior. While Battaglino’s transgressions affected his personal life, it only minimally impacted his professional life at BU – a lower job title, yet still working directly with students overseeing the Student Activities Office.

  93. Thank you to the Freep for running this article and putting this out there for students to avoid this situation and hopefully get the university to do something. I worked for Orientation in 2011 as a Freshman and it’s all true. I regret not speaking up but it’s true that when you’re only 18,19,20 – it does seem like she has a lot of power. When I confronted her before quitting my time at Orientation she used things I had said to another staff member in what was supposed to be “confidence” (since we all had forced mentor/mentee relationships with an assigned staff member) to break me down. The topic was specifically my late father who had just passed away. I was 18, grieving, and she felt entitled to tell me that my father would be ashamed of me. It’s ten years later and quite frankly, I would have handled it all differently. No one should ever have to go through that. It pains me to know students now, 10 years later, are still having to cope with this.

  94. Sarah (Doyle) Melendez - SA 2010

    My mind absolutely exploded when I saw this article. Never, ever did I think I would see the day Shiney James’ harmful behavior came to light. My time with her at orientation was by far my worst experience at BU. One day I was late to one of our trainings and apologized to the Assistant Director when I arrived. He said, “It’s okay,” and told me to find a seat. Three days later I received an email from Shiney summoning me to her office saying she gave me three days to come apologize to her and how disappointing it was that I had not. Here’s the thing, you get hired as a Student Advisor because you’ve had a ton of student activity experience on campus, and never had it been the norm to apologize to multiple people in an organization for being late. But okay, now I knew her expectation. I figured I would pop over, say sorry and we would talk it out. Never had I been more wrong. She berated me in her office. I was stunned, truly stunned. The way she tore me down after spending weeks telling us Orientation Advisors are such a special team and that she would always be there for help or career advice and how grateful she was to have all of us there. Cut to her office where she spoke to me in a way no other adult has ever spoken to me – before or since then. I felt like the worst person in the world. It was extremely isolating. Destruction of trust like that has lasting effects. She ended the meeting by saying if I made one more mistake she would fire me, no matter what it was. I remember asking through tears and gritted teeth, “But what if it’s an accident?” She said it wouldn’t make a difference. Can you imagine? A 20 year old who had worked so hard to get to where she was, on the verge of senior year feeling like one small accident might ruin her life (at the time that is truly how she made me feel). The anxiety this caused me the rest of the summer was astronomical. It was, and still is, a nightmare.

    At the time, I thought I was the only one she treated this way. As the years have gone on, I’ve heard more stories here and there – but never anything like this article. I am so sorry to all the students who experienced this abuse as the years went on. I wish I could have done more to stop it but at the time she was unstoppable. Have things changed? I hope so. Thank you, thank you, thank you Freep for reporting this. I cannot express the healing it is bringing me and assuredly many others. Time is up on Shiney James’ toxic behavior.

  95. Hi everyone – I’d like to share a suggestion made to me by my therapist, who formerly worked in Universities and understands the (a.) impact of James’ behavior on the executive functioning of college students and (b.) protections we as students should be afforded under Title IX.

    BU’s Title IX Coordinator Jessica Nagle (617-353-0911 | You can read more about the Title IX protections here ( James’ behaviors would likely fall under the following category:

    Workplace Violence Prevention Policy: Prohibits violent behavior, physical attacks, verbal or physical threats of violence, physical intimidation, and stalking, and property damage, and describes procedures for reporting such situations.

    Full details on this element of the policy can be found here:

    As the Freep noted in their excellent follow-up editorial, James is the symptom of an institution that is corrupt up to the very top, so this may be the best way to try to ensure something is done to address James and her enablers. In reflecting on this week, my heart goes out to all of the students impacted, but I hurt for the low- to middle-income students who took these exhausting and abusive jobs because it was a way to reduce their overall student debt (I fall into this category, as well as many of my closest friends) and have been struggling with severe workplace anxiety due to the fact that I was economically disadvantaged, and therefore exploited. Of course, James should be removed, but the entire system needs to be shaken up, because at the end of the day, there are people like Shiney James and all of her enablers at every single institution in the US.

    If anyone is organizing on how to develop a formal response to this issue, please e-mail me: . I loved the idea that someone suggested regarding opening a GFM or mutual aid fund in order to assist those with therapy bills, as it is so clear that many, many of us have been traumatized and may only now be realizing the extent. Please reach out and we can begin to figure out how to get this moving along. I hope you all were able to find some time to take care of yourself, and are able to get some rest during this upcoming weekend.

    In solidarity,

    Mike Parello

  96. Sarah (Doyle) Melendez, SA 2010

    My mind absolutely exploded when I saw this article. Never, ever did I think I would see the day Shiney James’ harmful behavior came to light. My time with her at orientation was by far my worst experience at BU. One day I was late to a training and apologized to the Assistant Director when I arrived. He said, “It’s okay,” and told me to find a seat. Three days later I received an email from Shiney summoning me to her office saying she gave me three days to come apologize to her and how disappointing it was that I had not. Here’s the thing, you get hired as a Student Advisor because you’ve had a ton of student activity experience on campus, and never had it been the norm to apologize to multiple people in an organization for being late. But okay, now I knew her expectation. I figured I would pop over, say sorry and we would talk it out. Never had I been more wrong. She berated me in her office. I was stunned, truly stunned. The way she tore me down after spending weeks telling us Orientation Advisors are such a special team and that she would always be there for help or career advice and how grateful she was to have all of us there. Cut to her office where she spoke to me in a way no other adult has ever spoken to me – before or since then. Destruction of trust like that has lasting effects. She ended the meeting by saying if I made one more mistake she would fire me, no matter what it was. I remember asking through tears and gritted teeth, “But what if it’s an accident?” She said it wouldn’t make a difference. Can you imagine? A 20 year old who had worked so hard to get to where she was, on the verge of senior year feeling like one small accident might ruin her life (at the time that is truly how she made me feel). The anxiety this caused me the rest of the summer was astronomical. It was, and still is, a nightmare.

    At the time, I thought I was the only one she treated this way. As the years have gone on, I’ve heard more stories here and there – but never anything like this article. I am so sorry to all the students who experienced this abuse as the years went on. I wish I could have done more to stop it but at the time she was unstoppable. Have things changed? I hope so. Thank you, thank you, thank you Freep for reporting this. I cannot express the healing it is bringing me and assuredly many others. It is time to stop Shiney James.

  97. I was the Operations Coordinator in the Orientation office in 2011 to 2012, and it was my first job after college. I can see clearly now how much Shiney was manipulating me and how unhealthy our relationship was, but at the time, I was new to Boston, knew one person there, and really, really wanted people to like me. Shiney took advantage of that. I would call my mom after work the first summer crying pretty frequently. One time, when I had made the same mistake a couple of times, Shiney used the student staff to “teach me a lesson”, meaning she told them to hide my office and filing cabinet keys from me, leading me to break down in front of all the student staff after Shiney left for the day. I’ll also never forget how scared/anxious/stressed I would be every time I heard the bells coming from her office. All that being said, though, I’m so sorry I didn’t stand up for the students I was working with during my time there, and for the students that would come after I left. Thank you for writing this.

    • Ally, I remember you and I remember sort of knowing you must have been in the same position we were, in a way. Thank you for being my resume reference so I didn’t have to use Shiney. That was huge!

    • Ally, you were always super sweet! I remember very clearly one time when you did have to give me a bit of constructive criticism. I was so terrified based on my experiences with Shiney, but you just told me what I did wrong in a calm way and explained what I could do better in the future. It was so refreshing to hear.
      Ironically, the thing you were reprimanding me for was being harsh with student workers from another department…I think I was unknowingly being a bit Shiney-like when I talked to them, because she had taught me that was what got results. You helped me nip that in the bud, but did it in a way that didn’t make me cry (a low bar, to be sure, but with Shiney, that was what I aimed for). Thanks for all the support you DID provide that summer. We were all super terrified, it’s clear now, but I don’t think you should blame yourself. <3

    • Adrienne Suter (PA 2011)

      Hi Ally, not sure if you remember me, but I chose you as my mentor intentionally to avoid having more one on ones with Shiney. It’s remarkably healing to read that you also thought she was a dive at that time. I have to hand it to you—you were graceful, professional and kind throughout it all.

      I told you “This workplace is toxic” when we met for our meeting. You said “Yes.” Then you paused and finished “…from the top down.” In that moment I felt so validated my heart could’ve burst into a million pieces.

      Our meeting happened on the immediate heels of one of Shiney’s private berating sessions with me. I had gone to Cafe Royal across the street to collect myself and stop crying. I came back and had that meeting with you and felt like someone returned me to the real world again.

      Thanks for commenting here. I sincerely hope you are happy and healthy and in a work place that values you and all you contribute.

    • Ally, you were a constant source of kindness and support to the PAs working in the office of summer 2012. I don’t think I could have gotten through without you. Thank you for all you did for us, and I’m sorry if were ever complicit in making you feel like anything other than the total professional you were.

  98. My daughter complained about this woman A LOT but I did not understand the severity of the situation. I am so pissed off. SHAME on you BU. As a fellow educator, I am disgusted that her colleagues have not stood up for the students who find themselves in this abusive situation.

  99. She who must be SHAMED

    Student Advisor from 2016 – Shiney is the most manipulative, vindictive, cruel, and unkind human possible. From having me rewrite emails to telling me how I owed her an apology for being late by 5 mins to making me cry in her office for taking time off to let my body heal from exhaustion and stress – she has done it all and more. The whole summer she hated me and told me she would make it hell for me – even told me how she has so many contacts and it won’t take her much to make my time at BU hell. She is a heartless woman and I truly hope she is held accountable for her actions and for emotionally abusing young minds for decades.

  100. Former Orientation Office Student Worker

    Worked in the orientation office with Shiney James for several months during the school year a few years ago and so much of this article resonated with me. I am an alum and some of the habits I picked up to avoid emotional retaliation from her have stuck with me even years later. My time in the orientation office negatively impacted my mental health and my college performance. I started working there as a freshman in college, just a few weeks after getting to BU, and I can say that it most certainly impacted my college career. With Shiney, you were never right unless she liked you and saw you as someone she could mold and manipulate. I am lucky I stopped working for the office after a year despite the massive guilt that I felt for not returning. I believe all the brave students/former students who came forward and am glad to see an investigation happen.

  101. The University has begun a review and assessment of the allegations using an outside fact-finder. I encourage those who wish to be heard to reach out directly to the external fact-finder, Amy Serino at

  102. Disgusted Current Staff & Alum

    I’m late to the party here, as I’m just seeing this FREEP article now because of this morning’s edition of BU Today. This is straight up abuse, no one should be minimizing or dismissing it. To Shiney’s supporters in the comments, even if she treated you well (good for you?), she is still an (alleged) abuser who has no business managing others at BU, or anywhere else, for that matter. If even just 10% of these allegations are true, Shiney needs to do the right thing and resign. This is not normal behavior, this is abusive to the core. And shame on BU/Prez/DOS/HR/Ombuds, etc. for sweeping this under the rug for years. Why? To the students expressing regret for not reporting their own experiences, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that because BU wasn’t going to do anything about it, anyway. Because that’s what BU does, and it’s not just happening at Orientation. For example, it’s rampant across ENSA; ask any employee in ENSA that is not a manager or director. That’s a hostile, abusive work environment that I have both witnessed and experienced first-hand, and it seems to be the status quo across campus. I have reported this, as have my colleagues, but nothing ever comes of it. This is par for the course at BU. But I think the worst part about Shiney’s office is that these are/were PAYING students, not regular, full-time staff such as myself or my colleagues. No one has mentioned this in any of the comments, but it’s worth noting. These students are/were paying HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars to attend BU and to be allegedly abused by this woman. Let that sink in. It’s outrageous. Lastly, I’m so very sorry to all the students who had to endure this abuse at the hands of a BU administrator who very clearly bought into her overinflated sense of importance at BU and in Boston. Time’s up.

  103. There are so many people at BU who abuse their power over student workers like this, put students on the spot, and create toxic, hostile work environments. Thank you to the FreeP for bringing this issue to light and I hope everyone at BU who has experienced a supervisor like this is able to share their story.

  104. I was an SA for Questrom in the summer of 2016. Worst summer I ever had. I had just finished my sophomore year and was on my way to building up a fragile sense of self confidence. I really wanted to believe Shiney cared about me in some way, that I really somehow did have the flaws she pointed out. That enduring her words would make me a better person.

    Hard to become a better person when you’re told that you always look uninterested and disrespectful because you don’t maintain direct eye contact with her when she’s addressing a group of people. Or being berated for not caring about people because you don’t smile enough and space out a bit and forget to turn your phone notifications off when she’s speaking. She made me so hyperaware and anxious about every single thing I did that by the end of the summer, I felt like I was mentally vacating my body and smiling so hard my cheeks hurt just to make it through the week.

    In my senior year, I attended some event held at Stuvi held right before I was about to graduate. I had a job offer lined up and had a solid GPA. I was in a good place! Shiney was at that event. She made it a point to barely acknowledge me, greeting other students with much more enthusiasm. Didn’t even bother asking me on what was in my future. She didn’t care for me one bit.