Cw: unsolicited messages
Earlier this month, Ashraf Youssef, a popular campus employee, was suspended by Wellesley College. On Tuesday, April 9 an employee at the Leaky Beaker, the café located in the Science Center’s temporary modules, noticed that her co-worker Youssef was not at work, although he had been there the previous day. When she asked her supervisor where Youssef was, he said, “Ashraf has been suspended.” The Wellesley News contacted the Human Resources and Title IX offices, and was referred to Casey Bayer, director of Media Relations. Wellesley declined to specify why Youssef was suspended because of the College’s policy to “keep individual employee matters confidential.”
In the days following the suspension, a current student, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to The Wellesley News about the unwanted contact she had with Youssef via Facebook over a number of semesters. She shared that she did not initially report the incident to Wellesley’s administration because “I knew how much he loved being at Wellesley and how much Wellesley loves him. I didn’t want to be the one that took [that] away. Still to this day I won’t speak out because I genuinely think people wouldn’t believe me.”
The student shared with The Wellesley News that she regularly studied in the Leaky Beaker during the school year and shared what she characterized as friendly conversations with Youssef. One day she noticed a shift in his behavior towards her. She said, “He started saying kind of uncomfortable things like ‘I see you in my dreams’ and ‘I’m in love with you.’”
He then initiated unwanted contact via Facebook with her beginning in the spring of 2018 and continuing throughout the fall semester this year. Youssef had found her on Facebook and “obsessively” messaged her. According to the student, he called and messaged “to the point where I had to delete the app because I couldn’t use my phone properly with all the calls.” Screenshots show that he called her 16 times between Oct. 5 and 6. The News also obtained Facebook messages that urged her to call him.
The student stopped going to the Leaky Beaker because of the repeated calls and messages, sharing that “The idea of passing him filled me with such fear and discomfort.”
On Oct. 10, the student sent a message via Facebook that reads in part, “I hope you’re doing well and that you had a great break. I enjoy talking with you at the Leaky Beaker, but it makes me feel uncomfortable to talk to you on Facebook messenger like this…” He replied two days later: “Sorry.” This was the last time Youssef contacted the student.
The College’s Policy Against Sexual Harassment does not specifically mention rules regarding contact between staff and students via social media. The Title IX Office and the College did not respond to specific questions about Wellesley’s policies regarding social media. In their statement they said that the “procedures in place at Wellesley College to investigate allegations of misconduct are comprehensive, thoughtful and fair. They have been developed with the best interests of our community in mind — including both the rights of the parties and the safety of our students — and we are confident in our process.”
Since Human Resources (HR) would not confirm the reason for Youssef’s suspension, it is uncertain whether it is related to the contact he had with the anonymous student interviewed by The News or if the suspension is due to another reason entirely. Though the student did not notify Wellesley’s administration about the contact prior to his suspension, it is possible that a third party could have reported it.
The reason for Youssef’s suspension cannot be confirmed, but the weekly Campus Police report recorded a harassment claim in the Science Center on Friday, April 5. It reads, “The RP [reporting party], a WC student, requested to speak with an officer regarding an interaction with a staff member. An officer met with the student. Report filed. Case under investigation.” The Wellesley News was unable to confirm that the staff member in question is Youssef, although the incident occurred shortly before he stopped showing up to work.
Youssef has received positive press in his 14 years at Wellesley College, including a staff spotlight in this paper and a Daily Shot gallery piece that was liked over 500 times on Facebook. An article on Good News Network, an online platform that shares positive news stories, details the “slew of affirming likes and comments” from students about Youssef on Yik Yak, a social media platform that was commonly used by Wellesley students before 2016.
After his suspension, Youssef began reaching out to students asking for their support. Ellie Gibbs ’22 saw Youssef driving through the town of Wellesley and flagged him down to talk to him. She asked to get in his car, and he told her about his suspension and that he wanted Gibbs to tell as many people as possible to email HR in support of him. According to Gibbs, Youssef said his suspension was a “misunderstanding” and that “he deserves to have his job back.” Hannah Kwak ’20, a former employee at the Leaky Beaker, shared on Facebook class groups and the Free & For Sale page, “I … have been directly contacted by [Ashraf Youssef] … with a cry for help. Currently, he has been suspended with a two week notice.” According to her message, he wanted students to contact HR and express their support for him. She later edited the post to indicate that she was unaware of the nature of the complaint at the time of her posting. The posts have since been deleted.
One student from the class of 2019 confirmed that she and three other students have written a petition asking for Youssef to be reinstated, although they have not distributed it due to lack of information.
The Wellesley News reached out to Youssef, but he declined to respond. The business agent for the union at Wellesley College, Mary Reebe, also declined to comment due to confidentiality reasons.