This past Thursday, a Manhattan federal jury ruled that Geert Bekaert, a professor of economics at the Columbia Business School, is liable for retaliation against Enrichetta Ravina, a former researcher and assistant professor in the department, after she refused his sexual advances.
As reported in the New York Times, Bekaert worked with Ravina on her research, which involved data to which Bekaert had access. During meetings on this research project, Bekaert delayed Ravina’s work and made sexual advances towards her. Bekaert allegedly “told her of his sexual exploits and preferences, touched her inappropriately and asked that she call him ‘sexy.'”
Ravina reported this behavior to Columbia administrators. Columbia first gave Ravina a paid leave for the 2015-2016 academic year and accelerated her tenure process, then revoked that leave and denied her tenure a couple of months later. Meanwhile, Bekaert disparaged Ravina in emails to colleagues, calling her “incredibly evil,” “insane,” “unstable,” “schizophrenic” and an “incredibly mean b.”
Ravina filed two lawsuits in March 2016, accusing Bekaert and Columbia of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation and seeing up to $30 million in damages. Last week, a Manhattan jury ruled that Bakaert is liable for retaliation and the university is liable for responsibility in that retaliation. However, the jury did not find Bakaert or Columbia liable for gender discrimination.
In the next week, the jury will hear arguments on emotional and economic hardship Ravina suffered due to Bekaert and the university’s actions, and damages will be determined.