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Santa Clara University President Under Investigation

Santa Clara University (SCU) President Father Kevin O’Brien is under investigation for alleged misconduct stemming from inappropriate comments.

“The Jesuit Provincial Office recently received accounts that Father O’Brien exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” said John M. Sobrato, the chair of SCU’s Board of Trustees.

A similar statement was released from the USA West Province, the body that oversees Jesuit schools in the western United States.

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“Fr. Kevin O’Brien, San Jose, a Jesuit priest and the President of Santa Clara University, is on leave from his position at the university while the Jesuits West Province conducts an independent investigation into alleged conduct, involving adults, that may be inconsistent with Province protocols,” read the statement. “Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct, and the Province investigates allegations that may violate or compromise established boundaries.”

In his statement, Sobrato says Father O’Brien is cooperating with the investigation.

“The Trustees support those who came forward to share their accounts. It is important that anyone who witnesses actions they believe are inconsistent with SCU’s values or rules is able to share their concerns and have confidence that they will be taken seriously,” said Sobrato. “At the same time, we fully respect Father O’Brien’s right to a fair and impartial investigation, and we appreciate his strong belief that any complaints involving him should be held to the highest standard and carefully and independently investigated. As you know, transparency and accountability have been hallmarks of his tenure thus far, and Father O’Brien insists that they must apply especially now.”

Provost Lisa Kloppenberg will serve as acting president during the investigation. The University says Chief Operating Officer John Ottoboni and Chief of Staff Molly McDonald will also assume some additional responsibilities.

O’Brien was sworn in as the 29th president of SCU in 2019. Prior to that, he served three years as the dean of SCU’s Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He took on the role of president after Father Michael Engh retired.

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