- Seven women filed a lawsuit against Dartmouth College, on Thursday, alleging they experienced sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination by professors in the school’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
- “These professors leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students,” according to the court documents.
- The suit seeks $US70 million in damages and calls the department where the professors were tenured “a 21st Century Animal House.”
- Earlier this year, one professor named retired, and two others resigned.
Seven women filed a lawsuit against Dartmouth College, on Thursday, alleging they experienced sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination by professors at the school – and that the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire, did not “protect” its students.
The suit, filed at the US District Court in New Hampshire, alleges “Dartmouth College has knowingly permitted three of its prominent (and well funded) professors to turn a human behaviour research department into a 21st Century Animal House.”
The suit specifically names previously tenured professors Todd Heatherton, William Kelley, and Paul Whalen from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
“These professors leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students,” according to the court documents.
The suit alleges that the department fostered an “alcohol-saturated” culture – which included encouraging students to drink to excess, be “drinking buddies” with the professors, attend lab meetings at bars, and go to parties at the professors’ homes. The suit also claims the professors often made sexual or objectifying comments, and allegedly “demonstrated an obvious bias towards hiring young, attractive female students to work in their labs” and debated who had “the hottest lab.”
In the lawsuit, the women allege that the unbalanced power dynamic – graduate students are often reliant on professors’ academic support – often made them feel that they depended on these men for their future careers or research.
The women – six who are named in the suit and one who chose to remain anonymous – are seeking $US70 million in damages.
The first complaint against one of the three professors dates back to 2002, according to the suit. In April of 2017 when students reported the sexual misconduct, however, according to the suit, the college encouraged them to continue working with the professors for four more months. One of the women alleges that several weeks after the group reported the misconduct, she was sexually assaulted by Whalen.
In a statement to The Washington Post, one of the women’s attorneys, David Sanford, said the lawsuit “puts the Trustees on notice of their responsibility to implement significant, systematic reforms before other female students are criminally impacted by Dartmouth’s callous indifference and perpetual inaction.”
An investigation into the allegations was announced by Dartmouth in October of 2017. In an update written in June 2018, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon wrote that “an experienced external investigator who conducted careful and thorough reviews and presented separate findings for each faculty member to the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, Elizabeth F. Smith.”
Earlier this year Heatherton retired and Kelley and Whalen resigned, and according to The New York Times they have been barred from working at Dartmouth, being on campus, or attending campus events.
Dartmouth did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER. In a statement to The Post, a Dartmouth spokesperson Justin Anderson said that the school “took unprecedented steps toward revoking their tenure and terminating their employment” after the findings of the investigation. He also said that the school was open to resolving the matter out of court.
“However,” Anderson told The Post, “we respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth’s actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings.”
INSIDER contacted an attorney allegedly representing Heatherton, but has not heard back. Heatherton’s attorney gave a written statement to The Post. “The specific allegations in the lawsuit predominantly involve the other professors and their relationships with students,” the statement read. “None of the complaining parties were his graduate students. He is disturbed by the graphic allegations.”