By the time Meagan ushered the ladies back into the room,
Julia’s fingernails had been chewed to the quick and Soraya’s adrenaline was at an all-time high.
Julia’s eyes were drawn immediately to Gabriel, and what she saw upset her. His shoulders were hunched, and he was leaning forward in his chair, hands clasped between his knees tensely, head lowered.
She stared at him, willing him to look at her.
But he wouldn’t.
Professor Martin sat next to Gabriel, arms crossed against his chest. He didn’t appear happy.
“Miss Mitchell, allow me to come straight to the point. In light of Professor Emerson’s testimony, you are excused. We will be informing the Registrar’s Office that the grade assigned to you in Professor Emerson’s seminar should be allowed to stand.”
Julia’s mouth opened in shock at the Dean’s pronouncement.
“We will do our utmost to ensure that you are not victimized further.” The Dean glared in Gabriel’s direction. “If Professor Emerson troubles you in any way, or if you have concerns about the repercussions of your former involvement with him, please inform Professor Martin immediately.
“You are free to pursue a harassment complaint against Professor Emerson, but you must do so within sixty days of the submission of your final academic work in your program.”
The Dean nodded at Soraya. “I’m sure your lawyer will explain the particulars of the harassment policy to you. I know you’ve filed a complaint against Miss Peterson, but we’re hopeful that you and
she can drop your complaints against each other, given the outcome of this hearing. You’re free to go.”
He began shuffling his paperwork.
“Thank you, Dr. Aras.” Soraya smiled widely and exchanged a nod and a meaningful look with Tara.
“I’m not a victim,” said Julia, stubbornly.
“Pardon?” said the Dean, peering over the rims of his glasses.
“I said, I’m not a victim. Our relationship is consensual.” She turned to look at Gabriel. “What’s going on?”
Gabriel kept his eyes fixed on the floor.
“Miss Mitchell, the committee has ensured that Professor Emerson was given due consideration.” Professor Mwangi spoke to her gently. “But in light of his confession, we are holding him accountable for his actions. And that includes seeing to your welfare.”
“My welfare is tied to him. If he’s going to be punished, then punish me too.” She took a step closer to the table behind which the committee sat.
Gabriel’s head shot up, and he gave Julia a furious look.
“Miss Mitchell, the university has a duty to protect students from being preyed upon by their supervisors. Please, let us do our job.” Professor Chakravartty’s tone was not unsympathetic.
“We did this together. If he’s guilty, so am I.”
“Then tell me what he said! Give me a chance to respond.” Julia looked desperately at the faces of the hearing officers, one after the other, hoping that someone, anyone would relent.
“Professor Emerson has admitted to engaging in an inappropriate relationship with you while you were his student. Professor Picton has confirmed that she marked your work in his seminar and supervised your thesis. So we are inclined to be lenient with him. Unless you insist otherwise.”
“Of course I insist otherwise! I want you to let him go.”
The hearing officers shook their heads.
“Why do you believe him instead of me? I’m the student. You should weigh my testimony more heavily. He didn’t hurt me. You have to believe me!” Julia grew desperate, on the verge of tears.
“Miss Harandi, control your client.” The Dean’s voice rose with irritation.
“Please,” said Julia, taking a step closer to the hearing officers. “You have to believe me. Let him go!”
“We will ask you and all other parties to sign a confidentiality agreement that is as much for your protection as for the integrity of these proceedings. Once again, if you have further difficulties, you are to inform Professor Martin.” The Dean nodded at Soraya.
“Come on, Julia.” Soraya tugged on her arm, in vain. “Let’s go before they change their mind.”
“Gabriel, what happened?”
Julia took a step in his direction, but the pointed toe of her boot got caught in the carpet and she tumbled to her knees.
Finally her eyes connected with Gabriel’s as he looked down on her. She inhaled slowly as she realized that his dark blue eyes were cold and empty. He lowered his head.
In an instant, the fire in her veins turned to ice.