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Graduate Student Sues University Over “Indifference” To Claims Of Harassment

The New York Times reported yesterday that a graduate student is suing Columbia over “deliberate indifference” to claims of sexual harassment. The student, who remains anonymous, alleges that William V. Harris, a professor of Greco-Roman History, forced himself upon her, and that when she reported the harassment to colleagues and university officials, they did not take the proper steps to investigate or stop the behavior. The student claims, too, that the University has long known about Harris’s allegedly predatory behavior toward female students but has failed to address it.

The student says that she met Harris at a lecture in 2014, and he offered to mentor her. The student claims that his behavior slowly escalated over the course of their weekly one-on-one meetings–she says he groped her multiple times and requested sexual intercourse. She also claims that he asked her to accompany him on a professional trip, but only booked one hotel room and tried to engage in sexual contact.

The student reported this behavior to the University, but told the Times that she decided to file the civil suit because she was displeased with the lack of progress the University has made in investigating the allegations.

Harris is currently teaching two undergraduate courses–Roman Social History and the Environmental History of the Ancient Mediterranean.

The University released the following statement to us:

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.

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