Not the first time: The Shiney James allegations

Updated: Jul 6

“I want to change not only the world but people’s perception of themselves in it,” reads Shiney James’ LinkedIn bio. Unfortunately, these aspirational words have not come to reflect the way students, faculty, and volunteers have viewed and experienced working with James, the Boston University Director of Orientation.

At the beginning of the month, multiple allegations surfaced from students via Twitter detailing the grueling and demeaning treatment they faced while working under and attending Orientation led by Shiney James.

One student wrote on Twitter that James called the Orientation volunteers “lazy and entitled” after having them work “from 6pm on Wednesday to 2am on Friday” and forcing them to “body roll to Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble,’” among other acts.

Another former volunteer wrote that James called her “heartless” often and “made [her] feel worthless.”

So, who is Shiney James? A graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and a member of the Boston University faculty since 2004, she has served as the Assistant Director of Orientation and Off-Campus Services, the Director of Orientation, and a mentor for Posse Scholars.

In an environment where James is supposed to be welcoming students to the next four years of their lives and preparing them for the challenging yet rewarding experience of higher education, what does it say about the community itself that the Director of Orientation has been accused of mistreatment?

With accusations piling in from Twitter and no immediate action enacted by the BU administration, it is hard to find more background information on what has transpired. In fact, when one attempts to search for news of Shiney James on Google, the only sources that come up are an article from the BU student run newspaper, the Daily Free Press, and a praising article from BU Today in 2017. It is not until there is some substantial digging done that more information on the incidents can be lifted. It feels as though BU is attempting to brush the incidents under the rug.

On October 7, a letter from Jean Morrison, University Provost and Chief Academic Officer, to the Dean of Student Affairs Staff was released, stating that the allegations surrounding James would be reviewed and in the meantime, she would continue in a role where she can “assume other duties that do not involve working with students.”

“Our goal in this process is to ensure that a careful review of the facts takes place, in accordance with the University’s commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all members of our community as well as our commitment to due process,” the letter reads.

Why is the BU administration taking its time investigating the case when students have already been forthright about the dealings? Why has no action been taken against Shiney James? Why is there little to no information on this monumental and horrifying student labor problem?

There is a simple explanation for why BU has been so cautious–they do not take these claims seriously. BU has had countless upsets and allegations in its arduous history–more recently, in 2019, a professor in CAS, David Merchant, was fired for multiple accounts of sexual harassment in 1997 and from 1999 to 2000. Similarly, Eric Ruske, a professor in the College of Fine Arts, has been accused of multiple accounts of inappropriate online conversation with students, though remains at BU.

The only instance where a professor has been fired for this sort of behavior came about with David Merchant, over twenty years after the events took place. Clearly, the BU administration does not consider the well-being of its students when they are threatened by advances from faculty.

Shiney James is not an isolated case. She is just the next in a string of many, if BU does not take the necessary and preventative measures to prioritize the well-being and growth of its students and faculty. Until there is real, concrete guidance, nothing will change.

Many students have taken this breakthrough as a time to reflect on larger issues in the BU community. One student tweeted, “I really hope this opens up a broader conversation about student leadership programs, which are a huge labor issue. [Especially] for lower-income students who are lured in with incentives like free housing.”

When looking at the facts of the case, it is clear that the issues revolve around student labor and how those in charge of students believe they can exploit and profit off of students attempting to make some money and strengthen their resumes. With the countless student leadership programs that BU offers, it is worthwhile to investigate if there are similar issues–as undoubtedly there are bound to be–in programs similar to Orientation.

As of now, Shiney James remains a member of the BU faculty. Her Twitter account has been privatized and she has not responded to the allegations.

Hannah Eaton ('25) is the Editor-in-Chief of BUDS Bulletin.

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