President Shirley Collado, named to lead Ithaca College last year, faced an accusation of sexual assault nearly 20 years ago. The college’s board of trustees has expressed its full support in the matter, which was raised this week by a student publication at IC. The issue had come up a year ago when Dr. Collado was introduced to the campus, as well as during the College’s presidential search process.
According to The Ithacan, Dr. Collado “was accused of sexually abusing a female patient while working as a psychologist in Washington, D.C., in 2000 and was convicted of sexual abuse in 2001” after pleading nolo contendere — no contest — to the charges. The incident was soon after the death by suicide of Dr. Collado’s husband.
“By pleading nolo contendere, Collado did not admit guilt but accepted a conviction,” The Ithacan said. Of the plea decision, Dr. Collado said in a statement released on Tuesday, “I juggled two very strong and opposing instincts: to defend myself aggressively against a painful, false accusation or to devote my energy to healing from my loss. My lawyer recommended pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charge so that I could just end the matter quickly and move on. After a lot of soul searching, I took his advice.”
“I have been candid about this very trying chapter of my life, and how it has influenced the way I approach my work and my personal path,” Dr. Collado says. “I have discussed it over the years with confidantes and with leaders I’ve worked for. I discussed it with the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and the presidential search committee during my candidacy for president. While trying to maintain a degree of privacy and confidentiality for myself and other individuals, I shared the broad details of this story in an interview published by the college as part of my introduction to the campus community last spring.”
Prosecutors in the case argued that Dr. Collado “took advantage of a vulnerable, sexual-abuse survivor with mental illness by entering into a monthslong sexual relationship that started when Collado was the patient’s therapist,” according to the Ithacan. “Collado denies having any sexual contact with the patient.” The Ithacan anonymously cited a former coworker of Dr. Collado as believing “the patient’s allegation that she and Collado had a sexual relationship.”
A statement issued by Ithaca College’s board of trustees on Tuesday says, “We were provided with detailed information regarding this situation, and Dr. Collado was extremely forthright in answering all our questions,” during the presidential search process. “As part of the search process, many people who knew or worked with Dr. Collado throughout her career provided answers to a wide range of questions that we had, including on the legal action. Their responses reinforced to us that Dr. Collado had the experience, drive, and personal qualities to make an exceptional president for our college.”
“I do not know who is disseminating this information or how widely it is being shared,” Dr. Collado says. “Seeing how profoundly the facts and my character are being misrepresented and being forced to relive the pain of that time have left me feeling upset, perplexed, and targeted.”
“Dr. Collado has our full support,” stressed the board of trustees in its statement. “She was the right choice when she was named president of Ithaca College last year, and her first six months in office have only reinforced our belief in what an exceptional person and leader she truly is.”