Jeffrey Parsons, the psychology professor at CUNY’s Hunter College campus on the Upper East Side who resigned last month, is alleged to have hired his photographer husband at a fee of more than $600,000 in taxpayers’ money, to shoot photos.
By Clark Savage, Jr.
The husband, Chris Hietikko, “though not a CUNY employee, also collected big bucks in grant dollars working for Parsons’ Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training, known as CHEST,” according to the New York Post. “Hietikko’s Mindful Designs company was paid an average $82,000 a year — or a total of $656,000 — from 2011 to 2018, according to a CUNY spokesman who said the work was cleared by a conflict of interest panel. He is no longer working for CUNY.”
Hietikko is also reported to have designed recruitment ads for CHEST studies. But, the Post piece continued, “he collected money from CHEST far longer than just eight years. A 2013 federal grant application said he worked “with the center for more than 12 years,” providing “a variety of recruitment and project materials.”
Parsons achieved celebrity status in some quarters for his research on HIV and drug use. According to published reported, he resigned in the wake of reports of misconduct.
The professor exited his position at the beginning of July “after an investigation substantiated claims that the professor used cocaine at school events and hosted university-affiliated, booze-fueled parties where he was accused of sexually harassing other employees,” according to Patch.com. The investigation began after a get-together organized by Parsons at the Stonewall Inn on May 18.
“Dr. Parsons’ conduct was reprehensible. There is no place for it at CUNY. By dealing with what happened decisively and to the fullest extent, the University is sending a clear message that there will be zero tolerance of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct,” CUNY spokesman Frank Sobrino told Patch in a statement.
According to the New York Post, Parsons led CUNY’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training while teaching at the university. The Center drew headlines for its research into unsafe sex and drug use. For that, it garnered millions of dollars in grants.
“Each year, Parsons would throw a party for the center’s staff using money from a school expense account, according to the report,” noted Patch.com. “The parties grew increasingly raunchy every year, and Parsons’ behavior at the 2018 event caused employees to bring complaints to university administrators. The professor was accused of forcing employees to drink, telling employees to take off their shirts and lifting an employee’s shirt to expose their chest without their permission, the Post reported.”
“The mission of Hunter College’s PRIDE Health Research Consortium (which stands for Promoting Resilience, Intersectionality, Diversity, and Equity) is to support research to understand the structural, social, and psychological determinants of health disparities for sexual and gender minority (SGM) communities, to investigate the role of gender and sexuality in health, and to design and implement empirically-supported interventions to reduce disparities among these communities in pursuit of health equity,” the colleges notes on its prideresearch.org web site.