More than 1,000 faculty, administrators and staff at institutions of higher education in Maine are urging Sen. Susan Collins to vote against the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, citing in a letter this week credible allegations of sexual misconduct and an “angry demeanor” displayed by Kavanaugh as reasons to not support him as a nominee.
“Would you hire a Maine teacher who was accused of serial and serious sexual offenses just because you did not have ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt?’” reads the online letter. “The answer is of course no. Reasonable doubt — credible first-person testimony that an interviewee is not deserving of the job — would be enough.”
The letter, which was started by faculty from the University of New England and Bowdoin College, has over 1,000 signatures from academics within the University of Maine system, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, College of the Atlantic, University of New England and other institutions across the state.
It cites a statistic from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that one in three women ages 18 and over say they have experienced sexual violence.
It goes on to say many of those who signed are survivors and have students and colleagues who are survivors of sexual violence. It says they find the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, who has said Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were in high school in 1982, and other women, credible and disturbing.
“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony on Thursday was a powerful reminder of what we already know: women are frequently humiliated, harassed, taunted, groped, assaulted — and disbelieved,” the letter says.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R – KY, has said the Senate plans to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination by the end of the week, pending an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations.
Collins, who has not said how she will vote on Kavanaugh but supported the FBI investigation, is seen as a key vote that could determine whether his nomination is approved or not.
Over the last week she has faced increasing pressure both from constituents and progressive activists urging her to vote no on his appointment and from Republican leaders who are pushing to get Kavanaugh confirmed quickly. A spokeswoman for Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letter was started after a chance meeting of two faculty members, Associate Professor Lara Carlson of the University of New England and Visiting Professor Erin Johnson of Bowdoin after they met at a Sept. 28 rally outside Collins’ Portland office.
“This is a public health crisis with someone being sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in the U.S., leaving a wake of survivors,” Carlson said in a news release. “We want to make sure Senator Collins understands the magnitude of the crisis, as there are hundreds of thousands of survivors in Maine. Sexual assault crosses all party lines.”
In the letter, the academics also said they were concerned by the demeanor of Kavanaugh during last week’s testimony on Ford’s allegations, describing his behavior as a “textbook case” of the tactics used by perpetrators of sexual assault who often deny their behavior, attack the person making the allegation and reverse the roles of victim and offender.
“We are at an historic juncture, and your vote, your words, and your actions as our representative will be a focal part of what happens this week,” reads the letter to Collins. “Will you send a message to the tens of millions of American women and men who are victims of sexual violence that their experiences will be met with indifference and even disbelief?
“Or will you make a choice for the greater good, and send the message that survivors can trust that they will be heard if they have the courage to come forward?”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks with Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at her office, before a private meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)