HANOVER — The former chair of the troubled Psychology and Brain Sciences department at Dartmouth College died this week by suicide, according to a notice sent out to the school community.
Dave Bucci, who had been a professor at Dartmouth since 2004, started as the chair in 2015, according to his public curriculum vitae. He served as chair until summer 2019.
Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Elizabeth Smith, dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, confirmed Bucci’s death by suicide in a letter sent out Wednesday.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we write to tell you that we learned today that Dave Bucci has died by suicide,” Hanlon and Smith’s letter states.
Bucci leaves behind a wife and three children, according to Smith and Hanlon’s letter.
Bucci specialized in the brain mechanisms underlying learning, memory and attention, according to his faculty page. He was the Lincoln Filene Professor of Human Relations and a professor of psychological and brain sciences. He was named the Ralph and Richard Lazarus Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Human Relations in 2016. Hanlon and Smith described him as “passionate about his research and deeply committed to his students.”
Bucci was chair of the department when female students starting coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment and assault against three department professors, Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen.
Heatherton ended up retiring rather than be fired by the school, and Kelley and Whalen both resigned under similar circumstances. Several of the students filed a federal lawsuit against Dartmouth seeking $70 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in November 2018, said the women felt pressure to flirt and have sex with the professors who controlled their studies and held power over their careers. The professors made it clear the students would face academic and professional retaliation if they did not respond to their come-ons, the complaint stated.
Two students said two of the professors pressured them to drink to excess, and then sexually assaulted them. The complaint says the students were profoundly affected by the harassment and assaults, both in terms of their careers and their mental health. Two of the plaintiffs attempted suicide, the complaint said.
The school ended up settling the lawsuit this summer for $14 million.