Seven women from Dartmouth College filed a massive lawsuit against the school, claiming the institution enabled three professors to promote a sexual culture in their department that included rampant sexual harassment and assault. The school has allegedly received complaints about the professors’ behavior since 2002.
The complaint, filed on Thursday, alleges that Dartmouth failed to “protect its students from unwanted sexual harassment and sexual assault and to provide an education and/or workplace free from sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based discrimination.”
Kristina Rapuano, Vassiki Chauhan, Sasha Brietzke, Annemarie Brown, Andrea Courtney, Marissa Evans, and one anonymous woman identifying as Jane Doe, allege that tenured professors Todd Heatherton, William Kelley, and Paul Whalen treated female students as “sex objects.” The professors, who worked in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, allegedly ” leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students.” The lawsuit claims that the three professors turned the department into “a 21st Century Animal House.”
This culture included inviting students for hot tub parties, having lab meetings at bars, and having college students use cocaine as part of class work dealing with addiction.
The complaint alleges that the professors “tied female students’ academic success to the students’ willingness to tolerate unwanted sexual attention,” and “”favored students who accompanied the men on their frequent drinking binges and engaged in sexual banter or submitted to unwanted touching and sexual contact.”
Students started complaining to Dartmouth about the professors in 2002, if not earlier, but nothing happened, the lawsuit says. Then in April 2017, female grad students told the school’s Title IX office that the professors had sexually harassed and assaulted them. “Dartmouth did nothing,” the lawsuit says, alleging that Chauhan was sexually assaulted by Whalen less than three weeks later. The other women, except Evans, claim that at least one of the professors touched them and spoke to them inappropriately, with several claiming sexual assault. Evans did allege that Kelley sexually harassed her and sent her lewd texts and nude images of himself.
On October 27, women came forward with complaints and Dartmouth said they would open an investigation, which was shut down in July 2018 — when the professors were allowed to resign or retire.
“Dartmouth has not responded adequately or appropriately to the evidence and complaints of sexual harassment and the hostile environment in the Psychology and Brain Sciences department. It has failed in its responsibility to protect its female students,” said attorney Nicole Wiitala of the law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp, which represents the women.
In a statement to CNN, Dartmouth said, “Sexual misconduct and harassment have no place at Dartmouth.” They added, “Dartmouth’s board of trustees and senior leadership team are dedicated to maintaining a safe and inclusive campus for all members of our community and we remain committed to improving our culture as we work to make our community the best it can be.”
The professors, who no longer work at the school, did not comment to the cable network. Heatherton’s attorneys said in a statement in October 2017, “He has engaged in no sexual relations with any student.”
[Image via WMUR screengrab]
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