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September 19, 2023

Nichols College president takes leave as school investigates U.S. Coast Guard incident

Photo | Matt Wright Nichols College President Glenn Sulmasy

Following a CNN report in July, Nichols College in Dudley is investigating President Glenn Sulmasy’s involvement in an incident regarding the handling of a rape allegation now being investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

CNN reported in July Sulmasy, then a lieutenant and an attorney at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is alleged to have discouraged a woman from pursuing rape allegation against another cadet. Investigators found the woman’s signed statement in a box labeled with Sulmasy’s name.

Jeffrey Robbins and attorney with Boston law firm Saul Ewing, denied the allegations in a statement on behalf of Sulmasy received by WBJ on Wednesday.

"In July, CNN published a story claiming that in 2014, a former Coast Guard cadet had told investigators in connection with a general review of the Coast Guard’s internal procedures and historical performance that it was her recollection that  in 1997, seventeen years earlier, President Sulmasy had been one of two Coast Guard lawyers with whom she had met at the Coast Guard Academy to discuss her assault by a fellow cadet," Robbins said in the statement. "That story was not only wrong, but egregiously and demonstrably wrong, among other things because President Sulmasy was not even a lawyer until 1998 and because he was not at the Coast Guard Academy at the time."

"Nevertheless, because it is understandable that the Nichols College Board would want to conduct an investigation into the matter, President Sulmasy offered to voluntarily go on leave while the Board conducts its investigation, which the Board has represented it will conclude promptly. He hopes and expects that the investigation will be concluded in short order and, of course, he is cooperating fully with it," continued Robbins in the statement.

Molly Gannon Conway, senior director of newsgathering public relations responded to the statement on Wednesday, saying in an email to WBJ, "Mr. Robbins is mischaracterizing CNN’s reporting which did not state when Mr. Robbins' client met with the alleged victim. CNN stands by its story."

Sulmasy is taking voluntary leave while the investigation is ongoing, according to a Nichols statement on Tuesday.

"Nichols College recently became aware of information pertaining to President Glenn Sulmasy while at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In light of this information, the College has determined that it is in its best interest to engage an independent third party to further investigate," according to the statement provided to WBJ by Nichols media relations department.

Spectrum News first reported on Monday afternoon the Nichols board of trustees sent a letter to alumni, saying the university decided further investigation was necessary after it became aware of an incident during Sulmasy’s time at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The allegations are part of a larger investigation undertaken by the Coast Guard, called Operation Fouled Anchor. The investigation had been secret before CNN’s report.

Nichols’ Vice President of Advancement Bill Pieczynski is the acting president while the matter is being investigated, according to Nichols.

Update: This story was updated with a statement received from an attorney representing Sulmasy and a response from CNN on Wednesday.

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