Students and faculty wrestle with Hatch’s actions and absence

On Nov. 9, Sexual Assault Awareness Support and Advocacy held a open forum about former Associate Professor of Mathematics Jon Hatch and his departure after being charged with secret peeping and sexual exploitation of a minor. The Guilfordian could not record the meeting as what was said in that circle was confidential.

However, the expressed emotions were similar as the meeting progressed. A general sentiment was that the incident created a gap between Hatch and those who thought he knew who he was.

“What Jon did was, allegedly, seriously egregious,” said Associate Professor of Religious Studies Eric Mortensen in an email interview. “I don’t excuse what Jon did, but he remains, in my world, a fundamentally kind man with excellent ethics and a huge heart.”

“We need to remember that the victim here is not Jonathan,” said Associate Professor of Mathematics Benjamin Marlin in an email interview. “Everything that I’ve heard people say (I had to leave the program early) has been very supportive of him, but we have to remember that he did something wrong.”

The ones who chose to speak at the forum knew what Hatch did was wrong and that it was his fault. Those who knew him well could not believe how someone they considered a mentor and friend could do something like this.

“I did feel a little hurt, in part because of what he had allegedly done and in part because of the tone of the articles (that came out at the time),” said senior Bernard Pellett, commodore of Yachting Club, a club for which Hatch had been a faculty advisor, in an email interview. “It was confusing because different news sites stated different sets of charges. It’s still hard to reconcile this thing he did with what I know of his personality and personal convictions.”

“It hurts, of course,” said Marlin. “And that’s something I don’t think I can explain to anyone who doesn’t already understand it. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that there are a lot of us hurting in the same way.”

Some people broke into tears at the forum. Some acknowledged that it may have been easy to condemn Hatch based on how he looks.

“Jonathan is a big, sloppy … man,” said Marlin. “People like to believe that those who are unattractive are also evil. People also love to revel in the mistakes and suffering of others. This has all of that rolled up into one.”

Some news sites reporting on the incident show the type of behavior Marlin references in their comments section. One commenter on TrueCrimeReport.com posted, “Yeah, just by looking at the guy, you could tell he was either a serial killer or a pedophile.”

“It is a natural thing to demonize folks whom are convenient anonymous centers of vitriolic magnetism,” said Mortensen. “When you love someone who did something that hurt others, you have to struggle … to both prioritize hope and health for the victim, while maintaining your love for someone you know to be a fundamentally kind person.”

For the most part, the circle of 50 students, professors, and alumni felt that the incident did not make Hatch less of a human being.

“Jon cares a ton about this community,” said Mortensen. “And I’m glad to see the community coming together to try to wrestle with and digest what Jon is alleged to have done, and to move forward in a way that is best for the community.”

Another sentiment was to not lose sight of the victim in discussing the incident.

“It’s hard to say anything about the victim, since we don’t know anything about her except that she had been a student of Jon’s for a long time,” said Pellett. “My heart goes out to her, of course. I wish her the best in terms of dealing with it.”

As hard as it may be to forgive Hatch for what he did, Marlin believes that this should not hinder trust held within current and future relationships.

“We must not allow ourselves to collapse in and become hard and jaded from this,” said Marlin. “If you never risk yourself, you may reduce your chance of being hurt. But you will also miss so many opportunities for friendship and love.”