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What happened to Shiney James? BU alumni call for transparency

Shiney James Follow-up
Shiney James, BU Orientation Director, teaching First Year Experience (FY101) in 2017. Four months after The Daily Free Press broke the story about James’ treatment toward student employees, BU has remained for the most part silent on the issue. James is still on BU’s directory, but she no longer works directly with students. COURTESY OF JACKIE RICCIARDI VIA BU TODAY

An investigation into the conduct of BU Orientation Director Shiney James is ongoing, four months after news broke of her alleged “torturous” treatment toward student employees.

On Oct. 4, 2021, The Daily Free Press reported how several former Orientation student leaders accused James of verbally degrading and harshly disciplining student employees, among other things.

However, since the news broke BU has remained for the most part silent on the issue, only acknowledging allegations and launching an investigation with an external fact-finder into the matter. 

“Our goal in this process is to ensure that a careful review of the facts takes place, in accordance with the University’s commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all members of our community as well as our commitment to due process,” wrote University Provost Jean Morrison in an Oct. 7 letter.

According to BU’s directory, James is still employed as Orientation director. However, she no longer works directly with students, as stated in Morrison’s letter.

Speaking to The Daily Free Press, public relations and personnel management experts said investigations such as James’ can go on for weeks or months, typically varying on a case-by-case basis.

According to Kabrina Chang, associate professor for public policy and law at Questrom School of Business, “any number of things could factor in to make [an internal investigation] shorter or longer,” she said. 

On average, BU Orientation hires “around 70 students in a typical pre-pandemic year,” according to BU spokesperson Colin Riley. As such, James potentially interacted with approximately 1,050 students throughout her 15 years as Orientation director.

Riley declined to comment on details of the investigation. 

In these cases, a company’s human resources department normally handles the situation internally, Chang said, adding it normally interviews accusers, witnesses and the accused themselves.

In cases where a lot of evidence against the accused is compiled, Chang said organizations can respond in a variety of ways — these include, but are not limited to, talking to them about their behavior, placing them on probation or removing them from their current position.

“They’ll never resolve it, but try to take action within their own workforce,” Chang said. “If there’s enough that they feel like their internal policies have been violated, they hopefully have policies that tell you what to do in that circumstance.” 

Adrienne Suter, a 2013 School of Education and College of Arts and Sciences alum and 2011 summer orientation program advisor, said she regretted not speaking up about her experience with James sooner. 

“I had allowed myself to believe that we had this particularly bad summer and that we were maybe an unusual group and that she wasn’t like that all the time,” Suter said. “To understand that we were part of a bigger tapestry of ongoing abuse made me really sad.”

For Jayda Leder-Luis, vice president of public relations agency Denterlein, an organization’s crisis response needs to be “timely, authentic, as transparent as possible… and showcase some accountability,” she said.

“There’s so many ways to communicate what you’re doing, what happened and how you can prevent it in the future,” Leder-Luis said. 

Neither James nor Morrison have responded to requests for comment on the investigation.

“I would personally wish for at least messaging coming from the University that this is still…something that they’re taking seriously,” Suter said. “The appearance of the situation right now is that Boston University lacks the institutional commitment to act on this allegation.”

Multiple former Orientation employees said they reached out and spoke to the external fact-finder, but have been left in the dark by the University about findings and updates.

“Since then, though, I have received no communication, no updates, whether that’s by the University, by the fact-finder or somebody else about how the investigation is going, what is happening next or where things are currently at,” said Sally Kim, a 2018 Pardee School of Global Studies alum and 2016 student orientation advisor. 

Lauren Linn, a 2018 CAS alum and 2016 summer orientation leader, said a lot “clicked into place” when looking back on James’ actions.

“I just wish, big picture, that institutions such as Boston University would prioritize the wellbeing of their students over the wellbeing of the bank accounts,” Linn said. “I am tired of reading these perfectly written curated apologies and acknowledgements that have no follow-through on the other side of them.”

Some alumni said they believe that James is representative of a larger systemic issue at BU, especially within the administration. More still believe James should be fired.

“I don’t know if there’s anything at this point that the University can do to rectify the harm that they have done by neglecting to make this situation a priority for them,” Kim said.

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One Comment

  1. I find it very interesting that the University chose to have an independent fact finder rather than having a complete independent investigation, especially since these claims were known by the University and swept under the rug for years. The current lack of transparency, as well as the fact that James is still employed at BU and not on a leave of absence, leads me to believe that nothing will come of this. Quite sad for an institution of BU’s reputation.