Columbia professor, 79, accused by student of extended period of sexual harassment
William Harris is a longtime professor at Columbia
A former Columbia University graduate student has filed a lawsuit accusing the university of intentionally ignoring her complaint of sexual harassment.
This takes place just two years after Columbia University came under fire for its response to Emma Sulkowicz allegations of sexual assault, sparking the Carry That Weight art project, putting into question Columbia's behavior towards survivors of sexual assault.
The former graduate student’s lawsuit details William V. Harris, a distinguished professor of history, allegedly coercing her into sexual activity.
"Jane Doe was 26 and Professor Harris was 75 when he initiated these unwanted sexual advances, in violation of Columbia University’s policies," her lawsuit says. "According to the Complaint, this behavior included sexual groping; pressing his mouth on Ms. Doe’s breast; and repeatedly kissing her in his office, along with frequently pressuring Ms. Doe to have sexual intercourse with him."
The lawsuit alleges that the harassment happened over the course of two years and that the plaintiff was met with indifference by the authorities.
“Columbia pays lip service to the ideals of a safe campus,” said the student's lawyer, David Sanford. “However, the institution has demonstrated deliberate indifference to complaints of sexual harassment. Jane Doe is now among the women harmed by Columbia University trustees’ callous disregard for students’ safety, psychological health, and emotional well-being.”
The continued trauma of the alleged sexual harassment in conjunction with the academic restrictions placed on her eventually lead to the student's withdrawal for the 2015-2016 academic year, during which time she received counseling.
Harris has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.
In a statement, Columbia said: "We treat any claim of harassment or other gender-based misconduct in our community with the utmost seriousness, but we do not comment in the press on allegations made in legal complaints."