3397) Secret Life of Professor Vahakn Dadrian

Vahakn Dadrian

Sexual harassment in educational institutions remains a pressing issue in many countries, including the USA. The recent scandalous Jerry Sandusky case, which sent shockwaves through the American society, demonstrated how persistent ignoring of the reports about sexual abuse in order to protect the reputation of the university allowed the predator to continue his criminal activity for many years. However, this case is not the first and is just one of the many, and sexual predators operated in university environment for decades. One such example is Vahakn Norayr Dadrian, Director of Genocide Research at a think tank called Zoryan Institute, who has a long history of sexual abuse.

We tried to shed some light on the obscure facts from Dr Dadrian's past. While getting into the details of Dr Dadrian’s biography, we also found weird contradictions in the information he provided about his early years, and we made a parallel research on that subject as well
. . .


Early years of Dadrian are shrouded in obscurity. He was born in Istanbul, and after completing a school moved to Europe for undergraduate education. However information about his education in Europe is conflicting, and tended to evolve over the time.

Dadrian’s resume of 1963, signed by him and attached to a potential employment-related correspondence said that he studied philosophy in Berlin, social psychology in Vienna and political science in Zurich. 1 But his 1968 resume stated that Dadrian did undergraduate studies at the Universities of Berlin, Vienna, and Zurich in mathematics, philosophy, and political science.2 In late 1980s Dadrian started writing on the topics of genocide and international law, and his resume was adjusted accordingly, stating that Vahakn N. Dadrian received his undergraduate education in Europe studying philosophy, mathematics, and international law at the Universities of Vienna, Berlin, and Zurich, respectively.3 According to Dadrian’s latest resume, he “received his undergraduate education in Europe at the University of Berlin (mathematics), the University of Vienna (history) and the University of Zürich (international law)”.4

The chapter dedicated to Dadrian in the book “Portraits of Hope: Armenians in the Contemporary World” by Huberta Von Voss mentions Dadrian “moving to Berlin at the end of World War II to study mathematics”. The book further states that “more years of study ensued in Vienna at the history seminar. Then he went to Zurich to study international law”.5 Dadrian himself stated in an interview that he studied mathematics in Berlin, and then went to the University of Vienna at the age of 21.6 As Dadrian was born in 1926, according to this interview he must have been in Vienna in 1947.

It is difficult to get a clue what exactly and when Dadrian studied in Europe. Since he moved to the USA in 1947, it was impossible to complete 3 Universities in 2 years, i.e. in 1945-1947.

Information provided by the archives of Humboldt University of Berlin (which was called Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin in 1940s) brings clarity to this issue. In reality, Dadrian moved to Berlin in January 1943, and enrolled to a philosophy class. He studied at the Faculty of Arts, while Mathematics was at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.7

In summer 1944 he went to Vienna University, where he attended lectures in history, philosophy and psychology at the Philosophical Faculty,8 and returned to Berlin in December 1944 to enrol to a pedagogy class. By the end of war in May 1945 Dadrian left Berlin University, never to return. 9 So it turns out that Dadrian has never studied math, and he did not move to Berlin “at the end of WWII”.

What is surprising is not the fact that Dadrian studied in Germany, which is well known for its quality of education, but the time of his studies. One can only wonder why at the height of the World War II out of all European countries Dadrian chose for his education Germany, which at the time was ruled by Nazis. It is known that the Nazis fired, deported or arrested all Jewish and dissident professors and students from Berlin University, and burned thousands of books from its library. It is also ironic that the future genocide scholar chose for his studies the same Vienna University that on the insistence of Nazis had expelled 2,200 students and teachers (most of them Jewish) and stripped of their academic titles hundreds of graduates, including famous writer Stefan Zweig, after Adolf Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938. 10 One possible explanation of young Dadrian’s choice of educational institutions could be an assumption that he believed in the future of the contemporary German regime.

According to the archives of Zurich University, at the end of 1945 Dadrian enrolled to the Department of Economics at the Faculty of Law of Zurich University, where he studied until the middle of 1947.11 The Department of Economics was a part of the Faculty of Law and Political Science until 1992, when it was split into the separate Faculty of Economics. The archive records of Zurich University contain no information on what subject Dadrian was studying and which lectures he attended, but considering that he was enrolled to the Department of Economics, Dadrian must have followed a course in economics.

None of the 3 universities has any record that Dadrian received any degree or any diploma.

It is remarkable that Dadrian never openly mentioned when exactly he attended the European universities, and his biographies vaguely mention “post-war” Berlin. Dadrian himself says that he was in Vienna at the age of 21, while in reality he was there at the age of 18, i.e. in 1944. And contradictory information that Dadrian provided about the disciplines that he studied in Europe makes one wonder about his reasons for doing so.

Sex offense history 

Vahakn Dadrian immigrated to the USA in 1947. In August 1954 he received his PhD in social sciences at the Chicago University. Soon after, on 4 January 1955, he was arrested in Chicago on sex crime charges involving a 10-year-old boy. According to the report in Chicago Daily Tribune, Dadrian was arrested in his home by a police officer on complaint of the boy's father and charged with crime against nature (sodomy) and crime against a child. The child told police that Dadrian had stopped him the street and persuaded to go to Dadrian’s home, asking the boy to carry a package. A contemporary press report: 
Chicago Daily Tribune; Jan 6, 1955; pg. A2 


Vahakn Dadrian, 33, of 5442 Harper av., who received a doctor of philosophy degree in social sciences from the University of Chicago last August, will be arraigned in Felony court today on two sex charges involving a 10 year old boy. Charges are crime against nature and crime against a child.

Dadrian, who said he came to this country in 1946 from his native Turkey and was married three months ago, was arrested yesterday in his home by Detective Vito Contino of the Hyde Park police on complaint of the boy's father. Contino said the child told police that Dadrian had persuaded him to go to the Harper av. address after stopping the boy on the street and asking him to carry a package.

University officials revealed that Dadrian's degree had been awarded last Aug. 27.

Jury indictment count 1. Name of complainant obscured for privacy Jury indictment count 2. Name of complainant obscured for privacy Jury indictment count 3. Name of complainant obscured for privacy




According to court records, Dadrian bailed himself out of the jail for $5000. 12
To help realize the present value of this amount, it could be mentioned that the amount of $5000 in 1955 is worth $43,638.06 in 2013 according to the calculator of the Federal Reserve Bank.13 The median U.S. family income in 1955 was $4,418. 14

Matt Capone (left) leaves Chicago's Cook County Jail with his attorney, George Crane.
Dadrian hired George M. Crane, a well-known defence attorney in Chicago. Crane defended more than 500 persons charged with murder, and among his high-profile clients was Matt Capone, the younger brother of the famous gangster Al Capone. Crane got younger Capone acquitted on murder charges. Dadrian waived the jury trial, probably at the advice of his attorney. Apparently, the skills of the prominent attorney greatly contributed to the judge finding Dadrian not guilty on 25 May 1955.

Considering that Dadrian lived for many years in Europe, and then in the USA without having any permanent job, was able to pay the bail equal to the median US family income, and hired one of the best lawyers in town, he clearly had financial means. He might have been supported by his elder brother Vahe, who already lived in the USA by the time Vahakn moved there, or used the funds of his late father, Hagop, who was a wealthy lawyer and landowner in Istanbul. 15
There were many wealthy and prominent Armenians in Istanbul, and even now there’s still a large and thriving Armenian community there.

In late 1973 Dadrian applied to the Circuit Court of Cook County with a petition to expunge all records of his criminal case, and the permission to do so was granted. The complainant who was ten in 1955 died prematurely in 1985 at the age of 41. However the subsequent events showed that Dadrian’s arrest in 1955 was not just a coincidence.

Despite the criminal incident in Chicago, Dadrian managed to pursue a career in the field of education. Already in October 1955 he left Chicago and became an assistant sociology professor at the Washington College in Maryland.16 But soon after, in March 1956, Dadrian resigned, claiming that he was going to write his second doctoral dissertation in political economy at the University of Zurich. 17

However, instead Dadrian took part as a researcher in an opinion research project by a New York advertising consultant James Vicary in fall 1956 – winter 1957,18 which achieved widespread notoriety for producing fraudulent results. In the same year of 1957 Vicary claimed that he was able to substantially increase sales of Coca Cola and popcorn in a movie theater by using subliminal advertising, flashing the messages "Drink Coca-Cola" or "Eat Popcorn" on the screen every 5 seconds, for less than 1/1,000th of a second, while an audience was watching a movie. After much criticism, Vicary admitted in 1962 that he'd made up the whole story in an effort to revive his failing marketing business. 19

In March 1957 Dadrian moved to the remote University of Idaho to work as acting assistant sociology professor. 20 Later Dadrian mostly worked as an assistant sociology professor in various US universities, and in 1971 he was appointed a sociology professor at the State University of New York – College at Geneseo. But in 1981 Dadrian was again accused of sex offences, this time sexual harassment of his female students.

That year, an outside arbitrator found him guilty of four sexual harassment charges, all referred to one student. She charged "improper physical contact" when Dadrian tried to hug and kiss her in his office, and on the same day he made inquiries into her sex life. Twenty one days later Dadrian again made "improper physical contact" when he pulled her by the arm in the hall in an attempt to talk to her and "physically detained" her when he backed her into a corner. 21

Though three other female students accused Dadrian of similar behaviour towards them (plus one girl accused him of a non-sexual offense), only one case was considered. The arbitrator dismissed another four sexual harassment charges by two girls because of untimeliness, as any charges had to be filed within approximately one year of the incident to be considered, and other students did not complain until the first girl did. Dadrian was found not guilty on another two charges, including an attempt to kiss a female student, because the arbitrator found the testimony of two girls pressing those charges to be “contradictory”. 22

As result, Dadrian was suspended for one month without pay, but was not fired. The reason was that the arbitrator considered these incidents to be isolated events rather than reflections of a longstanding pattern of behaviour. Another key factor in the decision was the location of Geneseo and the content of student population. Since most of the students were from small towns the arbitrator concluded that many of the students were "unsophisticated, impressionable, and immature as compared to a larger college.” 23 This was quite a bizarre argumentation for the decision that allowed Dadrian to continue harassment of students for another decade.

The decision led to a student protest on the day of Dadrian's return to the classroom, and concerned students, staff and faculty formed Geneseo Committee Against Sexual Harassment, which collected over 1,000 signatures on the petition asking SUNY administrators to investigate the case further to "protect our students from further harassment by Professor Dadrian in the months and years to come." 24 The committee stated that it had “uncovered further information that contradicts the arbitrator's assertion that Dadrian's behavior was “an expression of impulsiveness and poor judgment.””25

But the protests had no effect, and Dadrian evaded the punishment again, until another incident in 1990, when yet another female student pressed sexual harassment charges against him. The incident took place when Dadrian kissed the 18-year-old freshman student on the lips after she helped him rehang a banner welcoming him back to school after attending a conference.26

The student filed a formal complaint, which the school investigated, and found substance to the allegation. The 64-year-old professor was offered a chance to resign, but he appealed the decision, and the matter was submitted to binding arbitration. Arbitrator Carol Wittenberg found Dadrian guilty of sexual harassment, and the school dismissed the professor in April 1991.27 A year later Dadrian applied to the Court of Appeals of New York, contesting the decision of the SUNY Geneseo, but his motion for leave to appeal was denied, i.e. the Court did not allow the appeal to proceed.28


Dadrian was fired from SUNY Geneseo in 1991, i.e. some 20 years ago. But his story demonstrates how a shrewd sexual predator can evade punishment for decades and present himself as a reputable educator, which allowed him to continue his activity in the university environment. It is quite possible that the real extent of harassment is much larger, as not every student dares to press charges against a professor. The bizarre decision of the 1981 arbitrator who considered the college students to be “immature”, and the professor’s molestation acts to be “singular events” despite numerous complaints indicates the failure of the university system to protect the students. If Dadrian’s 1955 criminal charges had been considered when employing him as a teacher, or if he had been removed from the University after the first proven harassment incident, it could have saved the students from decades of further sexual harassment.

1 V. N. Dadrian to Irving Louis Horowitz, April 24, 1963, Transactions-Horowitz Archive, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/transaction/id/1280

2 ‘Back Matter, About the Authors’, Journal of Peace Research 5, no. 4 (1968), http://www.jstor.org/stable/422473. 2

3 ‘Contributors’, Genocide Studies and Prevention 1, no. 2 (September 2006): 225–226, http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/genocide_studies_and_prevention/v001/1.2.contributors.pdf.3

4 ‘Vahakn N. Dadrian. Brief Biography and Bibliography of Published Works’ (Zoryan Institute, July 17, 2009), 4, http://www.zoryaninstitute.org/Announcements/Dadrian%20CV%20July%2017,%202009.pdf. 4

5 Huberta Von Voss, Portraits of Hope: Armenians in the Contemporary World, trans. Alasdair Lean, Berghahn Series (Berghahn Books, 2007), 62, http://books.google.com/books?id=r3vbswx_1TEC.5

6 Alyssa A. Lappen, ‘Armenia’s Tears’, FrontPage Magazine, May 2, 2005, http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=8749.6

7 Dr Winfried Schultze, Head librarian, Universitätsarchiv, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, ‘Re: Diploma’, October 31, 2012, email communication.7

8 Mag. Barbara Bieringer, Archiv der Universität Wien, ‘Wahakn DADRIAN’, November 16, 2012, email communication.8

9 Dr Winfried Schultze, Head librarian, Universitätsarchiv, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, ‘Re: Diploma’.9

10 ‘Memorial Book Dedicated to the Victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna 1938’, University of Vienna, accessed April 12, 2013, http://gedenkbuch.univie.ac.at/index.php?id=433&L=2; The Associated Press, ‘University of Vienna Honors 2,200 Jews Expelled by Nazis’, Haaretz Daily Newspaper, July 2, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/2.209/university-of-vienna-honors-2-200-jews-expelled-by-nazis-1.279264.10

11 Inge Moser, Mitarbeiterin Aktenerschliessung, Universitätsarchiv, Universität Zürich, ‘Re: Diploma’, November 5, 2012, email communication.11

12 People of the State of Illinois v. Vahakn Dadrian, 55CR-129 (Criminal Court of Cook County 1955).12

13 ‘The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’, accessed April 12, 2013, http://www.minneapolisfed.org/.13

14 Youth Indicators, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1996), 44, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs96/96027.pdf14

15 Von Voss, Portraits of Hope: Armenians in the Contemporary World, 62; Lappen, ‘Armenia’s Tears’.15

16 ‘College Enrolls 467; Adds 12 To Staff’, The Washington Elm (Washington College, October 8, 1955), http://www.archive.org/details/washingtonelm195458wash.16

17 ‘Dadrian Resigns; To Continue Study’, The Washington Elm (Washington College, March 3, 1956), http://www.archive.org/details/washingtonelm195458wash.17

18 Dadrian to Horowitz, April 24, 1963.18

19 S.O. Lilienfeld et al., 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 38–39, http://books.google.com/books?id=8DlS0gfO_QUC.19

20 ‘Austria, Turkey Natives Hired to Teach at Idaho’, Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 20, 1957, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0FBYAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7_YDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7122,4891564&dq.20

21 Julienne Bostic, ‘Geneseo Prof. Suspended in Sexual Harassment Case’, Albany Student Press, March 3, 1981, http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/findaids/issues/1981_03_03.pdf; Edwin Darden, ‘Professor Suspended For Harrassment’, Livingston County Leader (Geneseo NY, February 4, 1981), http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2017/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader%201981/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader%201981%20-%200071.pdf.21

22 Darden, ‘Professor Suspended For Harassment’.22

23 Ibid.23

24 ‘Over 1000 Sign Sex Harassment Petition’, Livingston County Leader (Geneseo NY, March 11, 1981), http://www.fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2017/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader%201981/Geneseo%20NY%20Livingston%20Leader%201981%20-%200166.pdf; Associated Press, ‘Geneseo Fires Professor For Sexual Harassment’, Albany Times Union, April 25, 1991, sec. Local, http://albarchive.merlinone.net/mweb/wmsql.wm.request?oneimage&imageid=5599449.24

25 ‘Over 1000 Sign Sex Harassment Petition’.25

26 Associated Press, ‘Geneseo Fires Professor For Sexual Harassment’.26

27 Ibid.27

28 Vahakn N. Dadrian v. State University New York/Geneseo, 186 AD2d 1099 (Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department 1992), http://ny.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19921007_0050968.NY.htm/qx; Vahakn N. Dadrian v. State University New York/Geneseo, 81 NY2d 702 (Court of Appeals of New York 1993), http://ny.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19930107_0040169.NY.htm/qx.28


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