Posted November 2nd, 2017.
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By CATHERINE THORBECKE
The student who claims she was sexually harassed by her professor at Columbia University said she decided to speak out now because, “if I did not come forward, no one else would.”
“It’s been difficult but it’s important to stand up for myself and others,” the 29-year-old doctoral student, who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity, added.
The grad student argued in a lawsuit filed last month that she was “repeatedly kissed and groped” by her professor, William V. Harris, and claims that the school “never took any meaningfully disciplinary action” even after she reported the alleged misconduct.
“On one occasion he pulled me toward him and started feeling up and down my back,” the student told ABC News. “I just froze.”
“It was a very uncomfortable situation for me to be in, and it was also very difficult for me to confront him because of the professional power he held over me,” she added.
Harris, 79, has withdrawn from “teaching, advising and other student-related activities,” the university said in a letter to students and faculty sent out on Monday.
The letter added that Harris had “agreed” to withdraw from his responsibilities, and went on to say that the “well-being of every member of the Columbia University community remains our very highest priority.”
The lawsuit, filed against the trustees of Columbia University and Harris, claims that the “sexually exploitive behavior” of the professor was “longstanding and well known at Columbia.”
In court documents, the student said that Harris told her, “I want to help your career,” and asked her to meet for “one-on-one” readings with him.
The student told ABC News that when she told Harris that she no longer felt comfortable working with him, “he did not take well, being confronted in that way, and would become extremely volatile and angry which I found quite frightening.”
The lawsuit argues that the university was “deliberately indifferent” to the alleged harassment after she reported it.
Harris declined ABC News’ request for comment, and referred the request to his attorney, who did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment on Wednesday.