This month, Dartmouth College announced it had reached a settlement with nine women who had sued the college the previous fall for sexual misconduct by three former sciences professors. President Phil Hanlon announced the $14 million settlement in an email statement. The plaintiffs, who had initially sought $70 million, also released a statement that they were satisfied with the agreement, which they termed “restorative justice.”
Dartmouth College is a prestigious Ivy League institution, ranked 12th in national universities by U.S. News and World Report. The total cost to attend Dartmouth for a single year is almost $75,000. Yet, according to this lawsuit, the psychological and brain sciences department was little more than a “21st-century Animal House,” characterized by “a heavy drinking culture, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.”
The conduct is alleged to have occurred over 16 years, instigated by three professors: Todd Heatherton, William Kelley, and Paul Whalen. All three have since had their tenure revoked and are no longer with the college.
The atmosphere in the department seems to have been a classic example of a hostile work environment, outlawed under the anti-discrimination terms of Title VII and Title IX. In addition to payment of damages, the settlement promises reforms to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment.
Pres. Hanlon’s email expressed his “deep disappointment that these [professors] violated their positions of trust,” adding, “Their conduct flies in the face of Dartmouth's mission and core values.” Hanlon promised to apply the lessons of this case to “root out this behavior immediately if it ever threatens our campus community again."
During the legal process, Dartmouth faced criticism for its attempt to strip unnamed plaintiffs of anonymity. Publicly naming victims of sexual harassment punishes victims for coming forward and suppresses whistleblower activity that is so vital to changing an abusive culture.
Dartmouth is not the only Ivy League college to make headlines for sexual harassment litigation in recent years. In 2018, a prominent government professor at Harvard was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by at least 18 women. He ultimately resigned.
At Columbia University, a longtime professor of Greco-Roman history retired as part of a sexual harassment settlement with a graduate student in 2017. The sad truth is that sexual harassment is pervasive in academia, and the only remedy is for victims to come forward to shine a light on this dark culture of abuse.
If you have been subject to sexual harassment in an academic setting, one of our knowledgeable attornies at Whistleblower Law Group can evaluate your case free of charge. Call today for a free consultation at 877.858.8018 or at [hidden email].