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Why is Brandeis so inept? UD has followed several Brandeis stories over the years (the Rose Art Museum fiasco, the Donald Hindley fiasco… the president who threatened to sue a magazine because of an article he didn’t like) and they tend to be about administrative ineptitude. Here’s another one.

Because its journalism department had to make “an emergency hire” (Huh? If you can’t find a replacement at the last minute, you cancel the course rather than picking someone up off the sidewalk.), it picked up this chick – an alcoholic with a serious rap sheet. A friend of a friend of someone in the journalism department recommended her.

Scot Bemis up there in the headline explains it all very clearly for us. It’s illegal to ask applicants about their criminal backgrounds. However, if you ask applicants about their criminal convictions, they have to tell you about them…

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, no one asked this woman anything. But you could Google her, the way a Brandeis student journalist did.

Ross’ criminal background, according to her blog as well as multiple newspapers, includes numerous convictions for operating a vehicle under the influence, conspiracy to aid an escape from jail and conspiracy in attempting an escape from jail. On Feb. 28, the day after she was placed in protective custody in Waltham, she was arrested for operating under the influence and operating a vehicle after her license was revoked for drunk driving, according to the Barnstable Police Department.

The Barnstable Police Department confirmed that Ross has been convicted of OUI more than four times; under Massachusetts law, that many convictions requires a lifetime suspension of the involved individual’s driver’s license.

… Despite the fact that information about Ross’ arrests is publicly available through her blog, Google searches and public records, nobody at the University knew about her criminal history before hiring her, according to multiple University officials.

All this info got stirred up when Pippin Ross was found “intoxicated and unresponsive” in her car on campus. She’s been fired.

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3 Responses to “‘Vice President for Human Resources Scot Bemis wrote in an email to the [Brandeis University newspaper] that Massachusetts law forbids the University from asking job applicants about their criminal backgrounds. However, Bemis added that “if asked, a candidate is required to disclose a criminal conviction. The affect [sic] of a conviction depends on the position being filled and the nature of the conviction.” Ross was not asked about previous convictions.’”

  1. famdoc Says:

    As an alumnus of Brandeis and a father of a current Brandeis student, I am furious about this news. Does a University not require recommendations from prior employers before hiring a faculty member? Perhaps it is illegal to ask about prior criminal record, but with so much fraud in academia these days, is a simple background check, be it a Google search or an inquiry placed to prior department chairs, not common practice.

    There but for the grace of God…with AT LEAST four convictions for OUIs and a suspended license, Ms. Ross is indeed fortunate that she did not kill someone with her vehicle. Operating a vehicle under the influence on campus?
    Someone’s son or daughter crossing a campus road an innocent victim.

    Let me not sound callous. Ms. Ross suffers from a disease. She needs treatment. But, she has proven herself to be in high-level denial, writing a memoir about her years in prison and shopping that memoir to publishers in hopes to profit from her “experience.”

    And a husband, a writer (and, I believe, a former member of 60s funny guys Firesign Theater), has enabled his wife in oh so many ways, including making a public statement that his wife was not drunk, but suffering from some “as yet undiagnosed neurologic condition” that predisposed her to stuporous attacks. Oh, cut me a break. She has a disease, but it isn’t focal seizures of the brain stem.

    Rose Art, Pippin Ross…yes, Brandeis is suffering from a serious image problem, perhaps resulting from administrative laxity. But the Pippin Ross debacle is the most profound problem of all, because we entrust the University to safeguard our children. In this hiring, they have failed us.

  2. Slow Pendulums Says:

    It is pretty common practice, even in bigger universities, not to require academics to complete background checks. All staff are required to do so, of course.

  3. DM Says:

    @famdoc: If I understand the issue correctly, she was not regular faculty (for which hiring procedures typically involve interviews, reading the past writings of the candidate, research assessment etc.) but a temporary teacher.

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