Jane Doe & Nimrod Reitman — Will They Bring Ivy League Education to Its Knees?
For the third time superlawyer David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Sharp is suing Ivy League university — Columbia. This time it’s $50 million.
The lawsuit, reports MarketsInsider, is about violation of Title IX, that is, the regulation requiring the university to protect students. Therefore the trustees are among the defendants.
The plaintiff is identified as Jane Doe. Whom she needed protection from was allegedly the former dean of the School of General Studies — Tom Hartford. He is the other defendant.
Essentially, the backstory is that Jane Doe was raped where she had been staying with an acquaintance. She asked Hartford for help in finding housing. He, it is alleged, helped in quite unorthodox ways.
One was to give her $500 from his own pocket.
Another was to leverage her situation and his power into an unwanted intimate relationship with her.
Hartford is no longer with the university. However, Columbia has made no comment.
The plaintiff is requesting a trial. That could open to the public how an elite university actually operates. Higher education could be rocked to its foundations. Will parents come to enroll their children in online universities to ensure they won’t be sexually exploited?
Previously, Sanford won a $1.25 million jury award for Columbia Business School professor Enrichetta Ravina in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Meanwhile at New York University there is the recent filing of “Reitman v. Ronell/N.Y.U.” The graduate student contends his advisor engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. As Masha Gessen reports in The New Yorker:
“Their relationship, as documented in numerous e-mails, was the subject of an eleven-month university investigation, which found the sexual harassment claims against Ronell credible … N.Y.U. suspended Ronell for a year without pay.”
If the lawsuit gets to trial what will be issues include:
How objective are internal investigations of sexual misconduct
What are the protections of students against possible sexual misconduct by professors and administrators
How come this behavior, which is officially banned by university policy, continues.
But the real issue in both lawsuits is the alleged abuse of power.
Given how important higher education is, administrators and professors have enormous power over students. That includes the ability to retaliate against spurned romantic advances with negative recommendations.
Like the Weinstein Company, the university system in the U.S. needs to become accountable for how power is used.
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