Santa Clara University's president placed on leave amid investigation

Santa Clara University President Kevin O’Brien, a Jesuit priest, is on leave and under investigation for alleged misconduct involving conversations in adult settings, the university confirms.

The Jesuit West Province is conducting an independent investigation for behavior it said may be inconsistent with Province protocols. It was launched following several accounts where O’Brien is accused of ill behavior primarily consisting of conversations.

"Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct," Provincial Assistant for Communications Tracey Primrose said in an email to KTVU. "Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct and the Province investigates allegations that may violate or compromise established boundaries."

The Province would not elaborate on what exactly the alleged misconduct was or provide additional context. 

O’Brien has been a priest for 15 years, serving for eight of them at Georgetown University where he befriended President Joe Biden’s family. In January, he celebrated Catholic mass on Inauguration Day with the Bidens and Vice President Kamala Harris’ family.

The 54-year-old former lawyer was appointed as Santa Clara University’s president in 2019. One of his priorities was fostering a culture of respect, transparency and accountability, according to his biography on the university’s website.

The SCU Board of Trustees said in a statement it supports the investigation being undertaken by the West Provincial.

"We take these accounts seriously while, at the same time, we fully respect Father O’Brien’s right to a fair and impartial investigation," Deepa Arora, Senior Director of Communications wrote. "We appreciate Father O’Brien’s strong belief that any allegations involving him should be held to the highest standard and carefully and independently investigated."

O’Brien did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

SCU said he would remain on leave until the investigation is complete. Trustees will not take any action related to O’Brien until the investigation ends and it is reviewed.

Currently, Provost Lisa Kloppenberg is serving as Acting President.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU