Posted November 15th, 2018.
By Alyssa Dandrea
Concord — Seven female science students have filed a class action lawsuit against Dartmouth College, saying they and dozens of others were sexually harassed and assaulted by three tenured professors who have since left the Ivy League institution.
The women accuse college administrators of turning a blind eye to the abuse for more than 16 years, despite knowing that the professors “leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated and even raped female students,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Concord. The former students say Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen “perpetuated an alcohol-saturated ‘party culture’ ” by conducting lab meetings at bars, inviting students to “hot tub parties” at their private residencies, and by suggesting undergraduates use cocaine as part of a class demonstration on addiction.
Sasha Brietzke, Annemarie Brown, VassikiChauhan, Andrea Courtney, Marissa Evans, Kristina Rapuano and an anonymous plaintiff identified as Jane Doe are bringing the lawsuit on behalf of every current and former female undergraduate and graduate student enrolled in Dartmouth’s psychology and brain sciences department between March 31, 2015, and the date of judgment. They have brought six claims against the institution, including Title IX violations to include sexual harassment and gender discrimination, as well as claims of breach of fiduciary duty and negligent supervision and retention under New Hampshire law.
The women accuse Heatherton, Kelley and Whalen of turning the department into a “21st Century Animal House.” The three professors objectified their female students by making inappropriate comments about their physical attractiveness, with Kelley going so far as to publicly rank them on what he called a “Papi” scale, the suit alleges. The scale began at zero which equated to “would never bang.”
This summer, Kelley and Whalen resigned in the face of an internal investigation by the college and a criminal investigation by the state’s department of justice. Heatherton retired.
The professors were accused of creating a hostile work environment in which undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students an uncomfortable workplace where the line between professional and personal relationships was blurred.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has also been investigating.
The women who are now suing Dartmouth say they were told they would have a voice in the college’s independent investigation, but were ultimately ignored as the three professors quietly departed.
A group of female graduate students had contacted the college’s Title IX office in April 2017 to detail instances of sexual harassment and assault by the professors, with the goal of ending the “intolerable conditions.” However, their complaints went unanswered and, consequently, Whalen sexually assaulted a graduate teaching assistant 20 days later, the suit says.
In an email to the college community this morning, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon said that while “sexual misconduct and harassment have no place at Dartmouth,” the college disputes the allegations in the suit.
“We applaud the courage displayed by members of our community within (the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences) who brought the misconduct allegations to Dartmouth’s attention last year,” Hanlon wrote. “And we remain open to a fair resolution of the students’ claims through an alternative to the court process. However, we respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth’s actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings.”
The lawsuit against Dartmouth was filed by Steven Kelly of the Maryland-based law firm SandfordHeisler Sharp, LLC, who represented St. Paul’s School sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout and her parents in a 2016 federal lawsuit against the Concord prep school. Concord attorney Charles Douglas served as local counsel in that case and will do the same in this matter.
The Prouts accused St. Paul’s of endangering the welfare of the children entrusted with the care by allowing a sexually pervasive culture to continue at the school for decades. The parties reached a confidential settlement resolving the case in January.