Phillips Exeter Alums: No More Money until School Deals with Sexual Abuse Issues

Print Share on LinkedIn More

July 14, 2016; Boston Globe

In its nonprofit news coverage, NPQ has frequently writes about the wave of donor and other stakeholder actions that surges when a board fails to act with integrity and resolve. When appointed or elected governance flounders, a larger governance system is more likely than ever to step in and make itself heard, even in the most hallowed halls.

At Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, 700 alumni have vowed to withhold their donations to the school until and unless the institution’s leadership demonstrates it will take sexual abuse seriously. The posh boarding school already has an endowment of around $1 billion.

All have signed a letter to the trustees expressing their loss of confidence in the school administration and the consequences of any lack of seriousness on this matter.

“Listen, Exeter cares about two things above and beyond anything else, based on what we’ve seen recently,’’ said one of the signers, Michael Whitfield Jones, a 1975 graduate who works in finance and digital marketing in New York City. “They care about money, and they care about public opinion, which is a sad thing.”

This donor action follows the publishing of a Boston Globe Spotlight Team article, which reported a minister at the school having directed a male student and star athlete who had been accused of molesting a girl to bake bread for her as an “act of penance.” The girl later went to the police, who properly arrested the male student.

This is not the first time that reports of sexual abuse have surfaced in relationship to this school. Previous incidents involving faculty abuse of students have been brought—sometimes decades after the fact—by alumni.

The 20,000-strong Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has called on the school to fire Rev. Robert Thompson, the minister who handled this case.—Ruth McCambridge