Former Wesleyan dean arrested for soliciting sex from a minor

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

West Hartford police have arrested Scott Backer, former associate dean at Wesleyan University, on charges of using a computer "to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity."

According to a local Fox affiliate, police began investigating Backer in February after a male member of the activist group Prey on Predators posed as a 15-year-old girl on the app Yik Yak and agreed to meet up with Backer in a nearby Walmart in January. The man then captured Backer on video and turned the evidence over to the police. 

"We don't encourage the public to do anything like this, but it was brought to our attention and we investigated," West Hartford Sgt. Tony Anderle told the Hartford Courant.

Backer was fired from Wesleyan after the 2016 school year following questions from a Boston Globe reporter about Backer's alleged sexual misconduct at the prep school where he was previously employed.

The Globe later reported that Backer had been fired from the prep school in 2007 for "allegedly propositioning a 16-year-old female student in lewd text messages." Mere months later, Backer applied for Wesleyan's associate dean position, a job that required him to adjudicate sexual misconduct cases. Despite the details of his firing, he still managed to receive glowing recommendations from the prep school to help him land the job at Wesleyan.

At the time, Wesleyan Dean Mike Whaley stressed that the university had no knowledge of the allegations against Backer when it hired him. 

"As part of the hiring process, Wesleyan received positive reviews of Mr. Backer in written references from and phone interviews with senior administrators at Vermont Academy," Whaley wrote to students in a campus-wide email published by campus blog Wesleying. "Likewise, no information was revealed in the background check."

On Tuesday, Wesleyan President Michael Roth sent an email to students commenting on Backer's arrest:

Like many on campus, I was angry and upset at the news last night that former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer, fired from Wesleyan last summer, had been arrested yesterday and charged with sexual misconduct. This incident should remind us of the importance of supporting survivors of sexual assault and educating ourselves about the problem of sexual discrimination, harassment and violence. 

The recent revelations, however, have still made students — especially those who had sexual assault cases dismissed by Backer — question how Wesleyan's administration dealt with his ousting.

"This is why it is so important to listen to survivors," a student from Wesleyan's Survivor Support Network told Wesleying. "The Wesleyan administration has proven that it does not care about the safety of people on this campus, especially survivors. We are disappointed, we are angry and we demand better of Wesleyan's administration."

May 16, 2017, 3:41 p.m.: This story has been updated.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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