top of page

Another woman speaks up...

This website's purpose is to bring awareness to an issue that we have found, through our research and witness accounts these past two years, is ongoing. We have had more than one woman personally share their story of sexual harassment by Dr. Rod Risley with us, but unfortunately, these women are terrified to come forward, for fear of retaliation or social scrutiny.

These women have read the comments on the article, heard the rumors, and witnessed, with all of you, how socially damaging speaking out against Dr. Risley can be. We still try to advocate to the other women that they are not alone, and today this was proven true.

A woman has found the courage to speak up, no matter the risks. Through the form on our website, she contacted us and has allowed us to publish her account of Dr. Risley's inappropriate behavior.

This is her story, in her own words.

Maria Hinds, former MS Regional Officer

April 5, 2015

To me, it was surprising to see the sexual assault complaints regarding Rod Risley, but not for the usual reasons one might think.

Back in February 2012, in the week following a very successful Regional Convention, I received the following message from Dr. Risley himself. We had been introduced but did not have any interactions beyond that. I was much more interested in talking to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Executive Director about her marathon experiences - and decided that if I was ever to run, Philadelphia was the one to go. Still, apparently a simple introduction was enough for the kind of ‘intimacy’ this message implies:

Yeap. I remember thinking “hum, maybe this is inappropriate,” but dismissing it since it was from Dr. Rod Risley. And he was interested in me! In my life! It made me uncomfortable and I remember feeling how this should not be how interactions between two parties in different hierarchies, and with very little contact, should interact. Nevertheless, this was the person who by all accounts, occupies the most prominent position in Phi Theta Kappa, who endows truly great scholarships, and is worshiped by everybody (his shoes included). And he thought that I “must have a wonderful story!” Anyone can see how this position comes with a certain intimidation power (and therefore, coercive potential) and I find it hard that he - a man who achieved high levels of education - did not understand that.

In hindsight - after years, institutions, and wonderful professors who allowed me to see how power imbalances influences us - I wish I had not answered. I wish I could tell you that I saw how beyond inappropriate this was, and how appalled I felt. I wish I could tell you that I ignored him. But I did not. So for matter of full disclosure - and the truth, - I answered the following:

Mind the “Thank you for your attention.” Not “see you soon,” not “talk to you later,” and absolutely not “sincerely yours,” but “Thank you for your attention.” Because in my world then, to have a person of prestige paying attention to me was really worthy of being grateful. I am glad to say however, that once in Nashville I kept myself busy - sightseeing, campaigning for a friend, and with my chapter advisers - and very much away from him.

Three years later, I read about these allegations being brought up against Dr. Rod Risley for sexual harassment. And I was surprised.

Surprised because it was finally brought to light. Surprised because the Facebook message that was sent to me, was just the tip of the iceberg. Two women (so far) pointed to this beyond unacceptable behavior from one of the monoliths of Phi Theta Kappa. Something that I could not do when something similar - albeit in an incomparably smaller proportion - happened to me. When I read that both were international officers, I realized that perhaps the message that was sent to me, was only a one-time thing because we were not as in close contact as he was with these two women.

It is troublesome that the Board of Directors has not taken more stern actions towards this issue at a point when several educational institutions are being investigated for not doing enough to prosecute and prevent sexual crimes. It gives the impression that they knew about Dr. Risley’s ‘tendencies’ and now are just scrambling to find ways to quiet down or antagonize the whistleblowers. As someone who saw Emma Sulkowicz during her “Carry That Weight” performance, I believe this is a prime time for Phi Theta Kappa differentiate itself through a ‘take no prisoners’ approach: suspend Dr. Risley until a truly independent investigation is finalized.

I wonder what scholarship donors think about this. Coca Cola, Geico, Frank Lanza, Guistwhite, Hites, Oberndorf… Presumably all of them were led to Phi Theta Kappa because of its mission of helping deserving students achieve higher degrees of education, which is a more than worthy cause. So how can the reason of being of these scholarships (that are exclusive to PTK members) be reconciled with the incredible disregard that has been showed toward the matter of the allegations of sexual harassment committed by Dr. Rod Risley? I do not see how it can. Nobody wants to be associated with an institution whose ‘face’ is a man of doubtful reputation. Imagine what would happen to Phi Theta Kappa and its members if private donors and institutional scholarships divest and rescind, taking away its best marketing and recruiting line: “over $87 million in scholarships opportunities.” So even if it’s from a less moral, and more utilitarian point of view, PTK’s administration ought to act.

To those of you who still do not believe that Rod Risley was able to do such things - or doubt my credibility, or think I want a turn in the ‘spotlight’, or believe that I want money - I must inform you of a couple things. First, I am a student at Columbia University, with a family, and a stable income - I currently do remote work for Google. I have absolutely nothing to win, and a lot to lose. From this day on, my name will be attached to this for anyone to see, which feels pretty heavy and I would be lying if I said that I did not spend some sleepless nights thinking about it. I have no reason to come out in support of these women except because that this is the undoubtedly right thing to do. Also, I believe with my whole being that what they are saying is the truth and must be acknowledged as so through fair and unbiased judicial means. Second, and most important, PHI THETA KAPPA IS NOT ROD RISLEY. Faces of corporations, nations, and labels are always changing and still thrive. I do not know why it would be different for this great honors society. I love Phi Theta Kappa because it gave me so many outlets to develop friendships, leadership, scholarship, and to serve my community. I will always be a proud member. However, what Dr. Rod Risley did goes against what this great initiative, which helped me in so many ways, is about.

Phi Theta Kappa is a honor society - represented by the profile of a woman - based on a socially just idea that community college students are deserving of recognition.

So where is that recognition now?

bottom of page