What To Do If Academic Institutions Turn A Blind Eye To Sexual Harassment

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Sexual harassment cases are all over the news now because of the numerous allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Unfortunately, it's not just prevalent in Hollywood, but in every industry including schools and universities.

In an article in the New York Times, "Student Sues Columbia Over 'Deliberate Indifference' to Harassment Claims", the doctoral student claims that when she complained to school officials about one of their high-profile professors that was also her mentor, for sexual harassment, the school turned a deliberate blind eye to case.

While the article states that the school issued a statement stating that they treat sexual harassment cases "with the utmost seriousness," their actions proved otherwise. In the doctoral student's complaint, she said that after telling the school officials, they responded by telling her to stay in her office when the professor was nearby.

The doctoral student complained that this mentor groped her, kissed her and asked for sexual intercourse. Her lawsuit seeks damages for having to withdraw from her studies for a year as well as damages to her career that were both a result of the sexual harassment.

This case isn't the first complaint that stated Columbia University mishandled sexual harassment or sexual abuse claims. Columbia received a lot of media attention when they cleared a man of raping an undergraduate woman who, in protest, then proceeded to carry a mattress around campus for a year. Cases of sexual harassment and assault are not unique to Columbia University. They can happen at any school, college or university and at any level.

What can victims do?

  1. Learn about their rights.
  2. Take similar steps to the Columbia doctoral student and file a formal complaint with the university.
  3. If the complaint is not taken seriously, consult with an attorney.
  4. File a lawsuit for damages. Victims may be able to receive compensation for retaliation suffered, medical expenses, damages to their career, expenses associated with withdrawing from their studies, and for pain and suffering.

Read more about sexual harassment FAQs from our sister website, Right To Respect: 

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