James Braxton Peterson, the director of Africana studies and a professor of English, has been confirmed as the Lehigh faculty member who was accused of sexual and other misconduct last semester, according to an email sent to faculty and staff by the Office of the Provost.
The university conducted an investigation into allegations made by multiple individuals against Peterson, and investigators’ reports were provided to Provost Patrick Farrell. Before Farrell made a formal decision about the case, Peterson informed the university he was unconditionally resigning his position.
“While Dr. Peterson’s resignation made disciplinary action moot,” the statement read, “(Farrell), following his own review of the investigative findings, determined there was sufficient cause to initiate the process that could result in revocation of tenure and termination of employment.”
The university did not directly inform the student body about Peterson’s departure.
In the fall, Peterson was listed as the instructor for English 318, Contemporary Black Poetics. After the initial email was sent out to the campus community in November stating a faculty member was on paid leave after being accused of sexual misconduct, the course instructor was changed to professor Monica Miller on the Lehigh Portal.
Several individuals confirmed anonymously to The Brown and White last semester that they had reported Peterson for sexual misconduct.
The Brown and White reached out to Peterson and President John Simon and has not received a response as of publication. Farrell, Lehigh University Police Chief Jason Schiffer and English department chair Dawn Keetley declined to provide further comment.
Peterson was supposed to be on sabbatical this semester, as he was selected as the Spring 2018 Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. According to the Hutchins Center website, the fellowship is given to those who “demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and an exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with Hiphop.”
The Brown and White has not yet received a response regarding Peterson’s fellowship status. As of Jan. 18, his page on the Hutchins Center website has been taken down.
Peterson was hired by Lehigh in the summer of 2011 and, according to the Africana studies page, was “charged with reinvigorating and expanding the program in unprecedented ways.” Under his leadership, a cluster of new faculty was hired between 2012 and 2015, and many new courses were added to the program.
Peterson is the author of several books, including “The Hip Hop Underground and African American Culture,” “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners” and “Hip Hop Headphones: A Scholar’s Critical Playlist.” He founded Hip Hop Scholars, Inc., an association of hip hop generational scholars. He was an MSNBC commentator and the host of “The Remix” on Philadelphia’s WHYY, as well as a contributor to various other publications.
“As a result of the statement released today by Lehigh, (‘The Remix’) will no longer be distributed by WHYY,” wrote Art Ellis, the station’s vice president for communications and member relations, in an email.
As of publication, MSNBC has not yet responded to The Brown and White’s request for comment regarding Peterson’s status with the network.
Peterson’s pages have now been removed from Lehigh’s website.
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.
Anyone seeking support can contact University Counseling and Psychological Services by emailing [email protected] or calling 610-758-3880. Those experiencing harassment, discrimination, retaliation or sexual misconduct can contact the Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator, Karen A. Salvemini, at 610-758-3535 or the Lehigh University Police Department at 610-758-4200.