Posted October 31st, 2017.
NEW YORK, Oct. 31, 2017— In the wake of a lawsuit alleging that tenured professor William V. Harris sexually harassed a female graduate student, Columbia University yesterday announced that Harris was withdrawing from teaching and all other student-related activities.
Columbia’s announcement came less than a month after Sanford Heisler Sharp, filed a Complaint on behalf of 29-year-old Plaintiff Jane Doe under the federal Title IX law and the New York City Human Rights Law. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Professor Harris, now age 79, subjected Jane Doe to severe sexual harassment while Columbia University ignored her complaints.
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“Professor Harris’s sexual harassment of Jane Doe was not an isolated event,” said David Sanford, counsel for the Plaintiff. “Our evidence suggests that Columbia knew or should have known about Professor Harris’s serial harassment of Columbia University students for decades and did nothing.”
Professor Harris has been a member of the history faculty at Columbia since 1965, serving as the William R. Shepherd Professor of History since 1995. He is also the longtime director of the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, a well-regarded interdisciplinary center of the institution.
On Monday, October 30, students and faculty were notified that Harris “has agreed with the University to withdraw from his teaching, advising and other student-related activities,” according to an email signed by David B. Madigan, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Carlos J. Alonso, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “We also want to take this opportunity to reiterate that Columbia must be a place where students and scholars are able to purse [sic] their academic work free from worry about harassment of any sort,” wrote Madigan and Alonso.
In 2014, Professor Harris allegedly began sexually harassing Ms. Doe, a Ph.D. student. According to the Complaint, for the next two years, the world-renowned Greco-Roman scholar regularly pressured Jane Doe to have inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact, both within and outside the university setting.
Jane Doe was 26 and Professor Harris was 75 when he allegedly initiated these unwanted sexual advances, in violation of Columbia University’s policies. 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 Sanford Heisler Sharp team representing Jane Doe is led by David Sanford, the firm’s Chairman; Jeremy Heisler, managing partner of the firm’s New York office; and Jennifer Siegel, a senior litigation counsel in the firm’s New York office.
For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, firstname.lastname@example.org