American higher education promises that it elevates and edifies our youth. The common term, ivory tower, suggests a detachment from mundane concerns, vulgar pursuits, and baser desires. The elites of higher education, those intellectuals on our colleges and university campuses, like to present themselves as high-minded, gentile, and driven only by the pursuit of truth. Unfortunately, the reality is very different.
Each year, an unknown number of students and junior faculty members get their hopes dashed by abusive academics. Recent studies have exposed the hypocrisy of university elites, revealing that higher education is rife with the same sexually charged, demeaning, and abusive conduct that spawned the #MeToo movement. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in higher education, now is the time to come forward and demand justice, and our attorneys can help.
How Widespread is Sexual Harassment in Higher Education?
In December 2017, a former professor Karen Kelsky posted an anonymous online survey in the form of a spreadsheet. Entitled, Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsource Survey, Prof. Kelsky’s document sought to elicit information on sexual harassment in higher education nationwide.
She collected more than 2,400 entries before a backlash forced her to close the document. Still visible online, the survey contains complaints of graduate students and junior faculty members who were victimized by:
- Conference organizers
- Department chairs
- Senior faculty members
- Supervisors or advisors
The conduct complained of included:
- Being constantly ogled
- Being kissed and/or touched inappropriately
- Being pressured to enter a sexual relationship
- Being stalked and threatened
- Receiving sexually charged emails
- Sexual assault and rape
- Unwelcome lewd comments and questions
In 2018, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a study by an ad hoc committee under the oversight of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine. The study found high rates of harassment in academia, especially in STEM fields. The authors concluded that this unlawful conduct demeans the targets of the harassment targets, and it damages the integrity of research and drives talented women out of these areas of study.
The bottom line is that sexual harassment has caused unnecessary suffering, has thwarted students in their pursuit of an education, and has destroyed careers. If you have been a victim of this type of behavior, our sexual harassment lawyers are ready to pursue justice on your behalf.
Building a Winning Case for Sexual Harassment in Academia
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as Title VII, prohibits sexual harassment as a form of discrimination in employment, while Title IX covers the same ground in an academic setting. This means that university employees and students can bring actions for sexual harassment.
The law breaks sexual harassment down into two types:
- Quid pro quo harassment — This category covers instances where a superior puts pressure on a subordinate to engage in a sexual relationship; and rewards the subordinate for giving in or punishing her/him for rejection. For example, if a senior faculty member makes a position on a research team contingent on sexual favors, that would be quid pro quo harassment.
- Hostile work environment — This type of harassment occurs when the person in charge of a workplace creates or allows an atmosphere that is so rife with sexual talk and behavior that a worker is too uncomfortable to do the job. This category would include academic courses, departments or study groups where a university representative encouraged such things as unwanted hugging, kissing, and neck rubs, discussions of personal sexual history, rating members of the group on their looks, leering, and other unwelcome sexual conduct.
If you have been subjected to either scenario, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit in state or federal court.
With a sexual harassment lawsuit, you could recover damages that include:
- Lost earnings (past and future)
- Medical costs for illness related to the harassment
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
You could also recover your attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. In some particularly egregious cases, a court could also award punitive damages. A court can also order an end to the harassing behavior.
If you are ready to collect financial compensation for sexual harassment, we are prepared to help.