By: Barbara Hart, Principal in G&E’s Civil Rights Practice
On February 8, 2022, three female graduate students filed suit against Harvard University, alleging that each was sexual assaulted, harassed, and retaliated against. The plaintiffs are women studying anthropology at the prestigious ivy league school and claim that Professor John Comaroff engaged in nonconsensual sexual touching and made other unwanted sexual advances. These women further allege that Comaroff threatened to retaliate against them by damaging their careers if they protested his conduct.
Plaintiffs claim that the University failed to take action when made aware of Comaroff’s unlawful conduct. According to the complaint, in the spring of 2017, a second-year graduate student endured Comaroff’s repeated sexual advances and reported the harassment to the University’s Title IX office. Two of the plaintiffs also reported Comaroff’s abuse to University faculty, yet Harvard chose not to investigate the reports.
The lawsuit also contends that when one of the plaintiffs reported Comaroff’s alleged threats to end her career if she spoke up about the abuse, Harvard’s Title IX coordinator said that filing a formal report with the University’s Office for Dispute Resolution would be useless. When Harvard eventually sanctioned Comaroff on January 20, 2022, barring him from teaching required courses and taking on additional advisees through the next academic year, 38 faculty members signed an open letter questioning the results of misconduct investigations into Comaroff. Those faculty members later retracted their support of the professor.
The lawsuit against Harvard is just one of many recent cases against colleges and universities. Just last year, Grant & Eisenhofer filed a complaint alleging similar Title IX sexual assault claims on behalf of four current and former students of Brown University alleging the school failed to adequately handle Title IX investigations. The plaintiffs are seeking to certify a class of up to 4,000 Brown survivors of sexual violence since 2018.
Have You Experienced Sexual Assault on Campus? You Are Not Alone.
Colleges and universities are required to take appropriate measures in response to Title IX complaints of assault and harassment on campus. If you have experienced harassment or assault on campus, your voice is important and deserves to be heard. Grant & Eisenhofer P.A.’s Civil Rights Practice Group represents survivors of sexual assault and harassment and we are here to listen. Call (855) 244-2031 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation to speak with an attorney.