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What if there was a registered sex offender on your college campus?

by on October 23, 2014

This past week, a story was released about a convicted sex offender working at two universities close to my hometown. Sean M. Janson, 32, teaches English at Bridgewater State University and Massasoit Community College, both of which are located in southeastern Massachusetts. He has been employed at Bridgewater since 2006 and at Massasoit since 2009.

In 2005, Janson was convicted for “possessing child pornography and of indecent assault and battery of a child over 14,” according to a story posted on wcvb.com. The professor is listed as a Level 2 offender on Massachusetts’ Sex Offender Registry Board and the state determines that there is a moderate risk for level 2 offenders to reoffend. Because of a law passed on July 12, 2013, Janson does not appear on the Registry and his offense information can only by written request.

Obviously, there are a lot of heated comments online about this story. On WCVB’s Facebook page, many commenters blamed the media, claiming the station was twisting the story and trying to promote fear. Now, this happens with a lot of stories – people are always going to find a reason to blame the journalists. But others incorporated this attack on the media with a defense. They argued that since this man’s offense occurred so many years ago, and since his students are college students –presumably adults – he should be able to have a job.

But what many of these people did not take into consideration is the fact that both of the schools in question have childcare centers on their campuses. So, while his students are mostly above the age of 18, there is a major cause for concern: Janson is a convicted sex offender, served no jail time and is working every day in close proximity to minors.

Some of the comments also came from people who identified themselves as parents of college students. One person, Dan Tenore, wrote, “Here’s the deal: the college has a daycare center and at least 1 teenage girl (my daughter) who he has no business being near. He should not have been hired there, and he needs to find a vocation AWAY from children & teenage girls. Judge it when YOUR kid is near someone with that record – I won’t take the chance with my kid.”

As a student, I cannot imagine how I would feel if I were to learn that one of my professors was registered as a level 2 sex offender. This would make me feel uncomfortable and I would definitely refrain from going to his office hours, which could very possibly limit my ability to do well in his class. What I saw in the comments, and what I have heard from people I know who attend Bridgewater State, is that he is a great professor. But why didn’t the schools inform their students about Janson? How come nobody knew about this until the media discovered the information?

While many people are blaming journalists for “sabotaging” this man’s life and his career, I believe that Maria Papadopoulos at the Enterprise and anyone else who contributed to this report has done a service for the community in opening up a discussion about sex offender registries.

Are these registries ruining the lives of those listed in levels 1 and 2? Are registries prohibiting these people from starting fresh years later? Will the ‘discrimination’ of sex offenders contribute to the possibility of them reoffending? And, most importantly, what does the decision by these schools to hire and keep secret a convicted sex offender say about the credibility of admissions at these universities?

Information about crimes can be found all over the Internet – even at UMass – we just have to choose whether we want to use this exposure for the good of the community. And, it is up to us, the journalists, to decide.

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One Comment
  1. I would have a hard time being okay with having a sex offender as a professor. I think it’s possible for people to change, but I don’t think that they should be allowed to work at a university. The idea makes me nervous, because who knows what they might do. The work of journalists is to expose the truth, and I think the journalists did the right thing in this occasion. I don’t think that one can make the argument that you’re ruining Janson’s life – I think he brought this on himself, and the journalists did their job by bringing the information to light. I think that registries need to be available to everyone. If they were, that might make possible sex offenders think before they act. It might be a deterrent to someone who’s thinking about doing something they shouldn’t if they know that their information will be out in the open in perpetuity.

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