UPDATED: RISD Suspends Two Faculty Members Tied to Party With Underage Drinking
Monday, March 19, 2018
Jaime Marland, Director, Public Relations at Rhode Island School of Design, wrote in an email to GoLocal, “RISD is deeply committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for our students and to being an upstanding member of our community. We expect our employees to support this commitment and to act ethically, honestly and with integrity on and off campus.”
“When incidents occur that run counter to this, we take them very seriously. As such, we are currently investigating a situation that occurred off-campus over the weekend allegedly involving two RISD employees. While we gather information about what occurred from the Providence Police Department and others involved, one member of our staff and one of our adjunct faculty members have been put on administrative leave effective immediately,” said Marland.
The two faculty members are Will Reeves and Henry Brown. Neither has responded to repeated requests for comment.
The incident took place late Friday night, and one underage drinker was rushed to the hospital. Karla Sherman, the mother of the young man — who ended up in the hospital early Saturday morning — is alleging that party hosts Reeves and Brown urged party-goers not to contact authorities when her son "turned blue and started foaming at the mouth," for fear of legal repercussions.
On Sunday night, Sherman reacted to the news of RISD's action, "I think the administrative leave is appropriate -- I'm happy that they'll do a full investigation. I have a feeling this has gone on before with other parties. I heard from another mom whose son went to another party there, who said the place had gotten raided."
"What I want to know why adults would be doing this -- how are they friendly with teens? This might open something further. I've have about 15 of my sons friends tell me these guys were in there, partying with them, hanging with them -- I found that to be odd. What kind of interest do you have in kids? I hope that the police really look into this, I'm reaching out to them on Monday," said Sherman.
"People need to be held accountable. Look, I'm getting slandered myself here by people who are saying things. I'm just trying to look at the bigger picture. I started it, I need to finish it -- I'm happy to see RISD is looking into it. Let's see what happens," added Sherman.
In an interview on Saturday with GoLocal, Sherman said she holds her son fully accountable for his actions and drinking, but she says she felt she had to do something, after hearing about the circumstances that led him to end up at Rhode Island Hospital -- and what happened after.
Sherman said that when she got the early morning phone call from the friend of her son's, that she was brought right back to losing her 18-month-old son to a drowning accident in 2014. Sherman and her family founded a not-for-profit, "Jayce 'The Healer' Foundation."
"I've been there before. People don't understand unless they've been there," said Sherman. "When I got to the hospital, I saw his friends, and asked what the hell had happened. And they told me."
Sherman on the Record:
Sherman posted to Facebook her account of what took place early Saturday morning, after son's friends called her after going to a party at Tingley Street -- which Sherman says took place at a space owned by RISD faculty member Will Reeves.
"Tonight, at 12:12, I was awoken by a phone call from my son’s best friend, hysterically crying. He had taken my son to the emergency room after he was unresponsive, blue and foaming at the mouth from drinking alcohol at this underage, underground party on Tingley Street in Providence, hosted by these 2 [adult] men shown in the photos.
These 2 men told my sons friends to drag him across the street and not to call the rescue in fear of the police being notified. “I’ll get arrested” he said. “He’s blue, he’s not breathing, he’s going to die, I need help,” his best friend says. “Drag him across the street,” he responded. Some of his, so-called friends begged not to call the ambulance as well, also in fear of getting arrested. My son lay there lifeless, blue while these “friends” laughed at him and said just bring him home."
Sherman, who after checking in on her son at the hospital, said she left and went to the site of the party -- which she posted pictures of to Facebook as well, which as of Saturday night had garnered thousands of reactions, interactions, and shares.
"It resonated with a lot of people," Sherman told GoLocal. "People who've lost kids to overdoses, from people who were scared to contact the authorities. I've had four moms reach out to me directly, they say they know the name of that street from their kids."
"I intend to do everything I can do to stop this," said Sherman. "This isn't about my son. This is about everyone."
"My son's embarrassed, but he's OK health-wise," said Sherman, who noted he was discharged after several hours on Saturday. "He's 18. Look, I know he goes to parties."
Sherman said that when she got to the hospital after the call, that she was told what she wrote in her Facebook post - that the hosts had told the friends to get her son off their property.
"I said tell me the address of the party," said Sherman -- who then left to go see for herself.
"When I walked in, the 'bouncer' -- who I come to found out was collecting $3 from kids to get in -- got all nervous, he knew," said Sherman, who said she had contacted Providence Police on the way over. "I said who's running the show? It was all kids outside, drinking and dancing. There was no activity in the whole mill area except for where this was. And the guy who ran the show denied the whole thing -- meanwhile, his friends told me everything that took place."
"The guy -- Reeves -- says he just 'rents' the building for art space. This wasn't art space. It was a filthy, underground club," said Sherman.
Sherman said that "probably seven to ten" Providence Police officers showed up, but they "didn't do anything."
"As soon as they pulled up, I said look at all these kids hopping in their cars and driving away!" said Sherman. "And they didn't do anything. They told me I should sue [Reeves], and that he didn't 'host' the party. But from what I found out, he is the landlord."
Sherman said it was her understanding that the party-goers all brought their own alcohol, but that they were charged at the door for a place to "party."
"I heard from a friend of my son's that [Reeves] reached out and said he'd give me $300 to take the pictures I have of him up on Facebook down," said Sherman. "I've got contacts in the press, from everything I've been through. And I will expose this somehow, someway -- this is unacceptable."
Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements told GoLocal in a phone call on Saturday night,"If there are allegations, then we will investigate it."
Alleged Party Hosts Are On RISD Faculty
According to Reeves' resume, he is on the faculty at RISD as an “I.D. Metal Shop Tech," since 2012 and his responsibilities include “supervising, managing, and instructing students in proper and safe procedure on all equipment as well as maintaining all equipment in the space. Other responsibilities are coordinating materials, facilitating professors, and assisting with classes that use the metal shop.”
Beyond RISD, he is the founder of The Wurks which is where the party allegedly took place and “is a collaboratively managed artist’s work-space located in Providence’s historic mill district. The space houses communal wood and metal fabrication shops, a print shop, and an exhibition space, as well as sizable studio spaces for both individual artists and groups. www.thewurks.com.”
The other member is Brown, who teaches senior print critique workshop according to the RISD website.
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