Columbia Sued Over Alleged Harassment

Posted October 4th, 2017.

As It Appeared On
inside higher ed

By Colleen Flaherty

A female doctoral student at Columbia University is suing the institution over alleged harassment by her mentor, William V. Harris, a professor of history, according to The New York Times. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a New York federal court, says that Harris repeatedly kissed and groped the student, identified as Jane Doe. When she talked to other professors about the behavior, it says, they advised her to avoid Harris, rather than report him. “We’ve reached a point in this case that I never could have imagined, and that is largely to do with Columbia’s deliberate indifference to [Harris’s] coercive behavior,” Doe told the Times. Harris referred a request for comment to the university, which said that it treats all complaints of harassment seriously.

Doe, who has withdrawn from the university for a year, is seeking compensation for damage to her career. The lawsuit alleges that Harris offered to mentor Doe after they met in 2014, but began making unwanted sexual advances. The student allegedly wrote to Harris in 2015 saying she was no longer comfortable working with him, and he allegedly responded by inviting her on an academic trip during, promising they would stay in separate rooms. Doe says she agreed to keep working with Harris to avoid professional retaliation, but that he ended up booking only one room and pressured her to have sex. She filed a formal complaint with Columbia in May but reportedly decided to file a civil suit, as well, based on a lack of faith in the campus process.

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